Mother Earth Living

Create a Home That Appeals to Your Senses

From the big picture to the small details, make every room a sensual experience.
By Dena Nishek
January/February 2003
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If we allowed our senses to guide us, we might opt for a soft blanket with some weight, the mug that feels good to hold, a lamp that casts a warm glow, an eggplant-purple wall. We might make our own cookies to enjoy the delicious smell of them baking. We'd linger and pet the purring cat on our lap and let the laundry wait.

Being in touch with our senses allows us to connect with our physical self and our emotions, which is natural, healthy, and a welcome relief in our modernized, homogenized, fast-paced society. On a daily basis, we've become accustomed to tuning out any number of less-than-pleasurable things such as foul smells from exhaust pipes or secondhand cigarette smoke, uncomfortable bus seats, harsh grocery store lighting, a ringing cellular phone. We're bombarded with information and advertisements. To cope, we have to ignore quite a bit. Sometimes this habit carries over into home time, and we merely occupy our spaces instead of taking time to savor them and cultivate positive stimuli.

We can make our private space a cozy and inspiring place to relax, recharge, and rejuvenate, a world away from those not-so-sensuous experiences. Home can be pampering and sensuous. It's a personal matter of being surrounded by colors, textures, sounds, aromas, and items that are meaningful and pleasurable.

The key to tuning in to sensuousness is slowing down and noticing your surroundings. This consciousness brings us into the present moment. If what we're aware of in our homes isn't delighting our senses, we can make some simple changes.

Practical pleasures

A sensuous home isn't a particular style; it's a feast for the senses. It's a place with beautiful, comfortable, functional, and luxurious furniture, fabrics, floor coverings, and artful items. Things that are lovely to look at and use. It's a mood set by light, color, and scent.

Pick items and fabrics that feel good and nurturing. For Boulder, Colorado-based architect and interior designer Betzi Bliklen Barrett, this means not just the physical feel of something but its visual feel and the emotions it inspires. For example, she recently chose carpet for her bedroom with curvy lines that looks like sand on a beach. The carpet's texture feels good under her feet, too.

Comfort has as much, and maybe far more, to do with the way we feel than the way things look, says Ilse Crawford, author of The Sensual Home (Rizzoli, 2000).

Be sensitive to the experience of textures and colors. Natural materials have a grounding influence. There's something that takes you back to the earth when you have stone in your home, Barrett says. Even concrete floors, although it is a simple and less expensive material it feels like the earth. It feels solid; it feels connected.

When it’s time to buy bed linens, splurge on a set that feels splendid against your skin. Moisture-absorbing organic cotton and linen are better choices than synthetic fabrics; let the fabric seduce. Crawford says humans, like other animals, have a strong nesting instinct, and beds make natural nests. &Ideally, have a bed big enough to move into for the weekend,” she says. “Heap on fluffy blankets.”

Also pay attention to lighting. Crawford recommends making the most of natural light and avoiding the artificial as much as possible. Consider how it feels to sit in a sunny, daylit room versus one illuminated with electric lights.

“Try to keep as much lighting as possible indirect so you don’t see the source,” Barrett says. An exposed light bulb, regardless of how dimmed, is often harsh. And don’t rush to turn on the lights. Savor the way a sunset’s glow bathes a room. Shadows and darkness provide contrast, which is visually stimulating.

A sensuous feast

Crawford suggests embracing imperfection and handmade objects because they have more character. Unique objects, things that trigger a memory or inspire creativity—these are what we should invite into our personal sanctuaries. A few carefully ­chosen pieces of art are often more inspiring and serene than a jumble of clutter.

Making your home more sensuous doesn’t have to be about remodeling or extensive redecorating. It can mean simply taking time to appreciate the sights, sounds, smells, flavors, and feel of home. It could mean painting some walls, rearranging the furniture, or just lighting some candles.

A sensuous home doesn’t have to be about more things at all; it can be an attitude of appreciation and connection with what surrounds us now. Sensuous is simple: It is what feels and looks good, what smells and tastes good, what sounds good. Take the time to live more sensuously.

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