Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Joy Ride

For the XXI Winter Olympic Games, BMW launched a new ad campaign called, "The Story of Joy." The 60-second spot which debuted on NBC in February, shows BMW cars and owners throughout the company's history amid the narration: "We realized a long time ago that what you make people feel is just as important as what you make. And at BMW, we don't just make cars, we make joy."

I have never driven one, but I am convinced that sitting behind the wheel of one, preferably with the top down, at least 75 miles per hour up and down a coastal highway is indeed one heck of an exhilarating ride. Here's a description of the 'ride' from their website:
"Is there anything more exhilarating? Blending stimulating design, powerful dynamics, and enhanced quality and safety features, all BMW Performance accessories give drivers an intense, visceral experience. An experience that unites both car and driver in an ideal state. A place of total, 100% exhilaration."
However, I think that for me a slow, meandering ride on a small Mini Cooper along an idyllic and beautiful back road in Ireland will be just as fun. So I guess it's not just about "the ultimate driving machine." When it's not just the ultra-classy quiet engine and the smooth ride, it's the elements that make up the ride--wind in your hair, sunshine, scenic views, nice music (which may just be in your head) and someone special by your side (can also be in your head)--that come together to create that joyful feeling. It all comes down to that, and the guys at BMW know it. That is why now their campaigns say that they 'don't just make cars, they make joy.'

Feelings are sensations; those things that happen to us when we do something, behold something, smell something, touch something. It's tells us whether we love something or we hate it, if we should stay or go. In interiors, everything about the space is intended to elicit from us certain feelings. Huge, cavernous spaces with high ceilings like cathedrals make us feel 'small,' so that confronted with our minuteness we can feel insignificant in front of what's Divine and in relation to the universe. The casinos in Las Vegas are purposely windowless. The interiors are brightly lit and bordering on semi-gaudy for a reason. The decor is meant to elicit a certain reckless feeling and you are not to supposed to notice whether it's day or not, whether you're drunk or not, you're just there to gamble. The super-bright lighting and hard, uncomfortable seats of a fast food burger joint tells you to eat your $2 sandwich in a hurry, while the nicely-upholstered booth, dim lighting and soft music at a nice restaurant invites you to linger after dinner and stay (buy) for coffee and desert.

Left, Detail of typical casino carpeting: Drunk and reckless? The dizzying patterns are meant to mimic or elicit the same feelings.

Then perhaps there is nothing more important than how we feel inside the spaces we live in. Everything we love or hate about our homes is somehow connected to how we feel about it and in it. There are corners of our home that are worn and well-loved because the filtered lighting, the low ceilings and the warm colors in that room feels cozy. Then there is that dining room that never gets used because the formal decor seems to fussy for everyday. It's somebody's living room that feels so warm because the antiques and heirlooms in it make her feel connected to her past.
The bottom line of all this is that when faced with a troubled space in our homes, we should ask ourselves how the room makes us feel or how we want it to feel.  This will guide us in addressing the problem and finding a solution that truly works.

The colors in a room perhaps have more to do with feelings than anything else. For example in an eating area or dining room, warm tones of orange and red are known to stimulate conversation and appetite. Calming blues and grays create feelings of repose in a bedroom and deep browns can create a feeling of sophistication and luxury in small spaces like powder rooms.

Ceiling Height
Everything about this has to do with scale of something in relation to the human body. High ceilings make us feel small and low ceilings do the opposite. In a warm location, high ceilings create more vertical space, enabling the room to feel airier and loftier. It can make a room feel more important and formal, much like the high ceilings, tall windows and oversize fireplace mantles in an estate home or a palace. Conversely, low ceilings can create a cocoon-like, warm feeling. It is also more casual and informal.

The directional sense we get from the lines in a room greatly affects our feelings. Horizontal lines are generally perceived as restful, stable, and related to the plane of the earth. Vertical lines usually connote strength, equilibrium, permanence and upward movement. The horizontal lines of a long sofa along a wall, or a horizontally placed painting brings our eye movement down and around the room and creates the restful feeling. On the other hand, the vertical lines of a large, tall window brings our eye upwards and can make a small room feel larger or a low ceiling feel higher than it really is.

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