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What makes a well-designed space?
It’s a question that prompts many answers. Maybe you’re thinking about how it promotes the work or activity at hand. Or one that’s healthy for the occupants and the environment. Or, perhaps it’s a space that deftly balances the needs of those using it with the costs of creating it.
Ultimately, the goal of an interior environment is to move forward the intention of a space and engage the user in meaningful ways. One way to do that is by designing spaces to activate the five basic senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste.
The importance of engaging the senses
You can influence how people feel within a space through its physical design. The physical aspects of a space not only prompt how we move but also create a mood, or energy, that is perceived by our brains—both consciously and unconsciously. This perception is then processed into our sense of self and our bigger experience within an environment.
The shape and ethos of an interior environment influences the perception, experience and well-being of employees and culture (Product Shown: Interface Urban Retreat UR103). Photo by Emily Hagopian
How to design for the senses
Our brains constantly crave stimulation. It’s why we love being out in nature, with its endless variation of sights and smells and sounds. Not only is it sensory heaven; it’s mentally and physically restorative.
Choosing the right materials
Sight is probably the sense we lean on the most. When we look at a piece of furniture, for example, we can tell a lot of things about it. We can tell whether it’s aesthetically pleasing. We can get an idea if it’s of good quality or not. We can anticipate how it might behave when we use it.
So, when you’re choosing materials for a project, maybe ask yourself some of the following questions:
Does this material enrich the intent and experience of the space?
- How does it stimulate multiple senses?
- How will people engage with it?
- How will this material behave and perform?
- How will it work with other materials you’ve chosen?
- How will it interact with natural elements (light, air, sound, temperature) in the space throughout the day?
- How does it contribute to the physical and emotional experience of the user?
Our understanding of the built environment and its impact on the nervous system is evolving at a revolutionary pace. So, use your understanding of sensory experiences as a functional tool to influence how people perceive space. Elevate your design approach to create spaces and choose materials with the human experience in mind. It will make your design not only more beautiful but also more “sensible.”
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