Dear Muse, How Do I Incorporate The Sense of Touch Into My Design?

Dear Muse,
I want to incorporate the 5 senses into my next event I am planning, but I don’t really know where to start other then visual, obviously. How do I work in the sensory element of touch?

For our third week of the sensory blog, I am going to talk a little about the sense of touch being a part of your design for your next event. Often when I mention this, I get the eye roll from the ‘guy’ who thinks its overkill, the ‘romantic’ who sighs and thinks its ever-so-perfect….the truth is somewhere in between! Yes, using the sense of touch can take your event to the next level, but focusing on it too much can degrade it right out of your design’s intent.

Let me explain. What do you think about when you think of touch? Do you think silks and furs? Fire… or hot and cold? Do you think of textures? Does your thinking merge into paper or just fabrics? Does metal or wood – hard or soft – firm or squishy factor into your thinking? For most people all of those things don’t enter their idea of “touch” – usually their mind jumps to one particular aspect of touch. Either something they really like, or something they really don’t like! Touch however, is all these things and more.

Given that, let’s say you decide that you want an ultra elegant, rich-feeling event style. You can bring in silks, go with rich colors, play with soft edges, keep away from cold and hard surfaces, and glam everything out… but when do you cross the edge into burlesque?! You see my point?! You can kill a design by using too much of a good thing, and that typically comes down to the sense of touch.

However, if you want something to feel vintage and you nail the sensory element by bringing in lots of woods, aged metals and papers, letting your surfaces showcase their age instead of perfection, we walk through the space wanting to run our hands over a sense of history (even if we don’t actually do it).

Texture is also a big part of playing into the sense of touch – obvious, right?! Consider your table linens – if they were a soft, rich feeling linen that the guests felt as they sat down, then you are creating a luxurious environment inviting them to sit and stay a while… but if you wanted them all up and dancing after dinner, that might not be the best choice. Silks and satins can come across cold though, so unless you match them with a seat cushion to soften them, or a wood bench, or candlelight then you might find your guests ready to leave sooner then you are ready for them to go. Does that mean satin is a bad idea, NO! I love satins, but you have to know what textures speak what language (just like colors) and what counters those messages so that you can create the perfect sensory compliment to your event. Texture is more than simply “do I want burlap or linen” – it’s about the dimension, the ambiance, the layers you have in your design. They need to be purposeful, not just present. Texture is all about touch, and therefore when using the sense of touch one has to consider textures.touch

Moreover, touch is not reserved solely for actual touch – but our perception of how something would feel if we DID touch it! Which opens up a whole other playing field, such as lighting gobos/projections, and printed textures on linens, and visual tricks! It also plays into our sense of spacial comfort – if we feel crowded, we are uncomfortable, if we see straight lines – we think modern and in a more linear and organized pattern vs. circular lines which create flow and movement.

You can even play with touch in your guest favors, your floral elements, your stationery, and even the glasses you serve your drinks in! So, where will you use touch?
~Christina, Muse


For all of you reading this… what’s your design challenge? Have a question you would love to ask a designer to help you create your perfect space or event? Ask! Email me at with “Dear Muse” in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you.

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