Epiphanies in the Field – Environment, Mood & Emotion

Epiphanies in the Field – Environment and Emotion

For over 35 years as a designer, I’ve immersed myself in colours, textures and tones, experimented with them and learnt how they all interact and work across various spaces, and how they combine and complement the external environment.

I’m always learning – from other design experts, clients or mistakes – through hands-on experience, collaboration and inspiration, or just curiosity. I get to do what I love and, through lessons I’ve learnt in the field, I’m always aiming to be a better designer for my clients.

Land Whispering

The location and outlook is imperative for any home, and one can depend on the other. So it makes no sense that the preferred orientation for Australian homes is north-facing. It doesn’t work for every home or property; the only factor that approach takes into effect is the sunlight.

I prefer to disrupt the norm when it benefits the entire experience of the home. Individually, when building a home or remodelling the existing space, the surrounding environment, outlook and aspects should be examined. I’ve learnt to look at the environment, take the time to absorb it, and research what’s happening on the site.

I call it ‘land whispering’ – walking the land or the block. Taking in the smells and the atmosphere, feeling the wind, listening to the sounds at different times of the day. I like to do this, and walk the clients through it, before every job, when and where possible.

Natural sounds and vistas enhance the experience of the spaces we create. Land whispering is one of my key decision informers.

Wind flow on the land or weather patterns of the area can lend to the atmosphere and temperature of the home – outside of the sun streaming into north-facing windows.

The ocean, a lake, a stream or the bush environment lend to the beauty and ambience inside the home, as well as to the home’s orientation and placement on the land for the light, air and vista.

How much do the trees lean? How much cold air is generated by the creek? What happens during the seasons?

Light and Lighting

Warmth and light can be influenced by other elements outside of the sunlight. How we fill the rooms with light and air can make all the difference to the purpose of a room, and the person living in the space. Shadows and muted light interplay with the sounds and smells to enhance a space and add atmosphere.

Lighting is affected by space and colour within the home; it’s different on a showroom floor. Just because it looks good or fits with the ‘style’ of the design, does not mean it’s right for the space. Beyond what it looks like, it needs to enhance the atmosphere or emotion of the space.

Varying the lighting tones, style and design throughout different spaces maintains the unique integrity of a build or remodel. A home is two different spaces – day and night – how the light works and where the shadows fall will differ during these times, and lighting needs to add to the feeling and emotion of living in the space.

Feeling the Emotional Experience

I’m an extremely tactile person – I still use a drafting board and set square, and I love to sketch. Sketching my designs makes me happy, and the joy I get from drawing enables me to do my best work.

When I’m designing homes or spaces, I like to surround myself with colours and textures of the environment – dirt, rocks, grass, leaves, etc. – for inspiration. I want to know how the textures, tones and colours interact with each other and the elements of the build or remodel environments.

I also love to invite the clients into the sensory experiment – walk them through the environment and spaces so they experience what I do. I want them to see what I see, and feel what I feel. This sets the scene, so they can imagine it for themselves. The client already wants a better experience, so it’s an opportunity to demonstrate how their experience and lives will benefit.

When you put the client in the frame, it’s beneficial to the relationship and to the project as a whole. If I can convey the tactile improvements ahead of the project, it becomes a joint venture, and the trust and confidence makes for a harmonious relationship and a happier outcome for everyone.

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