Using All Your Senses: The Intangible Elements of Home

updated May 5, 2019
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If there’s anything that Apartment Therapy readers (and writers) know, it’s that a beautiful, healthy home is more than the sum of its parts. We can discuss furniture placement, art hanging and wall color until we’re blue in the face, but those elements of a home, the ones we see with our eyes, only tell half the story.

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We humans have five senses, and we use all of them to experience that which we call “home”. Keeping in mind those less tangible qualities of a space, there are a few things we can do to improve our homes’ “brand”, making it a more inviting, comfortable and healthy space to be.

Sure, cleanliness is a visible state too, but I’m not just talking about everyday clutter here — rather the feeling of having a clean home, and its impact on happiness and stress levels. Taking the time to clear up at the end of the day, dust regularly and use an air purifier (worth considering if you live downtown in a large city) can pay dividends. Personally, the the act of puttering around my home barefoot, without a layer of grime attaching itself to the bottom of my feet, sends a clear and immediate message to my brain at the end of the day: you’re home now.

If you’ve got the cleanliness aspect down, then you’re halfway there on this point. Every home has its own unique scent, be it the pine trees outside, cooking smells, or the family dog. Ensuring that your home’s scent is a pleasant one will not only make it a more enjoyable place to be, but will trigger your brain to recognize home whenever you walk through your front door.

Whether you choose to intentionally manipulate your home’s scent is up to you — I like scented candles in the colder months, and nothing but fresh air from open windows in the summertime. Burning incense, using fragrance sticks or just splurging on fancy cleaning products are other ways to go.

Anyone who’s had to deal with traffic sounds or noisy neighbors will agree that the ambient noise of a home can have a big impact on how comfortable you feel there. If your home’s frequency is less than aurally pleasing, there are a few things you can do to limit its effects: absorb sound with lots of textiles (heavy drapes, rugs and upholstered furniture), and consider adding in new sounds as well (music, the radio, a sound machine). My parents keep the kitchen radio on nearly constantly when they’re at home, and to this day the sounds of CBC Radio 2 mean home to my ears.

I’m curious about what intangible qualities your home has that make you love being there. Share in the comments below!