Designing for all the key 5 senses…

We interact with the world around us through our 5 basic senses: Sight, Smell, Hearing, Touch and Taste. It seems strange therefore that when it comes to designing a space most people focus just on the visual elements of the design.


Fair enough, for the majority of people Sight is our most used sense. A room that doesn’t engage this through colour, shape and form will never work.


The Five Senses by Hans Makart (image from the Belvedere Museum)


But if that is the only sense that is stimulated then think of those extra dimensions we are losing out on.


Smell is exciting because it is closely linked with the brain and many smells carry with them the association of previous places and events. This power to recreate past memories and the feelings we had with them can have huge impact on how we feel in our space.


The smell of freshly baked bread could transport you to your year away in Paris when you lived in that tiny one bedroom apartment above the boulangerie and awoke to the same delicious smell every day.


Boulangerie in Paris (photo by Michael Fenichel)


Now flowers can add a lovely smell to a space to say nothing of their visual appeal. I’m not one that gets excited by cut flowers. For me I can’t go past fresh herbs – it just seems genius to create a table decoration that is edible. Imagine plucking off some fresh mint to stuff into your Mojito (or Moroccan tea if you so prefer) or adding a bit of extra basil to the fresh homemade Margarita pizza that has arrived straight from the oven…


Fresh Herb Table Decoration (photo by Kerry Michaels)


One of my favourite ways to add that sense of smell is by diffusing essential oils in an oil burner. Not only do you get to enjoy the wonderful aromas but all the while the air is being purified. The molecules of the oil don’t mask any odour they actually change its structure. They also have the added benefit that they destroy many airborne micro-organisms.


When it comes to the coolest essential oil burner on the market you can’t go past the one created by the highly talented duo of Page Thirty Three. It has a wonderful industrial look as if designed for Sherlock Holmes to perform some amazing forensic science experiment. The dark metal sits so perfectly against the Tasmanian Oak. I love how this looks at night with the candle light reflecting off the glass flask.


Essential Oil Burner by Page Thirty Three (image from Page Thirty Three)


Essential Oil Burner by Page Thirty Three (image from Page Thirty Three)


Essential Oil Burner by Page Thirty Three (image from Page Thirty Three)


When most people think of bringing sound into their space they flick on the TV or reach for their iPod. I like to base sound more on what mother nature can offer. We may not all be lucky enough to live by the ocean and have its roar as our background sound or live in a space where the bird life serenade us but I do think we can take our cues from here. No relax I am not about to suggest you spend your weekend trying to capture the local song bird to stick in a cage…


I think the constant trickling of water is a really therapeutic back drop to a space. Now a days it is possible to buy any number of small (or large) water features that will allow you to achieve your own version of a bubbling brook.


Bubbling Water Feature (photo via flickr by nibbles6088)


Touch is a vital sense to stimulate if a room is going to come alive. It’s not just about the mix of textures under your fingertips. Think also of your feet (and their 7000+ nerve ending) – a beautiful soft rug or carpet can be bliss.


I like there to be balance in a space so that there is context to what we feel. It’s not just the softness we need to consider but also the hard textures. Again nature wins out with natural stone or timber and for those with a desire for the sleek and super modern, polished concrete can feel amazing.


"Spectrum" by the Rug Company (image via the Rug Company)


"Swirl" by Paul Smith for the Rug Company (image via the Rug Company)


And for Taste?

Well can you go past Willy Wonka’s lickable wallpaper…



Or you just employ a great designer with an abundance of good taste!



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