Home as the realm of the senses

June 5, 2014

Remember when interior designer Carole Eichen coined the term “merchandising” to describe her approach to model homes? I’m not sure how many interior designers still use that term, but I know Mary Cook isn’t crazy about it.

“[Mary Cook Associates] is not a ‘merchandiser’ but rather a full-scale interior architecture and design firm, so our approach to designing is different,” Cook said to me in a recent email. In her book, “The Art of Space,” she discusses the seven fundamental principles of interior design that, when applied properly, create balanced, harmonious living spaces. It’s about making homes feel good as well as look good, the Chicago native says.

New homes that engage the senses in a way that is positive and appropriate to the targeted buyer will fix themselves in the minds of customers. “The most powerful memories are the ones associated with feelings,” says Cook, “[such as] a baby’s cry, the taste of your grandmother’s oatmeal cookies or the fragrance of an ocean breeze.” If you really know your buyers, you can tap into their senses, trigger those positive memories and help convince them that this home—the one you’re selling—is just right.  

I’ve experienced firsthand the ability of a well-designed retail store to create a memorable experience. But the ability of a well-designed home to tug at the heartstrings is exponentially greater. It’s not just the merchandise; it’s being able to picture yourself using it, living in it, and loving it.  

Some of MCA’s work will be included in the feature about memory points coming up in the July issue of Professional Builder. You’ll also find my review of “The Art of Space” in the July issue of the Design Innovation newsletter. 

Senior Editor

Susan Bady has been writing about the housing industry for 30 years. She is senior editor of Professional Builder and Custom Builder magazines, and produces the Design Innovation e-newsletter.  Bady has also written for such consumer magazines as Cabin Life and Better Homes and Gardens’ Home Plan Ideas


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