Sensory Delight

September 2017 View more

By Angela Graefenhain

Never before have I been so emotionally transformed walking into a room as I was recently on a trip to Oslo, Norway. The flat we rented through Airbnb was a visual experience of how color and texture can move a person to new heights. With only layered whites and various textures in the room, I felt as if I was standing on a cloud with crisp, clear views through oversized windows of the trees, rooftops and sky beyond. While white might not be the color of choice for many with bustling households, I can apply this concept of layering color and texture to create an emotional experience in any home through my role as an interior designer.

There is a psychology behind color, and various shades elicit different moods. Yellow may emit a feeling of happiness and optimism, neutrals might provide warmth and security and green could perhaps promote growth and newness. In the case of our Airbnb hostess, white was used to keep the space as light as possible to counteract the long, dark days of winter. She had been to a color therapist who had suggested she keep her dwelling light in color to surround herself with an uplifting environment.  Not only does color promote various moods, it can create continuity to unify your space when repeated throughout other rooms.

A favorite neutral interior paint color that is wonderful to use as a pervasive shade is City Loft (SW 7631) by Sherwin-Williams. It looks crisp with white woodwork, but gives soft, organic warmth to the walls. It goes with everything and is easy to layer with different shades of white, or can be used as a backdrop for introducing colors in the furniture, artwork or rugs. Using soft neutrals can give your space a feeling of warmth and has a calming, aesthetic quality. By layering with a tight palette of light neutrals like Alabaster (SW 7008) by Sherman-Williams, or and Pale Oak (OC-20) and White Dove (OC-17) by Benjamin Moore, a sophisticated environment can be created. Follow up by adding an accent color to this type of backdrop and the visual excitement continues.

A velvet chair in watermelon or indigo, for example, can add life to a neutral room. The accent color can then be “bounced” around the room and added to other rooms, even if it’s done with a subtle touch.

Texture awakens our sense of touch, which in a living space can bring excitement and visual interest. There is something wonderful about learning by feeling, and having this type of experience in a living space that sparks curiosity. Something as simple as tassels on a blanket or a smooth hand-blown glass vase begs to be touched. Keep on the lookout for natural fibers, a course wooden piece resting near a shiny surface or a soft velvet pillow atop an organic woven blanket. The juxtaposition brings a tactile feature, which further encourages people to really enjoy a space. 

While layering with color and texture brings interest and warmth to a space, it is not to be confused with clutter. It is not necessary to have an accessory, piece of furniture or wall hanging in every nook and cranny to simply fill a room. In fact, having a place for the eye to rest is essential and actually gives more importance to pieces that are there.

It is common to see surfaces in homes covered with décor items that do not fit any sort of criteria for being there, resulting in clutter. On a fairly regular basis, I have to take a step back and scrutinize the value of a piece in a setting. Often the answer is that it does not need to be there. In our busy lives, accumulation happens, and editing is an activity that needs to be done periodically. It can be a refreshing project to completely empty a room and build it carefully from a clean slate, adding back one piece at a time. It is much easier to “build” and “layer” a room in this manner.

One of the most important effects layering with color and texture has, is that it can make a living space more inviting and comfortable to a person walking into their home. In Ilse Crawford’s book,
A Frame for Life: The Designs of StudioIlse, the designer writes: “Home is a practical way to weave our many emotional needs into daily life. Home is a place to do ordinary things. It is a place to be ourselves and channel our better selves—to create well being, connection, warmth. It’s a place where things that matter can come together.” To this end, using color and texture to layer our space to bring warmth, interest and curiosity certainly carries importance in terms of our well-being.

Layering should not feel
contrived or forced. In fact, the idea behind it is to give a comfortable, effortless look to a space. A clock that doesn’t work, a blanket that is itchy or a sharp corner on a piece of furniture would be examples of unnecessary or contrived pieces that do not make sense. Similarly, color choices should make sense for the purpose of a room. When there is a reason for a color choice, then it will feel right for the space.  Choosing the right color and texture for a room can be an intellectual activity, which can serve our emotional well-being as well.

It is important to create an indoor environment that feels inviting, but also keeps our senses alive. By layering color and texture, we can add heart to the home we live in, giving it visual as well as sensory authenticity.