Matching Music to Interiors: An Experiment in Synesthetic Decor

When I've visited homes for house tours, there has often been music playing, and I'm continually struck by how distinctly that music influences my interpretation of the space. We all know that music can set a mood, but can it also set a style?Armed with a Spotify playlist and the AT Pinterest boards, I matched some house tour photos to music clips that I thought suited them, resulting in the video below. Out of respect to the artists, I've kept the clips in the video short, and if you like the bits you hear, you'll find purchase links for the full songs below.

I am fully aware that this is a subjective enterprise. My thoughts on a space are probably not going to be your thoughts, especially when adding cross-sensory input into the mix. I'm not claiming that the rooms I've singled out below only fit a single type of music (much less a single song!) or that the owners listen to the music I've ascribed to their homes. Nor am I advocating some new, strange process of decorating by ear. This is less a scientific pursuit than an attempt to integrate creatively two things that I love.

But a wholly subjective endeavor is not necessarily meaningless. Instead of thinking of this as having some "real," objective value, I tried to think of this as a new type of mood board or collage. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and trying to tap into the possibilities of music for my design style seemed, at the very least, like something a bit different and fun.

My pairings:
1. Fair Ohs—"Everything Is Dancing" paired with Cheyenne Weaver's Guilded Simplicity
2. Phantogram—"Don't Move" paired with Beatrice & Ramsey's Cultured Echo Park Casa
3. Grizzly Bear—"Yet Again" paired with Katherine & Jem's Humboldt Park Bazaar Apartment
4. The Black Keys—"Gold on the Ceiling" paired with Alan's Colorful, Daring, and Dramatic East Austin Home
5. Cypress Hill—"Illusions-Harpsichord Mix" paired with Sieger Design: A Modern Design Studio in a Historic Hunting Lodge
6. Purity Ring—"Lofticries" paired with Chad's Guest House & Reinvented Garage
7. Generationals—"Goose & Gander" paired with Samer's 1930s Streamline Moderne Apartment
8. Charli XCX—"Nuclear Seasons" paired with Sandra's Luxurious Modern in Brentwood
9. Divine Fits—Flaggin' a Ride" paired with Traci's Incredible South Pasadena Craftsman
10. Bombay Bicycle Club—"Rinse Me Down" paired with John's New York City Interior with a California Garden

Having completed the exercise, I know that the final product was much less important than the process of making it. In forming these matches, I thought about the tone, tenor, and harmony of spaces in a new way. I tought more deeply about how they felt, the quality of light, and the overall mood they gave off than I sometimes do when looking at inspiration photos. You may not see the connection between Divine Fits and Traci's living room (#9), but for me, the sparse musical backdrop punctuated with a poppy, driving rhythm reminded me of Traci's all-white palette dotted with color, and in both cases, the parts add up to something more interesting than the minimalist whole one might expect.

All in all, this exercise probably won't alter my design process , but it was a fun and interesting way to think about how inspiration can come from anywhere and how, as people interested in creating homes suited to our lives and passions, it's possible to use non-visual sources to kindle the imagination. In the off-chance that this rouses any of you to make your own visual mixes, please link to them below. I'd love to see them!

(Images and music: as credited above)

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Main, Style, Design, Interior Design, Music

Carolyn is a freelance writer and photographer, as well as a lover of all things colorful and quirky. She grew up in Texas and settled in Chicago by way of L.A., England and Paris. Currently, she is a professor at Illinois Institute of Technology.

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