Why touch always matters
If I have an enduring theme in my own home, or when writing about interior design, it is texture, texture, texture! It’s always all about the textures. Why? Because for me the finishing of all surfaces with a degree of tactility elevates any domestic space to the possibility of becoming a sensory cocoon — without it, you merely have an enclosure for your belongings. And a potentially sterile one at that.
And I don’t just mean the addition of a few carefully chosen throws on the bed or sofa either. I’m talking about the very feel of your floor beneath your toes, the sensation of touching your walls, or even the idea of being excited just by gazing upon your ceiling. Every surface has the ability to delight and stimulate, why waste a single one.
After all, as human beings our sense of touch is extraordinarily sophisticated. We all know how instantly warm and reassuring a hug from a friend, lover or our children can be; or the therapeutic and healing value of a warm and relaxing massage. As infants we learn about the world through touch, understanding through play what things are supposed to feel like. Thus, who does not recoil on encountering dampness where it’s not expected, or feel a sense of surprise, if not shock, if touched unexpectedly, especially if by someone unfamilar.
Touch is a sense which instantly ignites exquisite psychological triggers, from love to fear. And nowhere is this more important than in the intimate spaces of our homes, where we should feel safe to be at our most vulnerable and unguarded.
Consider the joy that could flood through your body on stepping out of bed to be greeted by a heated, fluffy, cosseting floor. Such are the pleasures of underfloor heating, of which I am an enormous fan. Literally grounding you in happiness from the moment of waking. The opposite, that of padding across a cold, or worse wet, floor, would clearly prompt an entirely different start to the day.
As such, touch matters, and yet I think it’s often under utilised at home, So, what are the things you could do that play on this most vital of senses in order to give yourself the equivalent of a home hug everyday? Herewith my top three…
1. If it’s not possible to install underfloor heating then get seriously rug happy (and underfloor heating is a lot easier than most people think, especially with the pre-formed installation boards and low build options). My minimum would be placing them in these three places: A: one to step onto straight out of bed, as thick and luxurious as possible, a sheepskin (Ikea offer a great affordable selection) is perfect; plus you also need to invest in a truly cosseting pair of slippers (I love the look of these!). B: lots of easily washable mats in the bathroom so that standing in front of the sink, or stepping out of the bath is a pleasure not an unwelcome distraction; C and finally one under the sofa, or the seat you most use to relax in. Having warm, cosy feet is almost a primal need for happiness; it is simply not possible to feel joy if your feet hurt, or are cold. As such, there is absolutely nothing better than bare toes on warm fur or wool. So if you can’t train the dog to be your comforter, rugs it is.
2. Why have flat walls when you can adorn them with life! I am of course referring to my very favourite homes-must-have of textured wallpaper. It’s a way to do pattern without having to commit to multi-coloured prints as the rolls come in white, ready for you to over-paint in any colour of your choosing. But double the effect by finishing them in gloss. The additional light which will bounce off the surface will enhance the relief and give the eye that little bit extra to rest on and enjoy. Personally, I can’t bear matt finishes for walls as I feel they suck all the energy out of a room, not to mention being harder to keep clean (caveat: if your walls are less than perfectly plastered smooth, and that’s the look you’re after, then matt can be your friend, as it will help to hide all manner of lumps and bumps). Regardless, I prefer satin or silk finishes so that every drop of daylight can be exploited as an active player in your decoration. Walls don’t have to be perfect.
3. Learn to love tiles outside the kitchen or bathroom! There is an order in tiling which is inherently calming. The rows, the parallel lines, the neatness no matter what. They also come in the most extraordinary variety of colour, sizes and finishes. The only limit to their usage is your imagination. I use them everywhere, from headboards to shelf backs, skirting boards to dado trims.