Do your rooms have soul? |

Do your rooms have soul?

Nancy Sanford
Design Life
Tucker and Marks Design
Mathew Millman |

In the course of creating a good interior design, I tend to personify rooms. In many ways, they are similar to people and have similar attributes, sometimes even soul.

Soul can mean a variety of things to different people. To me, it’s a feeling, not something that can be calculated. It is abstract and subjective. A soulful room has a design that is so right it sings beautifully. Everything seems to be in harmony. I can’t really explain this. I just sense it.

Nonetheless, I thought it might be an interesting exercise to explain — and demystify — the design of a soulful room. The way I see it, soul consists of three abstract sub-categories:





Appreciating and understanding soul requires delving below the surface. For example, vignettes at furniture stores are pleasing and some customers purchase the entire configuration as is. Everything is sized perfectly and colored appropriately.

But, although the room is filled up with furniture, art and accessories, it’s empty. Perhaps this type of “perfection” doesn’t lend itself to soul. Adding diversity can evoke curiosity, creating a special aura.


A room with great personality is interesting and unique. It doesn’t fit into any preconceived description like traditional or modern. It is a room that makes you take notice and becomes entrenched in your memory. A room with personality may even tell a story about its inhabitants or the people who contributed to its creation.


A room with mood makes me feel like I am experiencing something out of the ordinary. For example, if a room’s mood is quiet, I feel I have to whisper.

Not long ago, I designed a home for a couple who had very intense jobs. When their stressful day of work was done, they wanted to return to a “happy” home. For me, this didn’t mean saccharin sweet, but sophisticated and lovely. Using warm designs and splashes of fun colors, I was able to create the feeling of happiness throughout the home.

The photos accompanying this column are some soulful rooms in my opinion. I designed the first one, and the others were conceived by designers who I really like.

Nancy Sanford, owner of Nancy Sanford Interior Design, is an award-winning interior designer who has been transforming residential and commercial spaces in the Vail Valley for 12 years. For more information, visit or email Nancy at

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