Furniture and Texture: creating interiors that feel right

When it comes to choosing quality furniture, it’s not all about the way it looks

In the past few weeks, we’ve been covering the sensory elements involved in furnishing a venue. We’ve looked at the importance of light, sound and scents, and now we’re going to be taking a closer look at touch.

We tend to think of touch as a pleasant, but not particularly important aspect of design, but texture and touch have a lot more to offer us than just a fleeting moment of appreciation.

Touch is a fundamental part of our daily experience, influencing the decisions we make and the bonds we form with both people and places. It helps us gather information about our surroundings that ultimately informs our opinion of a setting. This makes it an extremely important consideration for providers of establishments like hotels, care homes and restaurants.

So with that in mind, we’re going to take you through exactly what makes touch so powerful and so important. We’ll also be looking at the effect of touch and texture in a design scenario, as well as exploring the best ways to introduce this vital sense into your interiors when furnishing your venue.

The importance of touch

Dr David Linden, author of Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind, argues that the “genes, cells and neural circuits involved in the sense of touch have been crucial to creating our unique human experience.”

The power of touch is hard to argue with. While our sense of smell helps us evoke memories, and sounds help to create an atmosphere, our sense of touch is absolutely vital in the formation of emotional bonds. And this doesn’t just apply to people. The way the surfaces around us feel can have a direct impact on our emotional state, which in turn can change the way we feel about a location overall. This is particularly important in commercial settings where you want your guests to be comfortable.

Let’s take a look at some of the key facts to bear in mind when considering touch in your establishment.

Emotional context and physical touch are irrevocably linked

We know that emotions and sense of touch affect each other in many ways; the way you feel about a person or space can actually make it feel physically different. Think about the sensation of a hand on your shoulder. If the person placing their hand there is a loved one, it can feel comforting. If a stranger or someone you don’t like places their hand on your shoulder however, it can feel the complete opposite, despite the skin being stimulated in the same way. Likewise, the positive feel of a space can strengthen your emotional tie to it.

There are two pathways in the brain for experiencing touch

Our brains have evolved to have two distinct parallel pathways for processing touch information. The first is a sensory pathway which provides information on touch, such as pressure, location, texture and vibration. The second processes the emotional information, activating brain regions associated with pleasure, pain and social bonding.

Touch helps us develop

As well as strengthening our emotional ties to a place, touch also teaches us new information, allowing us to use this information to develop as people. This is particularly important for children. Dr Linden comments that a lack of touch early in life can even affect our health: “Your immune system doesn’t develop properly, your digestive system tends to have a problem.”

Touch helps us form relationships

Positive experiences of touch can be used to build trust, making it the glue for forming bonds between people and places. When we experience a familiar touch, our C-fibres are stimulated and convey information to the brain about interpersonal touch. The signals sent to the brain then produce a soft, pleasant sensation.

Touch can be therapeutic

Touch can alleviate bad feelings, as well as encouraging good ones. For example, massage is often recommended to help treat symptoms of conditions like insomnia, headaches, anxiety and digestive problems.

Texture and touch in interior settings

We often think of texture as playing merely a supporting role in interior design, especially when compared to how a room looks. However, this doesn’t make the sense any less vital to the success of the design overall. Texture and touch can be used to elevate your guests’ total experience of your venue, promoting comfort or glamour; minimalism or rustic charm.

Think of running your hand along a rough wooden table, or sinking into a soft leather sofa. These are experiences which are very tangible, and therefore evoke a strong emotion reaction. Introducing touch into your establishment’s furniture can help those people using the space to feel closer to it.

Texture adds visual weight

In an interior context, texture has no shortage of visual weight. What do we mean by this? We mean that a texture holds the ability to draw attention to itself, affecting the way the space feels as a whole. In the same way that different colours create different atmospheres, rough textures can make a space feel more intimate and grounded, while smoother textures create a sleek and elite vibe. Using a mixture of textures will help them stand out more, making it easier to create the tone you want.

Texture brings balance

Texture is an important consideration in any centrepiece – the more tactile a feature the more engaging it tends to be. This is particularly true if you are working with a neutral or monochrome colour scheme. Two or three key textures in a single space can really hone a particular theme or atmosphere.

How to use touch

There are many ways to effectively bring texture and touch into your establishment, and how you choose to do this will depend largely on what kind of atmosphere you are trying to create.

The most obvious way to introduce texture is through your furniture. This allows you to use specific items to promote a certain feel, whether it’s comfort in a care home using plush upholstery, or luxury in a hotel with cool marble table tops. Wooden benches can add a rustic feel in a family setting, while leather seating adds a touch of elegance to a more sophisticated restaurant.

You can also introduce texture through existing architectural elements like chair rails, crown moulding or tray ceilings. On a less permanent scale, soft furnishings, floor to wall coverings and décor items like flowers can all be used to add texture. What’s more, these elements can be swapped out regularly to give your venue a fresh new feel.

However you choose to introduce it, texture is a component which will help elevate your establishment to the next level, helping individuals using the space to feel more emotionally invested in it.

If you are interested in refurnishing your establishment, contact the team at YTM today. Simply call us on 01977 66 50 50 or leave an enquiry via our website by clicking here.

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