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Natural Awakenings South Jersey

Interior Design That's Appealing to all Five Senses with Texture, Scent, Light and Sound

Feb 27, 2021 04:08PM ● By Story Garvie

Interior design isn’t just about paint and fabric and furniture. It’s also about creating an environment one loves, where you feel your best. Incorporate all of the senses for a comprehensive design. 

When choosing fabric items, don’t just look at the color and pattern. Ask yourself if it has a texture or a sheen. Draping windows with embroidered, sheer white curtains will make a room feel much different than luxurious blue velvet would. If you want the room to be light and airy, you wouldn't choose the blue velvet, no matter how beautiful it is.  Save that blue velvet for a throw pillow and the room will not suffer.

Pair a velvet pillow in one’s favorite solid color with a patterned cotton fabric with two colors, one of which is the same color as the velvet … or a bright geometric pattern in front of a solid-white, faux fur pillow. For a more traditional looks, large floral patterns and shiny, silk solids work well together.

Next up is scent. When visiting someone, their house can “smell like them”.  That can be great … or it can be embarrassing. To avoid being in that latter category, keep some fragrance on hand at all times. I prefer soy-based candles, but essential oil diffusers are also fantastic. Stay away from air-freshening sprays and plug-in contraptions; the chemicals in them cause headaches in some people, myself included. A general rule of thumb for me is this: if the label lists “fragrance” as one of the ingredients, without telling me where the “fragrance” came from, I assume it has phthalates or formaldehyde or something else in it. But if it says “fragrance from essential oils,” you’re golden.

I put a different scented candle in each room, and I try to mix it up with the seasons. In the winter, my house smells like pine and cedar. In the fall, it’s cinnamon and vanilla. Spring and summer are a mix of floral and fruit smells. Keep the smells seasonal and cohesive. Don’t have a grapefruit-scented candle burning one room away from a spruce-scented one, because they will mate and create unholy stink babies in the hallway.

On to light! I don't know about you, but those swirly, fluorescent bulbs make me look like I’m 10 years older than I pretend to be, which may or may not be five years older than I actually am. With LEDs, you can pick your light's "warmth”.  The box will list a number on the Kelvin scale. The lower the number, the warmer the light. Here’s the secret to that number: You most likely want a warm light, between 2,700K and 3,000K. I use 2,700K lights in my house. Don’t overthink this part, just go warm.

Incorporating sound is incredibly personal, and I won’t presume to tell you what should be coming out of your speakers. But you should have speakers. It doesn't matter whether you listen to pop, rock, indie, country, classical music or even talk radio. Silence can be lonely, and we are trying to fill our houses with happiness. Music is the soundtrack to our lives. It’s another facet of our personalities, so display it in the same way you display books on your shelves or photos on your fireplace mantle.

When incorporating all of the senses into one’s home design, it’ll feel more complete and personalized.

Story Garvie is an interior designer based in Medford. For more information, call 609-477-6773, email [email protected] or visit


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