From The Sunday Times, October 18 2009 © Dara Flynn
Interior design may not be rocket science. It does, however, involve an element of neuroscience. Neuroesthetics is a recent sub-science that measures how the human brain reacts to aesthetics. Using MRI brain scanning, studies have shown that colour and form are the first things that the brain perceives, but in different areas of the brain.
For instance, when shown a Monet painting, the colour centres of the brains of those participating in one study flooded, but when shown a Cézanne, participants focused on texture and there was a flooding of the pathways that perceive form.
Texture is as crucial as colour in any design scheme. The human sense of touch is a key factor in the physical and emotional experience of a room. As we reach the end of the first decade of 21st-century design, the era of plastic, glass and steel has given way to rough-hewn wood, cable-knit upholstery, 3-D fabrics, plaited rugs and materials inspired by nature. Simon Cowell, has already embraced the trend — he has just spent £20,000 (¤22,000) getting the walls of his dressing room covered in cow hide tiles. Modern wall-coverings have also taken on a more extreme three-dimensional quality than old-fashioned flock.
The textile designer Anne Kyyro Quinn is the star of this show — she makes tactile, pop-out panels that feel as good as they look. Each piece is like an artwork and is cut, sewn and finished by hand, using natural materials. Her wall panels mimic a giant flower stamen, the veins of a banana leaf or the back of a centipede.
They are available to order at annekyyroquinn.com, while her cushions, throws and table runners (from ¤88) can be bought from online stockists, including Urbansuite, which delivers to Ireland. Moroso, the Italian firm, has been giving its furniture the feel-good factor, too, with its range of dramatic, pretty and heavily textured Antibodi chairs. Each is embroidered with lightly padded petals made of felt and wool fabric or wool and leather, fixed onto a stainless steel frame. The petals are reversible: facing upwards they give a feminine look, downwards provides a quilted look.
Everything is hand-sewn, so the Antibodi furniture represents a serious investment: the chair costs ¤3,323, while the chaise longue is ¤5,222, from Minima. Established & Sons, one of the UK’s biggest trend-setters, has produced the Quilt Sofa (from ¤3,515), designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec.
This is texture with bells on: it either resembles a giant human cell or the most inviting bean bag ever seen, depending on your perspective, and can be ordered through Terry Furniture, in Portadown. A pronounced texture is achieved using chunky cable-knit fabric, such as that of the luxurious Urchin poufs (from ¤480), designed by Christien Meindertsma and available at the online designer retailer Thomas Eyck.
They’re hand-crafted and just one will add enough of a textural element to keep the orbitofrontal cortex amused for days. For a budget impostor, try the Ikea Alseda rattan stool (¤24.95). While oversized, super-tactile furniture items are a fast way to apply texture, their cost can be prohibitive. It isn’t necessary to invest in large pieces to create a touchy-feely mood. Accessories will do the trick just as easily and for a fraction of the cost. Contrast is key to maximising textural allure. Rough or bulky textures placed next to one another compete. Place a chunky cable knit or a mohair throw next to something clean and smooth, such as leather or highly polished wood to bring out its full character. Your investment contemporary sofa can stay, but roughen things up a bit with throws, or a giant fur rug — animal hide is timeless and natural, but a good faux fur will work, too.
For quality, throws with texture as well as Scandinavian design kudos, there is Linum’s Winter 2009 range, now available at The Blue Door in Naas. A smart tan leather sofa, given an injection of colour and a dose of the touchy-feelies with a quality Irish mohair throw from Avoca Handweavers (¤49.95), is a good start.