An ambiance is something hard to define as a word and hard to explain in reality. The word basically means “environment” or “atmosphere” in French. It’s a metaphor for the general feeling you get when you’re in a room or building. For example, the ambiance could be relaxing because the room is in light colours, the lights are dim, there is a pleasant fragrance in the air and you are sat somewhere comfortable. But ambiances can also be jarring, just not work. It’s like interior decoration for the soul.
So this is how we create an ambiance.
Step 1: Pick a theme.
This is so that there won’t be much conflict between the various elements.
Relaxing themes: seaside, cabin retreat, library, forest.
Vibrant themes: big city, bar, toyroom.
Festive themes: Christmas, Valentine’s, May Day, Easter.
Seasonal themes: Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring.
Topical themes: colours, items, textures, places, etc.
Try and pick a theme you will enjoy year-round or that you can easily transform.
Step 2: Fit the theme to your house.
For example, a seaside theme in a bigger house or room can feel like a beach, the water, rockpools or a boat. This is because it’s easier to make a bigger room feel like the outdoors. In a small room you may want to go with the “beach hut” or “boat cabin” theme, like the seaside will be just beyond the window.
Step 3: Consider what’s missing.
For example, your “big city flat” theme would be incomplete without the sounds of traffic. You may want to add them or adjust the theme to explain where the traffic went.
Step 4: The space.
Now we’re going to start on the senses. First sight. The first impression people will get of your room, your home, your office. Look around. Ask yourself how you can reorganize the room to better suit your theme. You want the theme to come together and look “right” the moment you step in the door, so consider that angle first. Look at what furniture you have, where you can put it, from what angles the room looks open or closed. Open areas make vibrant themes more extreme and quiet themes more subtle. Closed areas make quiet themes cozier and energetic themes more peaceful.
Step 5: The colours.
Pick colours for your room now. Choose a primary colour for the theme and a secondary one and look up compatible colours to give you more ideas. A city theme would be black and white, with either as the primary and plenty of bright colours splashed here and there. A sea theme would be primary blue, a boat theme would be primary white and a beach theme would be primary brown or yellow. Think carefully about the colours, the rest of the room will not come together otherwise.
Step 6: Furniture.
It can help to pick one or two items of themed furniture in your primary or secondary colour and build the rest of the room around them. Usually a chair, picture frame, table, dresser, mirror, bed or media cabinet will be the centre of the room’s decor. Chandeliers, bathtubs or desks can be too, but that would be more statement.
Also consider the comfort of the furniture. Sharper lines, even if the furniture is quite soft to touch, can make people feel like they’re on the go. Armchairs make people inclined to rest. Do you want everyone at the same height when they sit?
Step 7: Decor.
Try and pick ornaments and decorations inkeeping with your theme. Prominently display the ones that fit your theme. Put others further back or somewhere else. Paintings should actually reflect on your theme, not be it. Paintings of the seaside can ruin the feeling that you’re in a seaside cabin. Instead, photos of you on the beach and paintings made with sand will look more authentic. Try and think about the materials that would be available to you if your ambiance were a real place.
Consider minimalism, but bear in mind that traditional ambiances like rustic, hippie or forest will lend well to clutter.
Step 8: Lighting.
Hopefully you won’t need different lighting with your colours, but sometimes a room just doesn’t look as good by day as it does by night, or vice versa. If that’s the case, try these lighting tips:
Natural light for nature themes.
Bright light for Summer and pop themes.
Coloured light for city, sci-fi and 80s themes.
Dim light for peaceful themes.
Soft light for childish, boho or girly themes.
Incandescent light for indoor themes.
Fluorescent light for metallic and plastic themes.
Step 9: Scent.
Humans rely on our sense of smell far more than you would think. We associate certain smells with food, danger, home or fun. Using this can boost an ambiance very subtly, making someone feel energized, at ease or ready for food without really noticing why.
For clean-cut, urban themes, use scented candles.
For natural, boho, hippie themes, use incense.
For rustic themes, try and rely on the natural smell of firewood, flower arrangements or baked goods.
You can also spray perfume on furniture and curtains for light bursts of classy fragrance.
Try and avoid overusing air fresheners, they just don’t provide the same quality of scent.
Step 10: Sound.
Some themes lend themselves very well to sounds. Depending on your theme, you could use relaxation tapes, music, audiobooks or TV to bring the room to life. This can sometimes pull an ambiance together, such as using wave sounds for a boat theme or music for a bar theme. Just be careful as some themes, such as cabins, do well without sounds and can feel tacky if you add sound.
So that’s how to create an ambiance. You can follow all the steps when modelling a room or you could just follow a few to improve the ambiance in your home or to prepare a room for a dinner party.
What are your favourite ambiances? What feel would you like your home to have? How do you prepare the house for guests? Do tell!
TTFN and Happy Hunting!