Respect your sensory memories.
Posted October 25, 2010
Each of us has a slew of stories about colors, scents, sounds, and textures that we love or hate. We remember the smell of the honeysuckle encircling the screened porch of a treasured grandmother or the frightful aqua color of the terrible tasting medicine we took as a child or the grainy texture that brings to mind wonderful summers at the beech or gravel hiking paths around a mountain retreat. The memories can extend beyond a single sense to include several. Moving through a particular floor plan for a home engages more than one sense - we see into the various spaces, hear our footfalls, feel the currents of air moving past us as we briskly stride through the space - and the multiple-sense experience of moving through that space can pull up memories, as well.
These sensory associations are real and powerful. They insure that each of us experiences the world in our own individual way. They can't be explained away and ignored. Or forgotten. Fads and fashions can move our sensory associations in and out of favor, but our own individualized ways of interacting with our environment persist.
When you're planning a new space or sprucing up one that's grown a little tired, honestly review your own experiences of past places. Ask yourself where you've been happy, successful, thrived. Recreate the sensory experiences you had in those places in the new ones. You can determine exactly how you will give those previous experiences physical form. The experience of a summer camp on the beach can be more literally created through a skylight or simply called to mind through walls and upholstery the colors of collected sea glass.
If you're true to the sorts of place experience that have psychological power for you, they will continue to serve you well.