The Sensory Peacock Kitchen

Philadelphia row homes: a style unto themselves.

The row home shared walls make them easier to heat, but the lack of windows and proximity to neighbors can be challenging for people who need natural light and quiet in order to thrive.

We picked this West Kensington house for its high ceilings and proximity to Norris Square Park. With a modest renovation budget, we took this kitchen down to the studs and created a sanctuary which integrates as much nature as an urban setting can provide.

The Joys and the Pitfalls

The biggest issue that plagues Design it Yourself home renovations is selecting fixtures and finishes that you love, AND that harmonize with one another. We are NOT in favor of the matchy-matchy look, but there’s nothing more heart-rending than installing your new cabinets over your new floor and realizing that they clash.

How we avoided this: we chose the floor first. (Wood-look ceramic tile: durable, attractive, easy to clean, doesn’t show dirt.) Then we physically carried a floor tile to the cabinet maker, a cabinet panel to the countertop maker, and so forth. There’s no substitute for experiencing a combination live and in person.

Then we encountered another hitch: Trend Assumption. Our contractor didn’t ask what tile we wanted for the backsplash. He said, “People get white subway tile.”


The tile our chastened contractor installed was NOT stolen from an archaeological dig in Morocco and smuggled into harbor by pirates at astronomical expense. I found it by scrolling through hundreds of tile patterns online and ordered it through Home Depot. But you’d never know the difference.

Sensory lighting: indirect, warm, and adjustable

The light fixture over the dining nook, by Fanimation, contains a variable speed ceiling fan. We chose it because it dims, and does NOT have bare bulbs pointing toward people’s faces.

The pendants over the island are fitted with smart bulbs from Philips Hue–completely adjustable for color, value, and timing–and are hung low enough that they illuminate the work area without shining into eyes.

Overhead halogen lights in the business section of the kitchen are adjustable and point at work surfaces.

As we are in a dense urban area, the only time this kitchen got direct sunlight is around sunset at certain times of the year. We treasured these moments, before the three-story building went up behind us.

Thus, the windows have only sheer curtains and as many low-light plants as we can manage. We covered the cinder-block walls outside the side windows with white surface-bonding cement, for increased light reflectivity, and stained the wooden privacy fence with honey-hued varnish. 

Are we done yet? OH HELL NO.

Peacock mural: planned from the start. Colors: from the Tiffany lamp. Shapes: from the night-blooming Cereus cactus. 

Authentic, not catastrophic

Our clients: Creative and brilliant. Of course.

We enable and facilitate our clients’ creativity, by helping you understand your aesthetic and sensory needs. When you have a brilliant idea for an unconventional theme–like a peacock jungle in your urban kitchen–we help you execute your idea in a way that WORKS.

Got an idea? Get in touch. We would love to hear it.


Dining nook serves as a creative space for writing, gardening and hanging with guests.

Sensory Interior Design Case Studies

Eccentric Genius Habitat Intervention

Are you an eccentric genius?

You’re in the right place, darling.

In this free e-course, you will discover:

The ONE design mistake that NEARLY ALL HUMANS make in their habitats, and how to fix it in 15 minutes. (You will roll your eyes. And cry.)

Three senses your kindergarten teacher didn’t mention. (And how they make you a NINJA.)

The design trend which created an epidemic of shut-ins. (NOT COVID-19. Some of us now know the meaning of schadenfreude.)

Why Febreze is EVIL. (There should be a warning label.)

What kinds of light fixtures will be BANNED when the establishment comes to its senses.

What color has to do with hormones. (And how to leverage it–St. John’s Wort, piffle!)

What NEVER to do, ever ever, if you do not wish to induce psychosis, extreme depression, vertigo, or actual regurgitation in guests and members of your own family. (We all love those Bad Examples.)

Practical Sanctuary, Sensory Interior Design

Practical Sanctuary, sensory interior design, specializes in interior design for highly sensitive people.
We help you create spaces which are: