Written by Ann-Christine Pineiro
A well-designed home offers uplifting experiences to all senses as it is through our sensing organs we perceive the world around us—how we appreciate the spaces we live in. When evaluating architecture, we predominantly turn to our vision to inform our choices. But how can we engage and entice our hearing or our touch? How can we design a home that speaks to our sense of smell or even our taste? And how can we encourage different experiences within the same house?
To perceive a material as coarse we need to compare it to one that is of a different quality. By pairing surfaces of opposing character, we not only create visual interest, but we also intrigue and invite to touch. When selecting materials for your home, a lot can be achieved by simply varying textures.
In the Spectral Bridge House, the smooth white stucco of the upper floor is paired with a rough, charred shou sugi ban siding on the ground level – a juxtaposition of not only opposing texture but of contrasting color, as well. By positioning the lighter, smoother material on top, the house feels grounded yet still airy and bright – resulting in a balanced design, pleasing to our senses.
Depth through layers
To enrich our experience of a space, depth and personality can be added by including layered elements into the design. On the exterior, this might be achieved by creating an entrance procession that slowly reveals the house as you approach it. Or partial divider walls may give structure to an open floor plan on the inside, as seen below in the Carrillo Residence.
In the Waverley Residence, a chain mail veil creates a temporary wall that can be retracted or added to the space as desired. This textured layer has both visual and tactile qualities in itself, and the soft sound of thousands of tiny metal rings swaying is as soothing as the dappled light they let through. The process of opening and closing the veil changes the use and perception of the space through multiple senses.
Engaging the landscape
We believe that a successful home design takes cues and draws inspiration from its site. In addition to beautiful scenery, many times the natural environment also offers delightful sounds and scents that can enrich the owner’s experience. For instance, by incorporating large openings into the design of your beach house, the sounds of seagulls laughing or the taste of salt in the air will enhance the perception of a home by the sea. Similarly—if your house is in the woods—an intelligently positioned operable window can add scents from the forest or the gentle sound of leaves rustling.
In order to fully appreciate the spaces we live in, a home design should have the ability to engage our senses, but at the same time be flexible enough to offer quiet places - areas in our homes where we don’t need to fear sensory overload but where we can find calm and respite for our palates.
A home should offer a variety of experiences fitting not only the owners’ personalities, but also different moods and times of the day. Designing for light and air is particularly important as both completely can transform a space; they can make a room feel cozy and warm, or atmospheric and dramatic. When making decisions about your future home, keeping the five basic senses in mind will help generate a meaningful design, thus resulting in a delightful house for your family.