Design Rules: Design for all the senses

While reading this post, I recommend that you dim the lights, take off your shoes, settle into a comfortable chair and sip your favorite cocktail or beverage. And don’t forget about the music, because creating a splendid environment takes more than optimal furniture layout and killer color coordination. It’s about ambiance, a lesson I first learned from The Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa host Ina Garten. When your guests arrive, their favorite cocktail should be chilled and waiting for them, mood-appropriate music should fill the room, and the aroma of food should be wafting throughout the space. While it’s common sense advice, I’ve often caught myself neglecting those details in favor of pillow fluffing and clutter clearing; or in other words, things the guests probably won’t notice anyway.

Ina Garten also writes a terrific House Beautiful column.

When done well, designing for the senses creates unforgettable environments. For example, if I were blindfolded, kidnapped and taken to the Hotel Bourg-Tibourg in Paris, I’d immediately discern my location from the spicy scent of the house candles burning at the front desk and the sound of DJ Stéphane Pompougnac’s techno lounge music playing softly in the lobby. Every detail reinforces French designer Jacques Garcia’s colorful, Moroccan-inspired design, and makes the experience distinct, engaging and memorable. The result? Happy guests and fewer police rescue raids. By contrast, I’ve stayed at equally gorgeous hotels with bigger rooms and more amenities that I barely recall, because my memories of them blend together into one homogeneous clump.

So I’m striving to create the same kind of feeling in my own home. While I can manage the candles, flowers and hors d’oeuvres, music is my Achilles Heel. I don’t have surround sound, and I’m terrible at making mix tapes, but fortunately, Sonos recently sent me their new Sonos S5, and it effectively renders my excuses moot. The wireless music system will play practically any music format, including tracks from iTunes (from either your laptop or iPhone) and countless Internet radio stations. I’m impressed with the Sonos functionality, ease of use and most importantly, the sound quality, which provides a rich audio umami (which would be a great blog name). Click here for models and information.

Do you follow this rule already? What tricks do you employ to engage your guests? And does the decor dictate the music? I’m learning, but something tells me I’m still behind the curve.

Sonos S5 – The system is small enough to be placed on a bookshelf or unobtrusively in a corner.

Sonos S5

The Hotel Costes candle is also used at sister site Hotel Bourg Tibourg. Click here to purchase.

Top image of Hotel Bourg Tibourg from Urban Partners.

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4 Responses to “Design Rules: Design for all the senses”

  1. I have the SONOS at home and I really like it!

  2. I don’t know what it sounds like, but I really like how it looks.

  3. Now, if I could only smell the candle through the web…

  4. Liz, buy two (one for me, one for you). I promise that you’ll like it. Paying nearly $100 is crazy to be sure, but that is one fine candle, and just a whiff reminds me of Paris. It’s hard to put a price on that.