House Beautiful: Designing for the Senses
I used to be that person that bought magazines at the airport. Not just a couple, more like 12 of them. Working in digital media and coming from a magazine background I thought it was my duty to purchase them, full price, in paper form. As I stopped traveling so much for work I realized that I was behind on the latest issues, often even missing issues completely. So exactly 1 year ago I went on a subscription spree and subscribed to EVERY. SINGLE. MAGAZINE.
Needless to say this became a problem in my marriage (not really), as every month there were MOUNTAINS of magazines all over the house – some read, some unread, burying pieces of furniture. I became that person who hoards the ones that I liked, with the “but there was a recipe in there that looked delicious (that I will never actually make)” attitude every time Brian threatened to recycle them. So after a year of taste testing, learning the market, and forming my opinion about each one I have decided to only renew a few. There were always some that I got excited to get out of the mailbox, and those are the winners.
House Beautiful is one of them.
Let me tell you why: Beyond the fact that House Beautiful is jam packed with tips tricks, and little gems of advice, it has an organic and seamless way of making it’s design concepts accessible to all of us. Everything the magazine features is easy to put into play in your own home and the focus is on the decorating ideas, not on price or designer products, that make your home beautiful. Reading each issue is like being invited into one of those beautiful museum-quality houses you have always coveted, but now you get a guided tour from the sweetest and most informative docent who lets you touch and play with everything in them. Oh, and she will also tell you how they got the look and how you can create a version of it for yourself. The stories are colorful and inviting – they let you dream – while the conversations are down-to-earth and actionable (sorta like that gorgeous guy who makes your knees weak but is so nice and approachable).
For this post we decided to take one of their larger features and use it as an inspiration for some moments at my house. House Beautiful’s November issue discusses design in terms of all the senses. It illustrates that rooms are for living in and not just for looking at, that a well-designed room engages all the senses and it is through all the senses that you want to look at—and experience—a room. We as designers design a room based on how we want the room to feel, and not in the touch kind of way, more in the you walk in and you get a feeling, kind of way. And that ‘feeling’ involves all five senses.
Let’s chat about SIGHT first. You ‘see’ everything – literally, every piece of furniture, pillow, accessory, so this one seems kind of obvious and could have been interpreted a few different ways. But one of the things that I’ve found in my own home is the importance of balancing focal points and often letting the natural light (if you have it) be the star. The second you walk into our house you are overwhelmed by a sense of light and brightness, which makes it so much easier to decorate.
If natural light is not one of your home’s allies, then color is your next best friend. I love House Beautiful’s ‘Color Crush’ section which gives you not only a new color trend to pay attention to, but a huge roundup of products and items that you can purchase to bring that color into your home to refresh your look. This month is a gorgeous apple green that’s impossible not to gush over.
TOUCH. You know how on a stormy and rainy day or on a romantic night you want to cuddle up under a warm soft blanket and just enjoy all that it has to offer? That is your sense of touch telling you to pick this specific blanket over that one that Aunt Gertrude made you 10 years ago that feels like sandpaper and smells like the freezer section in the grocery store.
Although instinctively we think that touch is something that is all about those soft knits and sheepskin furs it encompasses much more than that. There are surfaces, and textiles all over my house and in previous clients’ homes that were picked solely because of the way that they feel when you touch them. Slick smooth countertops, velvet curtains, brass fixtures, leather poufs, sisal pillows, linen sheets all evoke a different sensation of touch.
SOUND. When you think of designing a room, your first thought is never “ok, how do we incorporate sound into this whole scenario.” In fact, you probably have never even thought about it before, but it is something that we can design around. I have this handmade set of bells in my home and although they are not constantly making sound because of the way they are displayed they do evoke the most amazing and soothing pitch when they do get brushed.
Sounds are not only about the accessories that you bring into your home or the music you play. The sounds of the natural elements within your home all bring that sense of sound in. A crackling fire at the end of a long day’s work can instantly evoke a sense of calm, or that slight squeak of the hardwood floors let me know that Charlie is just about to turn the corner to come and see me.
SCENT is one of the first things you notice when you walk into a home. Everyone’s home has a very distinct smell and that is just the way it is. Some smell like fresh laundry, some smell like coffee or baked goods, some smell like terrible potpourri, or some have a more pleasant and inviting smell. There are a handful of ways to bring those “more pleasant and inviting” smells into your home. One of the easiest, and most sense provoking are candles. There are so many affordable and great smelling options out there that there is no excuse anymore for why your house smells like cat litter and musty gym socks. I often find that I will change out what candles we are burning throughout the seasons as, again each smell evokes a different memory or sense. During Christmas we will burn a spicy cinnamon or pine, whereas when spring rolls around I am ready for something more fresh.
Fresh cut flowers are obviously my favorite ways to bring in a pretty smell with some of our fragrant favorites being jasmine, lilac and peonies. Now, be forewarned that there is a fine line to how much we actually want to smell when we walk into your home. Less is more in this case. You never want to get blasted with a smell as soon as you open the door, just a subtle undertone of a scent is much more pleasing and manageable.
As you consciously incorporate certain elements that evoke the senses into your homes, you’ll find that not only will they be more inviting, but that each room will feel a bit more pulled together as our senses get a little bit of play time. That’s why House Beautiful’s feature is such an important reminder to focus on these small details (and this is why Brian never gets to recycle my issues). It is about loving AND living in rooms.
If you want to share in my joy of eagerly collecting every lush issue and reading about all their fabulous ideas for the home you are in luck. My years of loyally preserving every House Beautiful magazine has earned me a special discount, which I’m sharing with you! There’s even a FREE copy to this month’s issue so you can start bringing your senses alive at home – just click HERE to get started. Subscribe, I promise you’ll be happy you did.
In case you don’t know the insider magazine gossip, Sophie Donelson is the new Editor in Chief and she is young, smart, with it and taking the magazine in a direction that feels inspired, forward thinking and still approachable and accessible.
Make sure you keep up-to-date on your reading, too. Not only will upcoming issues feature the top trends for 2016, but you’ll be able see what I have in the works with the mag in upcoming pages of House Beautiful – it has to do with a baby named Elliot and her new nursery.
*All photography of my home by the lovely, Tessa Neustadt.
**Big thanks to our friends at House Beautiful for sponsoring this post. All opinions and writing are my own.