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Designing spaces for intimacy

Designing spaces for intimacy

Think about your favourite physical space. What makes it your favourite? Compare it to your least favourite space.

Even if we can’t name why, we feel the extremes of emotions in some spaces more than others. Spaces elicit pleasurable feelings when mental associations, such as memories or values, meet design. This means we can design our spaces to invite intimacy in our lives, by connecting our space with associations of intimacy.

Prioritise the Human Scale

When designing for intimacy, it pays to focus on the human scale of a space. This is easy in small spaces, where a few, carefully pared pieces can make for an inviting room. Accessorise with elements that pull you deeper into the room - think a cozy, textured throw and flowers for added warmth.

In very large rooms, it can be harder to design for the human scale. A good tip is to avoid placing all the furniture against the walls, and, where possible, create multiple, distinct, places to enjoy intimacy for different purposes. This could mean a place to enjoy drinks, movies, art, books or more, simply choose whichever purpose is most important to you. Make a conscious effort in large spaces to add touches of humanity, like a hand-woven wall hanging, or a coffee table book left half-read.


Utilise Objects to Invite Intimacy
A lot of the things we own we keep because of an emotional connection. Objects that elicit memories, like a memento from a trip, or those that remind us of our values, like a poster thrifted from the local oppy, can help us each day to remember what is important to us.

Objects can also help us to know what is important to others. Is there something in your home that people always ask about? It could be an interesting sculpture, your prized collection, a piece of art, or simply an interesting mug. Next time you have guests, take the time to note the types of things that pique their curiosity.

Where possible, opt for natural or natural-esque lighting. Warm lights in the bedroom and living rooms, diffused lights in the bathroom. Save the bright lights for study or workspaces.
Candles will add warmth, depth and mood to any space, bonus points if they double as a massage oil.

Optimise the Minutiae
If you’re finding yourself constantly irritated by something that’s arguably a small and easy fix, what’s stopping you? Your home is your space and how you feel about it can be influenced by your mood, so it pays to optimise the minutiae. Squeaky bed? Dripping tap? Allergenic sheets? Not enough storage? Find the offending part(s) and get them fixed (where possible) google is your friend.

Our homes are a collection of intimate things and moments that help us, and others, to know who we really are and want to be. It’s important to note that inviting intimacy in our spaces is something that we can all do to enrich our lives. Intimacy is more than that shared between couples - it can exist between groups of friends who share platonic love, within families and familial love, with self and self-compassion. Spaces can allow us to invite intimacy in our lives when they remind us of our shared humanity, so go forth and design.


"Indeed, in our houses we have nooks and corners in which we like to curl up comfortably. To curl up belongs to the phenomenology of the verb to inhabit, and only those who have learned to do so can inhabit with intensity."

- Gaston Bachelard, Poeties of Space
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