Our brains are interesting things. Our very surroundings can have a massive impact on our emotions – lights can amplify our positive or negative emotions, colors can make us feel energized or calm, elements in our design can make us feel safer or even more hungry, and even texture impacts emotion in interior design.
I’m sure you’ve heard some people say they dislike modern designs because they “feel cold” or “feel sterile”, while to others the simplicity and straight lines is appealing because it “feels organized” or “feels clean”. On the flip side, the love of traditional design often comes from it “feeling warm” or “feels comfortable and inviting”. We already have a verbal expression of emotions when we talk about design styles, and peoples’ preferences often are based on how those designs make them feel. Multiple studies have even been conducted in order to see if there are design elements in hospitals that can help aid in boosting emotions, reducing stress, and speeding recovery times.
When it comes to texture specifically, it plays an incredibly large role in how a space feels. Color of your textures also matters, so if you haven’t already, check out how to make a space feel calm or energize a space with color. For now though, think about when you see a material, how you think it would feel if you touched it.
We make judgements on texture because one sense, our sense of touch, knows or assumes what it feels like, and that affects other senses, like sight, with a similar feel. Hence, metal can “feel cold” or a fluffy rug can “feel warm” to us.
Knowing texture impacts emotion, how do we use it to create more comfortable spaces?
Create a Relaxing, Warm Feel with Texture
I’m sure you’ve heard us mention adding fabrics to “soften” a space before. (If not, you have now!) We know that things like a thicker rug, a knit blanket, or a throw pillow feel soft to the touch even without actually touching them.
Soft items rarely have strong, hard lines and so they visually imply a lot more of a flowing sensation as well. Curves “feel” softer than corners, after all, even on materials like wood or metals. And speaking of, we’ve referred to metal as an example of “cold” thus far, but is isn’t all the time! Elements we associate with nature actually do help contribute to feeling more relaxed.
Wood and metal can feel incredibly warm, and they add depth, visual interest and contrasting texture that appeals to many people. Wood that contains a lot of visible graining and knots without a high-polished finish “feels” soft, and copper is incredibly popular in part simply because of its naturally warmer color. If you’re looking for warmer woods, look for natural or reclaimed wood (which has the added benefit of being more eco-friendly as well).
Woven materials like a basket or wicker adds texture that contrasts nicely with both fabrics and harder surfaces. A metal bookcase with wicker baskets on the shelves creates great contrast that helps break up the solid lines of the shelf.
If you want to bring in even more natural elements, plants are always a winning choice and they can even help clean your home’s air. If you don’t have a green thumb or just simply don’t want something that takes upkeep, go for imagery instead. Stagnant or gently flowing water (or calmer actual fountains) in studies connect people with feelings of calm and peace. Funny enough, so do stalks of corn or flower fields gently blowing in a light breeze. Even people who aren’t the outdoorsy-type associate nature elements with calming emotion.
When choosing rugs, keep in mind that the “fluffiness” of the rug, or the pile, actually matters. The higher the pile, the more we associate it with warmth and comfort. Think about very tight, low-pile carpet in offices – it’s meant to be easily cleaned, and you can tell by simply glancing at it that it’s not likely to feel wonderful under your bare feet. Even without skin touching a material, you can tell what kind of physical feeling it gives you just by looking.
Don’t ignore your walls either. Where windows are available, the materials used to cover them can greatly affect a space. Light sheer curtains flow easily and break up the lines of the window, along with adding softness to the wall. Many window coverings, including shades, come in a wide variety of fabrics and textures to create the feel you want in a space.
If a wall needs some more help but there’s no window, decorations go a long way. We already mentioned photos of nature, but get creative and think about wooden frames, or even fabric tapestries or wall hangings. The possibilities are just as endless as people’s personal preferences.
Light Matters with Texture
Whatever elements you choose, they can still fit in well with your preferred style. Subway tiles are incredibly popular, and because of the material they’re made of, they also reflect more light. Light plays a huge part in how we feel within a room. Lightbulbs come in a variety of temperatures, brightness and even styles.
Overhead lighting sometimes can feel harsh, especially in the darker evening, so consider the addition of table or wall lamps. If an area like a kitchen or office feels dark, it’s more likely to also not help your mood when you need to work. Also very bright light casts dark shadows which can feel harsh as well, so soft fabrics over the windows can diffuse the light so it’s still plenty bright but not quite as harsh.
Different textures play with light in different ways.
Smooth textures, like satin or silk, or the subway tiles we mentioned, reflect light and can make a room feel brighter, lighter and softer.
Modern design utilizes a lot of smooth textures to increase the feel of lightness with clean lines and an open, airy feel.
Rustic or natural design plays off a lot of light-absorbing materials, like wood, stone, and deep-textured fabrics.
Luxurious styles often mix the two – light-absorbing velvet paired with shiny, metallic materials make up this look.
No matter what style you prefer, you can make it feel more welcoming, comfortable, and inviting with additions of texture!
Our designers are experts not just in windows, but we also can reupholster furniture or create custom bedding and even throw pillows to compliment your personal tastes. If you want help choosing fabrics and materials to soften a space, get in touch with us.