Author Archive

Sensory Experience: Wall Color

September 19, 2009

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We change a lot of things about our lives: we wear clothing in different colors and styles every day, women wear different jewelry, different shades of makeup, and we choose to accessorize ourselves with different shoes, depending on our moods or what purpose we need them to serve. As humans in a consumer society, we exercise our “tastes” through the accessorizing of our immediate physical environment (usually our own bodies). Even for a larger purchase, such as a piece of furniture, a car, or an appliance, we may not change these items out as much, but when we do, we have the option to change the material, the color, the type, etc.

In Place Advantage, Sally Augustin writes about the effects of our immediate environments on our moods and on our perceptions of the environment itself. In particular, she talks about the effects of light vs. dark colors of walls and ceilings, patterns, and textures, and how these changes can make us feel more or less enclosed, more or less balanced, or more or less invigorated. I started to think about a product I would invent that would involve the sensory perceptions of people occupying a space, and I realized there is a connection between our desire to change things and to accessorize and the effects these changes could have on us.

My invention is a special paint for your interior walls and ceilings that is changeable. I’m not sure about the exact science behind how it would work, but I was imagining that you would paint the wall in a sort of iridescent neutral paint, and then you could have a small machine with a light that, when shone on the surface of the paint, would change the color or pattern to whatever you had selected. And, similarly to the “scent stories” by Glade, you might be able to buy CDs that would increase your “library” of options.

This invention would give people a sense of freedom by allowing them to accessorize their homes in a new way. Maybe during the holidays, one would want their family space to feel inviting and warm, even more enclosed in the cold weather. A way to accomplish this might be to select a dark, earthy, saturated color. Conversely, I can imagine someone throwing a bridal shower, and choosing a fun black and white, feminine pattern to “accessorize the room.” The colors could be used for as short or long a period as desired. For example, if you were decorating a nursery for a baby boy, you might choose a shade of blue, which could easily be changed out a few years down the road if you needed to paint the room pink, or if it was going to become a guest room or an office.

Often when you paint a wall a new color, you’re almost always surprised at the extreme difference it makes for the room. This observation seems to validate the idea that color has a profound effect on people’s moods and perceptions of rooms. I think, in general, many people would be interested in a product giving them the ability to quickly change a room without the huge hassle of painting or wallpapering.

Kitchen

September 14, 2009

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For the spatial forensics exercise, I chose to analyze my own kitchen. As I mentioned in my questionnaire, I’m extremely familiar with and fond of the space. Cooking is probably my favorite activity, so I associate the space with feeling happy, relaxed, and peaceful. I also spend quite a bit of time in it alone, since I’m in it in the morning before I leave for school, when it’s still dark outside, as well as often at night alone. It’s a somewhat compact space, since the entire house is only about 1470 square feet. It has stained concrete floors, concrete countertops, stainless steel appliances, white cabinets, and sage-colored paint on the walls. With the kitchen, I included the dining table and chairs just outside the work area. The space is also open to the living area, and there are stools on the other side of the counter, which forms a bar area. I think the space functions extremely well for its size. The whole living, kitchen and dining areas are all a shared space, and there are several different seating areas. The taller dining table and chairs place that area on the same level with people who are either standing at the counter in the kitchen or sitting at the bar stools on the other side of the counter, so it’s a great space for entertaining and conversation.

I was surprised at the general accuracy of my memory of the space, which is probably in part due to the amount of time I spend in it. For example, the plan I drew from memory and the scaled plan look somewhat similar proportionately when viewed side by side. There are a few inconsistencies, like how I accidentally drew an extra cabinet door in my perspective, which isn’t there in reality (perhaps that was wishful thinking!). Another interesting difference was the amount of light I perceived to be in the space. I said in my questionnaire that I felt the space was really well lit because of two large windows, a skylight over the living area, French doors, and recessed lighting in the kitchen. I realize that my perception of this is probably from this summer, when it was not only brighter and sunnier outside, but also I was at home during the morning and mid-morning hours. Since those windows and doors are south and east-facing, it makes sense that I would perceive the space as extremely well lit. In reality, when I took the light meter reading on Sunday after 4 p.m., it registered just between 10-30 footcandles in natural light throughout the space.

Now that I have gone through this exercise, I feel like I will begin to notice certain, new details about the room from this point on. In general, however, I was pleasantly surprised by my “eye” for detail, particularly my recognizance of the proportions of the space.

Order

September 7, 2009

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In Steven Reiss’s article, Multifaceted Nature of Intrinsic Motivation: The Theory of 16 Basic Desires, he describes his theory of the various “intrinsic motivators” that drive humans to behave in the manners they do. These IM’s are to be thought of as end purposes, attempts to satisfy basic desires, and they are apparently holdovers from animal instincts that we formerly developed as a means of survival. I chose to investigate the motivation of Order, which in this case, refers to “a condition in which each thing is properly disposed with reference to other things and to its purpose.” Sally Augustin describes, in Place Advantage, the desire for order as a basic need to organize our lives, and to create systems and methods in order to accomplish this. Of course, because peoples’ personalities and opinions on orderliness differ, their systems and styles of execution are also unique.

Augustin describes cabinets and closets as a way to encourage us to systematize our belongings. My first image illustrates order on a very direct, obvious level. This image show the literal manifestation of “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” However, if you begin to think about a person who is motivated by order, you can expound on this example. This person is seeking control, mastery, competence, stability. Reiss says the evolutionary, animal instinct behind order would be to promote health. You can easily imagine that a person who must control the orderliness of his or her surroundings might possibly fear the health risks of a dirty or cluttered space, for example. Beyond the image of the closet, I speculate that a person craving order might have a minimalist design sensibility, someone who desires a sleek, clean interior, completely free of clutter. The next few images show the types of interiors I imagine an orderly person keeping – minimal and clutter free, although the objects that are in them have been carefully selected and placed. Particularly, I chose some interior shots of the Meier’s Rachofsky House in Dallas. I imagine that the interior is kept in a meticulously ordered condition so that the artwork may stand alone and be highlighted.

Another interesting idea on the issue of a desire for order would be the endorsement of these practices in an environment such as the army, reform school, or even prison, all places where the idea of discipline is important. A high premium is placed on the ability to have a completely uncluttered space and to be the master of your domain, even if it is restricted in size. The final image is of a pristinely clean and organized army barrack. The idea of order in this sense suggests control and self-discipline, principles that are very important to an institution of this type.

The Shining

August 31, 2009

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When I think about a movie in which the setting, or environment, makes as strong an impact on the viewer as the characters themselves, The Shining immediately comes to mind. The Stanley Kubrick-directed film, adapted from a Steven King novel, is brilliant on many levels. It is, to me, one of the most suspenseful movies ever made, wreaking psychological havoc on its viewers. This element of the film has caused it to be classified in the horror genre. It is also, however, an aesthetically striking and quite beautiful piece of work. The set design is stunning in both its intricate detail (aside from the plot), as well as the dramatic wide angle in which it’s shot by Kubrick, both of which contribute to its being a character in and of itself.

As most people will remember, The Shining is a story about a couple and their young son who agree to spend the winter at a large, historic hotel called the Overlook in the mountains of Colorado in order to upkeep it through the off season. The father, played famously by Jack Nicholson, is a writer and recovering alcoholic, and the son is clairvoyant. In short, the father is driven insane by cabin fever, the Overlook, its ghosts, as well as his own. The hotel not only feels like a character in the movie because of the suspense its interiors create, but it is literally a character in the story – it is the evil force that has driven two characters to murder their families.

The movie was made and presumably set in 1980, but the Overlook is a historic turn of the century hotel, and the interiors in the movie are a combination of both. This is an interesting dichotomy: on one hand, the antiqueness of the set adds an eerie atmosphere which is suggestive of events that have happened before in the setting, those which the audience is given flashes of throughout the film, creating a sense of impending doom. Also, however, there are also several scenes of the movie, such as in the still I’ve chosen, where the set is heavily patterned, saturated hues of crimson and ochre, which give feel somewhat imposing to the eye. This characteristic of the set has always been what I loved most about the movie and about Kubrick: although these are simply decorating styles of the 1960s and 1970s, they add a maniacal, stifling mood to the scenes. The intense, saturated pattern in the carpet, stretching down the hallway absolutely brings to life the feeling of claustrophobia, cabin fever, enclosure, and all of the elements that make the movie so scary and wonderful. The wide-angle lens that Kubrick uses to shoot the sets gives the viewer a sort of visual vertigo that is intensified by the brilliant use of pattern and the elongation of the shots. It also creates a visual continuity within the shot, which is especially interesting for a horror film, in which the human eye is always waiting for something to jump out; this is somewhat disrupted by pattern, so that when the screen flashes to a terrifying image, the viewer is all the more shocked.