Designing for the Senses
by By Shawn Miller
Photography by Vincent Knakal
Writing instructors say that for writing to become palpable to the reader, the writer must incorporate more than one of the five senses — touch, sight, sound, smell, taste — into descriptive text. It is most preferable to incorporate the more rarely used in literature of taste or smell, as these are two that generate some of the most powerful universal associations.
Perhaps this same principle can be applied to the art of home decorating. Imagine dwelling in quarters that are more than just pleasing by sight and sound, but are tantalizing to all five senses. Because why, as with writing, stop with an allure to just one or two? Instead, create a true comfort cocoon by enveloping your surroundings in sounds that stir the soul, sights that beguile, tactile sensations that luxuriously entice, subtle scents that waft and weave, and tastes that not only quench the appetite, but also reflect a sense of the utmost personal style and taste in home and garden decor.
The eyes are said to provide a window to the soul. It can also be said that what the eyes behold provide nourishment to the soul. Lighting, accessories, patterns, elements that are at best just nice when taken on their own, when woven together create an ambience that pleases the eye and speaks to an inner, humanly universal core.
Gold-Gilded Floor Mirror
House of Stapleton in Horton Plaza
Ensconced in a frame that is as delicate as the mirror is bold, this reflects visions of all things cherished — from the people we care most about to the trappings of the rooms we adore.
Australian Crystal Chandelier
Jordi Estape on Cedros
Nothing sets mood like lighting. This Versailles chandelier is hand-forged and hand-finished in antique gold, and is adorned with hand-cut leaves and sparkling crystals. Choose from five finishes.
Raw Silk Drapes
in Solana Beach
Made of 100 percent raw silk dupioni — creates the “slub” or “knotty” look — and a rich and subtly sophisticated plaid, the muted colors are visually soothing and draw attention to all that beckons in the out of doors.
There is a fine line between delighting and aggravating the aural lobes. Achieve a soothing balance by focusing not on volume, but instead on timbre and resonance. The lyrical tinkling of water or chimes, the mesmerizing ticking of a clock, the sounds of laughter — all create opportunities to pause, reflect, and find our own inner balance between meaningful pursuits and merely passing time.
Dig in Flower Hill Mall
The three-foot length of this wind chime elevates its stature from that of “whimsical” to one of “pure elegance.” Gentle winds feather through each copper tube and create a sound that deeply resonates.
Hile Tall Face Clock
Craftsman Revival in Solana Beach
A collector’s piece, this case clock is a replica of one designed for the lobby of the Disney Grand Californian Hotel. Its gentle tick-tock inexplicably draws attention away from the harried pace of schedule-keeping and into a meditative realm where time slows and the demands it can levy become reduced immeasurably.
Copper Leaf Waterfall
C&H Nursery in Encinitas
There’s something about the sound of water splashing across a fairy-like staircase of copper bowls that speaks to primal instincts lingering in our genetic makeup from bygone eras. Placed in an entryway or patio, a fountain provides its own welcome aural retreat.
Inextricably linked to the sense of taste, but not nearly so confined to dining-related areas of the home, nothing can evoke a Pavlovian response to surroundings like smell. Realtors know this — that’s why they recommend baking a fresh batch of cookies before showing a home. But you need not go to such laborious lengths to achieve the same inviting olfactory effect.
Knorr Candle Store in Del Mar
The artist first hand-carves a wooden form, then pours in wax to create this caramel masterpiece that would find an ideal resting spot on the coffee table, kitchen island, or large niche. Not only does candlelight set the mood in a room, but the candles also give off a delectable aroma, making this a dual sensual pleasure.
Fine Bone China Herb Box
Bella Fiore in Fairbanks Ranch
Grow rosemary, lavender, basil, cilantro — or the fragrant herb of your choice in these hand-painted boxes. Add cuttings to your favorite dishes to kick both taste and smell up a notch (or two).
Fresh Floral Arrangement
Bella Fiore in Fairbanks Ranch
This nose-catching floral arrangement consists of peonies, cymbidium orchid, hybrid roses, and lilacs, artfully arranged in a renaissance pedestal. The fragrant bouquet of any fresh cut arrangement provides true aromatherapy.
Frequently perceived as merely functional in the home, there’s something ultimately sensual about this oft-overlooked sense. Delving fingertips through piles of twisted yarn, wallowing from head to toe in the highest quality fabrics, the texture of glass mosaic tiles — these are the sensations that separate a life lived from the business of merely living.
Moroccan Winds Carpet
Coles Carpets on Cedros
Hard woods and stone tiles may fill the catalogues of designer flooring, but nothing can replace the feel of the highest-quality plush carpeting — languishing in front of a fire on cold, hard stone just isn’t quite on par with nestling into dense piles of woven yarn.
Between the Sheets in Fashion Valley
It’s almost sinful to sleep and miss any waking opportunity to savor the most sumptuous bedding available. Any reason to get out of bed and leave behind 1,000-count cotton sheets each morning would need to be pretty compelling.
Stunning glass mosaic tiles that are comfortably warm to the touch when left to bask in the sun adorn a rugged fiberglass frame while forged bronze legs support these jewel-like pieces of art. Furniture artist John Moore designed Splash Furniture with the outdoors in mind. Clients can design the chairs by selecting their own unique tile, grout, and fabric colors.
The kitchen is said to be the heart of the home. It’s where all things that satiate the appetite are concocted — and not just physically. It’s also where people connect, regroup, feed the soul. So it’s hardly surprising that home decor that speaks to the taste buds draws people into the realm of food.
Lemon Print Pottery
Bella Stanza in Little Italy
These Italian hand-molded pieces resonate lemon so vibrantly they nearly cause the lips to pucker. And, of course, they’re used to serve only the most delectable sustenance.
Venetian Wine Glasses
Bellini Antiques on Cedros
Each of these nectar-of-the-gods-holders is hand-etched and the gold hand-applied. No two are alike because when the glass is fired, it comes out different every time.
Table With Chairs
We-R-Home in Solana Beach
An artist’s feat, taste was painstakingly painted onto this table and chairs. The design alone is enough to whet the appetite, and its size and scale is perfect for intimate gatherings over breakfast, tea, or a late night snack.