The Enchanting World of Atmosphere

It’s the reason you are reading this blog (or any other design blog) right now. Because you are looking for atmosphere.

Atmosphere is the feeling that gets created when you finally get the right colour on the walls. It’s what you get when you install a lamp in a minimum of 3 but preferably 4 corners of your living room or Master Bedroom.

It’s also why a designer should pay for professional photography if they want to get clients to hire them based on their portfolio. It’s rare (unless you are a photographer yourself) that you can convey atmosphere in an image without the right angles and professional lighting!

This morning I was reading Seth Godin’s blog and he was talking about the luxury market and how it was first created in France to improve their balance of trade. I usually agree with Seth–he is a master of marketing after all and I get the point he was making which is different from mine–but he said:

Four Seasons

“In every city there are expensive hotels that are noisy, with $56 breakfasts, no parking, blinds that don’t make the room dark and rooms that don’t have enough closets. But the very waste of paying extra to stay there ensures that you’ll be surrounded by others just as wealthy and just as interested in proving it.” S. Godin

Viceroy Hotel lobby designed by Kelly Wearstler

That I totally disagree with. The reason why people stay in luxury hotels is because of the atmosphere that gets created first of all by the grandeur of the lobby and then by the luxurious fabrics, beautiful furniture, soft lighting, and wonderful colour in the guest rooms.

Viceroy Hotel lobby designed by Kelly Wearstler

It’s also the reason why a new design trend generally begins in a luxury hotel because they have the money to do it. That is what started a sleeker more contemporary look in residential interiors, hotels started that trend first.

Ever notice how many lamps hotel rooms have? Usually they have a minimum of five! And it’s also the reason why the real estate agent will turn on every single light in the house when they are showing it.

Lamps create atmosphere faster than anything else in your space. It’s also the reason why–when I decorate my clients homes—one of the first items on the list is lighting!

What do you think? Would you stay in an expensive hotel to be around other wealthy people or because you want to experience the look and feel of luxury?

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Related posts:

Atmosphere; The one Thing you cannot Buy

10 Ways to save money Now by Creating a Focal Point

How to choose the right Beige

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leave aREPLY

  1. 'Atmosphere ' has different meaning to different people. You can have 'atmosphere of luxury' in the hotel and this is what I would definitely expect from the luxury expensive hotels. But is this the only one? For me hotel with atmosphere has something unique about it, something which makes you remember it among other places. Last year we were on vacation in Puerto Rico. The most expensive hotel we stayed there did not impress me with atmosphere. It had a nice neutral decor with luxurious surfaces like marble but it was not special. It could have been anywhere in the world. Then we stayed in a small hotel (not chain) in old San Juan. It was less expensive and less luxurious but brimming with atmosphere and uniqueness! Waking up in the morning in that room made me realize that we are in the old colonial city in the tropics and was a prelude for discoveries of the day. Its atmosphere was much memorable for me than the faceless luxury of the other hotel.

  2. Svetlana,
    Thank you so much for your comment. I think the point of what I'm saying here is that we pay more because we want atmosphere (not because we want to hang around with other wealthy people necessarily) and we have all been disappointed with money we've spent in hotels in search of that!

    I am just loving everyone's comments, they are so thoughtful and really make a great argument for paying more on a vacation because it does add a lot to the feeling and memories of the trip!!

    I love my readers!!

  3. I love reading your blog – there are so many tips that I've already picked up that I'd never have got otherwise. I've been thinking of doing some redecorating, and a lot of the things you talk about are so helpful. Thanks!

    I completely disagree with Seth Godin. I don't think that people are willing to pay for crap. They do have certain expectations of what they'll get for what they pay for. I mean, if I check into a cheap hotel, I don't expect much in terms of atmosphere – all I expect is somewhere to sleep! If I pay more money, than it's going to be for a place that I think is gonna give me more for my money, in terms of atmosphere, and usually luxury, too.

  4. You and Seth are talking about different kinds of hotels (and different types of people who visit those different kinds of hotels), so you are both correct.

  5. Dear Anonymous,
    I know and his context was different from mine, it just made this post more interesting that's why I added it!
    Thanks for your comment!

  6. Maria..this is a super fabulous post and I wrote all about it on my blog. Thank you for letting share about you and your work! Drop by if you would like to see it. I worked it into my own efforts to improve a very ho-hum home. Someday, we will have some funds and more importantly time to improve things. But for now your decorating tips have made my home so much better than it would have been!

    I have always 'wished' I could live in a hotel room and wondered what was that 'magical' element that they said it all today!


  7. I get Seth's point for sure….there are hotels in the luxury category that aren't that luxurious anymore and some people will still stay there irrespective of the bad ambience. Your point is a good one for those of us who would never stay somewhere simply because it is heralded as a "luxury hotel." I'll decide that for myself based on whether or not it does have great ambience.

  8. Kelly, Arte Styling

    It's funny, but when I go on vacation (which hasn't been often lately) I don't gravitate towards "luxury". For me, sometimes luxury equates to stuffiness. This isn't always the case, but, and maybe it's the Californian in me, I tend to seek out very laid back places to stay while on vacation. The kind of places where you can walk around barefoot without getting funny looks. Where you can order a beer for $4 (instead of $8) and drink it straight from the bottle. And, although lighting is always important, at home or away from home, I wouldn't say it's the first thing I notice in a hotel room. (Although, when there's not ENOUGH lighting that can be a big problem.)
    Interesting points here. Guess it all comes down to personal preference and experiences.

  9. Gah. When I go on vacation, I don't want to have anything to do with other people. Besides, I have found that the wealthier people are, the less class they seem to have.

    Luxury rooms (and view) all the way. Please, no people.


  10. I have to agree with you and not Seth. People stay mostly for the luxurious surroundings quality bedding and accommodations as well as the high level of service. I think that these things attract like minded individuals who you would enjoy hanging out with but that's a by product. I think as far as hotels go you do get what you pay for.

  11. Dead on girl!
    I have just posted about my beige to black powder room and boy has it created atmosphere! Must admit your 'light colours never come to life in a dark room' spurred my decision Maria, thank you xxx LYN (LINI)

  12. I actually DO agree with Seth!! I never, ever stay in a "luxury" hotel! I simply cannot find it in me to pay the price. Yes, I could afford it, but no, I won't do it. I think so many people who stay in those hotels are only there to be seen, and only there because the hotel IS expensive. It takes more work to find an excellent and less expensive alternative, but I rather enjoy the search!

  13. Kimberly Grigg at "It's So Fabulous!"

    Well, Maria, as always, you are fabulously "right on"! I agree! Atmosphere is everything! And yes, typically, expensive hotels do a great job of conveying that. However, I think that there are also atmospheres that can be found at less expensive venues – charming Bed and Breakfasts, for instance – that create just as wonderful an atmosphere, albeit different from the expensive hotels. I actually think it has a great deal to do with the "attention to detail" given during the designing and decorating process. 🙂

  14. totally agree with LIGHTING!!! (It's one of the areas I encourage "splurging" when working on a tight budget.

    I'm so frustrated with my LR at home because we have our chandelier waiting to be hardwired hanging in the corner so until it's actually hardwired (i.e. we pay to have someone do it) we have dark corner that drives me NUTTY!!!

    anyway, i'm about to take the jump with photographyy- eeeeeeek


  15. OMG you are so speaking my language. It's atmosphere all the way and number 1 is definitely LIGHTING!!
    I don't think people realize how important good lighting is. Just imagine if a hotel lobby was not lit up to perfection but rather lit like most homes. No matter what you have going on lighting enhances it in ways nothing else can. It's pure drama and make even the ordinary, extraordinary.
    Just discovered your blog and I'm here to stay!!!
    I can't wait to learn all about color… it's truly an art. I must admit I hired a color consultant to help me in our home because I didn't really understand color.
    But color and lighting are everything and that I do know!!!

  16. I have found many posh hotels to be lacking in atmosphere, trading sense of place for bland, expensive poshness – if you can't tell what country and city you are in without examining the staff's name tags, you might as well stay home.

    Korea, for example, has an ancient and amazing ceramics tradition … why was I eating off imported French china?

  17. Maria,

    This is such a great post and the comments and feedback so interesting to read.

    Atmosphere, yes… you have to create the mood. Great rooms have it.

    Lighting, yes, yes, yes … I so totally agree with this. I love beautiful lighting. Lamps and lighting fixtures, in my mind, can make or break the room. Goes back to where you spend your money.


  18. Lighting really does make a difference! I know so man people who just use their overhead light. Even when watching tv. It is so harsh. I never use mine unless I just can't find something I dropped.

  19. I love light, and would want nothing more than 10 lamps in a room, but what about the electricity bill? Sometimes, money just trumps atmosphere. What are your thoughts on the financial effects of so many lamps? Do you have low-cost lighting solutions?

  20. Sophia
    You bring up an excellent point. And you don't have to have every single light on in the house, just the one you are in.

    Sitting in the living room at night, if you just had 2 lamps on (the one you might be reading with) and another one in the corner would make a world of difference!

    Great question, thanks for posting it!

  21. Two years too late, but Sophia asked what I’d been meaning to ask all along! Here, in India, electricity is expensive, so many of us use just enough light, to get by with. I would love to have that many lamps, but sadly, may not light them up much.

    Additionally, when you have little active kids running around….how do the lamps stay in place without getting toppled over??

  22. Hi Maria

    Great topic, I totally agree about layered lighting. It definitely, creates that mood you want in a room at different times.


  23. I think Seth’s comment points out that one’s ego may draw them to luxurious surroundings so that others will think that’s their real life story. Design inspired people like us are simply drawn to what we visually love. I’d stay in a tent in the middle of a redwood forest for free and feel marvelous!