do materials have feeling?

February 24, 2015
by marie murray

furnishing materials

imagine yourself transported to the center of Dubai holding a magic wand. your eyes are closed, and you can hear the heartbeat of the city center pulsing around you in the whizzing of the metro, rapid footsteps of pedestrians, and excited conversations in all different languages. the atmosphere is charged with ambition and possibility.

the sole power of your wand is its magic ability to convert all the steel skyscrapers into light wooden beams. you wave your wand, and without opening your eyes, you sense a dramatic mood change occurring. cars quiet down, the urgency subsides, and the general rush settles into a relaxed flow.

what you’ve just witnessed is the effect of wood on human emotion. whether or not we realize it, the materials within our physical environments have their own different languages, which speak to our emotions on a subconscious level.

wood has been shown to help people relax. that’s because wood is associated with the natural environment, and elicits positive, relaxed, peaceful and inviting vibes. for example, guests visiting a restaurant or public space so they can unwind at the end of the day would appreciate a touch of wood.1

on the other end, maybe a space is designed for the fast-paced, independent personality of an urban and professional clientele. in this case,  metals are the way to go. iron, brass, and steel convey strength, independence, and dynamism.2

and in between, what about a creative clientele visiting a space for that spark of inspiration? then fabrics are your friend. they’ve been shown to inspire more creativity and flexibility.3 consider combining them with a hint of wood, as being relaxed has been shown to increase creativity.

the feelings of different materials however, shouldn’t be considered in isolation. the best designs maximize the emotional experience without compromising functionality. for example, there is a casual café i often visit that has two seating areas. the front of the café is bright with round wooden tables. the use of light colored wood reflects the sunlight from the large windows.. this brightly lit space is perfect for active socialising. the use of wooden seats is comfortable for short-term meals, but is intentionally not too conducive to lengthy stays.

towards the back of the venue, there are tall, earth-colored booths with comfortable padded seats. the warm fabrics complement the dimmer lighting. here, it is common to see patrons working on their laptops or having cozy one-on-one conversations.

in these two seating areas, the different furnishing materials work with the overall space to create two distinct settings that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

good design looks at the whole picture. applying this principle in your furnishings can be a major factor contributing to the success of your venue or public space. the next time you’re briefing your designer, you can now emphasize the importance of the choice of materials.

  • what is the tone of each of the materials of my furnishing options? for example, what do metal, wood, plastic, or different fabrics communicate?
  • will the combination of different materials help convey the personality of the concept?
  • if there are two or more different sections in your venue, which materials are best for each space?
  • how do all the materials interact together to contribute the intended experience of your concept or public space?
  • does the choice of materials compromise in any way the intended functionality of the furniture?

the furnishing materials are crucial, but are still only one part of the whole picture. when furniture materials complement the tones set by smaller details such as lighting, color palette and overall vibe, an overall sense of harmony is created. these important reflections can help restaurant owners better coordinate with designers and casafekra® specialists for a selection of furniture and materials that match the concept of the venue.

if you were standing in your restaurant holding that magic wand, what kind of mood would you set?

subscribe below to receive similar posts by email. every edition also includes acad 3d models of chairs, stools, tables, and sofas, exclusive to our subscribers. subscribe below:


  1. keltz, c., grote, v., moser, m. (2011) interior wood use in classrooms reduces pupils’ stress levels. environmental psychology
  2. elbaga, o. (2013) feng shui basics: how your space can affect your mood. tiny buddha
  3. ashby, m., johnson, k. (2003) the art of materials selection. materials today, 6(12)

2 Responses to “do materials have feeling?”

  1. […] furniture styles and designs are defined, and items are hand-picked as well as custom-designed. materials, finishings, colours, textures, and accents are strategically […]

  2. […] contribute to spacial complexity. select a handful of furniture types and stick to them. then use finishes and colors to keep things […]

Leave a Reply