The past twenty years have seen significant changes in the design and perception of retail stores. While claims about the ‘death’ of bricks-and-mortar stores were exaggerated, the rise of online shopping has resulted in store closures and anxiety about retail’s future viability. Defying this trend, Aesop, an Australian-based luxury skincare company, expanded from a single store in 2007 to over 230 stores around the world by the end of 2020. Aesop’s curious success was due – at least partially – to its design of a distinctive retail experience. Despite differences in individual stores and references to local culture, materials and history, each is ground in a distinctive Aesop ethos that identifies it as part of the global brand. Focusing particularly on Aesop’s Melbourne stores, this chapter analyses the company’s retail interiors within the context of two recent directions in design practice: experience and sensory design. The first, prompted by Pine and Gilmore’s influential work on the ‘experience economy’, describes how brands have employed designers to integrate product, graphic, interior and website design in order to create compelling, coherent experiences. The second describes architecture’s ‘phenomenological turn’, advocated by practitioner-theorists such as Peter Zumthor and Juhani Pallasmaa, whose works have prompted a renewed emphasis on design for the senses. The Aesop store – a carefully curated, immersive space designed by combining sensual inputs and eliminating distractions – occupies the intersection of these two directions, making it a compelling case study of sensual experience design in the digital era.
This chapter examines the topic of queer visual pleasure and sense experience – particularly sight, sound and touch – in the domestic interiors and home studios of a group of gay photographers in New York City in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It analyses the production and circulation of photographic portraits, particularly nude photographs of Black and White men, by Carl Van Vechten, George Platt Lynes and Max Ewing, and the interiors in which these photographs were produced, displayed, examined and discussed. In addition to the living rooms, studios and closets where photos were displayed on walls and in albums that were passed around, examined and narrativized through speech, the chapter looks at the speakeasies, clubs, gyms and open-air workout spaces in Manhattan, Coney Island and Harlem where male dancers, bodybuilders and athletes gathered, with a particular focus on the display of the male body. Finally, the chapter proposes a new critical category, the queer sensorium, in which looking at, talking about and touching images of nude young men intensified experiences of sight.
Nazi propaganda and sensory experiences in the German domestic interior, 1933–45
After coming to power in 1933, the Nazi party began altering all forms of media into an extension of their propaganda machine. It successfully used sound, sight, taste, touch and smell, as well as space and the conception of time, to infiltrate daily life and the family home. Propagandists insisted German families furnish their homes with simple objects descended from the utilitarian objects of the barn and the barrack. Lavishly illustrated books attached moral values to household objects without any consideration of utility or personal taste. A correct German home was supposedly a sensory experience of family cosiness, with propaganda describing the smell of the coffee beans ground by the daughter, the feel of the wood furniture made by Grandpa from German trees and the smell of father and son’s latest kill cooking on the fire that also kept the family warm. This chapter explores Nazi propaganda relating to the manipulation of the five senses in domestic built environments. It also looks at the relationship of Nazi-approved design to earlier German design movements and traces which rituals and aesthetic philosophies survived into the post-war era.
In his famous analysis of the 1896 Berlin Trade Exhibition, Georg Simmel (1858–1918) identified a contrast between the desensitization of the producer and the sensorial overstimulation of the consumer. At the 1925 Paris exposition, the pyrotechnics of night illuminations and the haptic allure of installations of luxuries crafted in exotic hardwoods or artificial and natural silken textiles activated a similar overexcitement engaging sight, touch, sound, temperature and motion. Amidst this solipsistic feast, counternarratives did, nonetheless, manifest themselves. Deploying a microcosmic lens, this chapter focuses on the material and ideological complexities of metalwork within the regional pavilion created by Victor Prouvé (1858–1943), director of the École des Beaux-Arts of Nancy, his pupils, including his son the architect-designer in metal Jean Prouvé (1901–84), and their commercial partners. Attending to the metal and its microhistory at the 1925 exposition reveals the ethos pedagogy of the École de Nancy, attesting to a leftist, collaborative, sensorial practice expressed through experiential contrasts of illumination and gloom, weight and sustained tactility, which has been largely neglected in assessments of this febrile festival of solipsistic luxury.
Interior design is the result of a range of designed elements being brought together to produce an orchestrated space. Just as the interior spaces that accommodate much of our lives are designed, so the sensory experiences we have in those spaces are also designed, whether by professionals or by householders. Some interiors are put together with all of the senses in mind while others prioritise one sense over the rest, for example in appealing to the eye. This chapter examines a variety of ways in which interior designers, mediators and consumers accommodate and stimulate the sense of touch. Landmark examples of designers’ appeal to the hand range from Adolf Loos’ furry bedroom for Lina Loos to the smooth plastic curves favoured by Charles and Ray Eames, Verner Panton and, latterly, Karim Rashid, and demonstrated too in the ubiquitous Monobloc chair. By foregrounding touch in design ideation or production, mediation and consumption, this chapter offers an alternative to interior design histories which focus exclusively on eye appeal.
Fireplaces and the senses in the early modern Italian domestic interior
Erin J. Campbell
Our worlds and our relations with others are made through the senses. Through the senses we inhabit our environments. Significantly, space is transformed into place through our sensorial experiences. Placemaking refers to the people and things, practices and representations, meanings and values that make space both meaningful and useful. Thinking specifically about the role of the senses in the placemaking processes of the interior, this chapter focuses on the sensation of heat in the early modern Italian home, 1500–1600. Heat is essential for life. Heat is enmeshed in all other sensory experiences: as inhabitants move through the home, the somatic experience of heat is interwoven with seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting. Yet, as this chapter argues, heat as a significant protagonist in the sensual-social dynamics of the home remains largely unexamined. In particular, by focusing on selected examples of fireplaces in the context of prescriptive writings on the home, descriptions of interiors, household inventories, paintings, prints, ceramics and metalwork, the chapter shows how design elements worked in conjunction with the sensorial dimension of fire within both humble and elite early modern Italian interiors to transform the spaces of the home into places marked by the politics of gender and class. The chapter focuses on material from Bologna, which, despite having one of the largest preserved historical centres in Italy with dozens of extant domestic interiors, remains understudied in the literature on the early modern domestic interior. Comparative examples from other Italian cities are also included as supporting evidence.
Masculinity, the senses and interior design in turn-of-twentieth-century Germany
The description of Henry van der Velde’s 1899 design for a ‘Herrenzimmer’ (‘men’s room’) as a room for concentrated thinking shows that interior design for men was supposed to facilitate thinking, rather than sensing. Actual bodily and sensory experience was relegated and only served to make disembodied (male) thinking possible. The furnishing of the Herrenzimmer was discussed in interior decoration magazines from the end of the nineteenth century, becoming a regular feature around 1900, while the design of bachelor pads became a topic of attention around the First World War. In the market of men’s magazines in Germany, the design of single men’s apartments was a regular feature showing the male consumer how to furnish and decorate a space that would answer to all the needs and the senses of the bachelor. Taking magazines and interior design advice books as its base, this chapter unpacks the relationship between masculinities and interior design by focusing on how the senses are involved in creating a space of ‘maleness’. How does the idea of ‘male’ comfort go together with a specific idea of ‘male’ senses? How does the writing about male interiors reflect current ideas on the senses developed by the turn-of-the-century physiology? What type of interior design is recommended to relax the senses of the bachelor and make him feel at home? How do ‘male’ senses differ from ‘female’ ones and what happens when they meet in the interior?
This chapter presents a genealogy of the new ‘Age of Aesthetics’ proclaimed by American writer Virginia Postrel in The Substance of Style. It does so from the standpoint of the sociology of consumption to begin with, and then follows up with an anthropologically inspired critique of certain current trends in design thinking that purport to be grounded in the science of sensory evaluation, evolutionary psychology, and cognitive neuroscience. Next, this chapter entertains the style counsel of the LA-based interior decorator Catherine Bailly Dunne, with a particular focus on their practice as grounded in a ‘science of the concrete’. It concludes by offering an alternative model for design practice centring on the figure of the interior designer as sensory ethnographer.
In the nineteenth century, the stereoscope was celebrated as a new way of seeing space that provided access into a simulated haptic realm, complicating the relationship between the senses, the mind and the world. This chapter examines the representation of the nineteenth-century dressing room as a sensorium that merges the visual and tactile in virtual space. This private room in the domestic interior becomes a sensory apparatus that is both medium and subject in the exposure and reproduction of the human body, mediated through the ‘dark chambers’ of the human eye. Dressing scenes in the domestic boudoir became a popular subject in nineteenth-century stereoviews offering sentimental, erotic and humorous narratives for popular consumption. These staged tableaux ranged from lone figures languidly disrobing for a disembodied viewer to crowded bedroom scenes with multiple players energetically engaged in physical acts of dress and discovery. The architectural interior plays an active role in the uncovering of the body as it is reflected and amplified in the objects, furnishings and surfaces of the space. The space of the nineteenth-century dressing room materializes as a sensorium that acts as an ‘unfaithful mirror’, highlighting the deceptive play between vision and touch, and between the mind and the world.
Numerous authors have explored the connections between architecture and the senses, but scholarship addressing sensoriality in the history and practice of interior design remains significantly more limited. Yet sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing are instrumental to both the design of the interior and its experience by users. Interiors are designed with at least one, if not all, of the senses in mind, and it is through the senses that the human body responds, consciously or not, to its surrounding environment. Emphasizing the importance of this volume as an essential reference on the subject, the introduction provides the reader with an overview of the current state of research, before discussing theoretical notions that are key to examining the relationships between interior design and the senses. It concludes with a presentation of the fourteen chapters in the volume, highlighting their specific contributions and drawing interconnections between them in a way that foregrounds the crucial role that senses play in the experiences and expressions of interior design. Accordingly, and because a fair distribution of scholarship between sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing has yet to be achieved, the chapters presented are grouped thematically rather than by any one particular sense.