Design Sensory

The way we feel in an environment is typically more than just the paint color, the layout or the furniture arrangement. While these are all significant contributors, your connection with a space is truly a collection of senses and impressions. It's the rich softness of a mohair upholstered settee, the way the sun beams shine through the window, a dramatically lit piece of artwork or an artfully arranged cocktail table. In an outside environment it might be a crisp breeze combined with the perfect melody of tinkling wind chimes and far off laughter. Life is in the details. I think I might be the most receptive to the sense of scent. It is pretty notorious that a wood burning fire on a chilly winter's evening gives you that homey-cozy feeling that only winter can provide. The smell of your neighbor bbq-ing confirms that long summer's nights are in full swing.  The slight rustle of musty fall leaves and you know kids are back in school and football season is well underway.

Aside from seasonal scent signals (say that 5 times fast!) the slightest trigger can jig an moment or a memory. I walk into a garage filled with gardening supplies and fertilizer and instantly I am reminded of my grandparent's garage in North Carolina. On the other hand, give me a hot day, a warm breeze, the beach and someone striking up a Marlboro Light and I am back to being 8 years old playing in the sand with my other grandma, Bebe. Surprisingly for someone who doesn't smoke, this scent, in this instance, isn't repulsive but almost comforting. She also had those miniature French lavender soaps in her powder room. I don't encounter a miniature soap that I don't think of her.

Speaking of soap.  You know that cheap industrial pink soap that fills almost every gas station, school or medical office's soap dispenser? Yeah. You know it. It has that kind of squirmy iridescence (or, should I say iridescent!?) to it. One squeeze of that soap and I am taken back to my sophomore year of high school, feverishly washing my hands after completing yet another day of our "fruit fly experiment". Gross. Talk about making someone weary of fruit aisles for life. Another high school trigger? Gucci Rush perfume. I didn't wear this scent, but one whiff and I am dancing at Sadie Hawkins or on my way to the Euro Disco dance. There are a few other strong scents that remind me of this short, but impressionable chapter in my life, but discussing them here might make you question the image that I was ever anything but a poster child for exemplary behavior.

Votivo's Red Currant will forever remind me of my college dorm room. As I tried to make my first real space have an air of sophistication (the futon covered in a batik print sarong, christmas lights and disc chair counteracted this effort) I would lightly spritz some Red Currant before by guests arrived. This, I thought, was way better than those Glade Plug-Ins.

I might be walking the streets of my small town in suburbia, but one sewer line goes awry and I am instantly transported to my time in Chicago, walking to work with the El rumbling under my feet (conjuring up a squalid scent potion all on its own!) and the cold wind whipping around the buildings. Oh, and chocolate. For some reason Chicago always smells like chocolate.


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Where might I be taking you but a quick trip down memory lane? Well, to tell you that while I have come to the realization that I am keenly aware of scents I also am attentive to how they contribute to the overall atmosphere of a space. Like I said in the beginning, it's the details that create the ambiance. Smells activate memories. The good, the bad, the gross and the beautiful. It is my sincere hope that from now on every time I smell lilacs I will think of a perfect day biking in Innsbruck- hopefully such a memory will be as easily obtainable as a fruit fly experiment. I always try to have candles lit throughout my home while I am entertaining, but also as I sit at home by myself. It's a small indulgence that can make any moment seem a little more special. When having guests over I like to mix in one scented with non scented candles to get the overall glow of candle light without smelling like a potpourri shop. When sitting at my desk (as I am right now!) I have a scented candle lit to ease some of the mundane. I change my candles by the season- keeping a diverse mixture in a convenient chest drawer in my living room. That drawer has a smell of fall spice mixed with spring tulips sprinkled with white pine and the bold notes of a currant rose musk. It's a fun drawer to open. Making these little extra efforts are not only inviting, but elevating. It's the way you utilize a space, make it a home and help create something a little more special.


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At the end of the day I'm not sure if people will associate my scent with white pine or white tulips, but I know it won't be Marlboro Lights, industrial pink soap and most likely not fertilizer. There might be a hint of Red Currant somewhere in there- that's a habit I'm still trying to kick.


Photographically Precise

This past weekend I took some time to catch up on little things around the house. Sometimes by purging the old and reorganizing what you already have, rooms can take on a whole new life. Part of what I did was add framed family photos to side tables and tucked them into the nooks and crannies of my bookcases. Family photos can make a space seem personal and intimate. I also like when the photos are taken from different parts of life. It is great to celebrate many moments.  I am the first person to love a beautiful wedding photograph, but let's be honest, life didn't start the day you got married. If every photograph in your home is from that special day- it's time to diversify your portfolio. I probably tend to lean more towards the candids as they are the best display of one's true personality and emotions.  Ultimately, I think it 's really about creating a balance, as naturally some of the most sentimental photos might be more staged and posed. Put on display what really speaks to you and evokes a certain sentiment.  Also, family photos are not a substitute for artwork. They are meant to add personality here and there, not be the entire theme.

The photo above is of me and my cousins, Drew and Kyle. We are about 4 years old, staged by our parents on a clunky iron bench in our grandparent's back yard. I am an only child and I cannot tell you how many photos we have with me sandwiched in the middle of these two chaps. It's not long after this that my grandparents, Bebe and Bupa, packed up and left Michigan for the retired life down in Florida.  Even though I was very young, I still have a lot of fond memories from this house. There was a sprawling back yard with a dog run and a pool (most of which has been sold off now for one of those cookie cutter neighborhood developments), shag carpeting the perfect shade of puce,  and a stocked bar that would have made Don Draper do a song and dance. It is amazing how though styles might change and things will eventually look dated, there is an effortlessly elegant execution that is translated above any trend. While now it might be considered horribly 70's, Bebe and Bupa's house had the sense of a collected interior- a look I strive to achieve in my design style. I cannot tell you how many times I flip through a current design magazine and see items I remember from their home.  That might just be the wise, old truth, "what is old is new again", ringing loud and clear. Bebe followed the trends, but also had an inherent air for flair. Afterall, she was the only Grandma at Grandparent's visiting day in a leather skirt, clunky cocktail rings on every finger and snazzy beaded keds with bright pink ribbon laces (a stylish interpretation for not being able to escape age dictating that practical shoes be a necessity).

You probably wonder where I am going with all of this. After I put the photo of me, Drew and Kyle in the frame, I whipped out my iphone, snapped a picture and messaged them about their new prevalent spot in my living room. In response, I got a picture message from Drew with the exact same picture nestled in between his belongings, front and center on his bookcase. This is awesome in a couple different ways. Not only is this one of probably hundreds of pictures of the three of us, but I also have to admit I'm enjoying the way he has it displayed, snuggled in amongst a variety of objects that define who he is. College diploma, marathon memorabilia, mementos from various travels. I think this photo is also a sentimental reminder of a time when we all got to see one another regularly and oftentimes in the naively delightful world of being a guest at our grandparent's house. I guess some might differ and say this is a typical "bachelor pad" look, but I have to think it is a little bit of the arranging panache that is in our genes. It's also the power of a photograph to stir an emotion, that through the outlet of modern day technology, can remind family that even though they don't get to see each other as often as they'd like they are still, and always will be, family.