top of page

The Starbucks Intangibles Experiment

Updated: Mar 27, 2019

How does Starbucks uniformly maintain a culture that attracts bright minds, and calm energies in different cities all over the world? What is it about Starbucks that makes it feel like your living room, library, and next-door neighbor’s house all wrapped in one?

More importantly, how could you go about creating that uniquely peaceful culture for your home? Buy their singer/songwriter albums, an espresso machine, a comfy leather couch and extension cords so that you can plug in from virtually every square inch of your home?

Even though I do love Starbucks and that is how I would summarize the inside of their cafes, I don’t think those components create my ideal living space. So, what is that extra something – the intangible qualities that makes me forget that I’m surrounded by strangers and feel at home? That X-Factor is what I seek to create for my own home. Still, as we discussed in the Uncollectables Experiment, I want to select comforts that will become synonymous with MY home. So, where do we start?

The “At Home” Intangibles Experiment

Intangible [in-tan-juh-buh l] – incapable of being perceived by sense of touch; not definite or clear to the mind; existing only in connection with something else

Synonyms (Elusive, fleeting, vague)

Scents: The sense most overlooked in our happiness arsenal; our sense of smell is said to be the sense closest linked to triggering our memory because of the olfactory bulb (where scents are registered in the brain) and its relative position to the limbic system (the part of the brain credited with controlling our mood, memory and emotion). In Starbucks, the scent is obviously coffee and pastries, but what are mine? I thought of my happy places (triggered by smells)… Barnes & Noble (mmm, books!),

New York City (crisp air, street food vendors and touch of smog ) and my Grandfather’s house (homemade strawberry jam & taxidermy). While some of these may sound weird, the places do not trigger that same sense of comfort when you remove their familiar scent. My husband’s happy scent is chocolate protein powder and new car smell (The anticipation of going to the gym and driving his car).

Potpourri Recipe by Mother Thyme

Throughout my early twenties, it was rare that I spent more than a 6-month stretch in the same apartment, none the less city, none the less country! It was difficult to find any sort of consistency. Here is where identifying your intangible comforts comes into play. Devising a “Home Culture” with a combination of Feng Shui and happy smells is a quick way to feel at home in a new space and create an environment that will allow you to be your best self. Currently, I’m loving this Lemon, Cinnamon & Thyme Potpourri Simmer.

The price of cinnamon sticks is a small fee (even as a poor twentysomething) for the rush of comfort this will bring you.

Music: While tastes for active listening music vary greatly, I find that background music tastes are less pronounced. Find a calming, subtle style or styles of music that suit you (and your housemates if you have them) for when you are at home and not actively enjoying music. My husband and I love 40’s music. I love soundtrack tracks, music that sounds like it has a storyline, without necessarily having any lyrics. There is also background music that suits certain activities or times of day. When I’m cooking, I enjoy listening to salsa and Spanish flamenco. When we first wake up, Dustin and I enjoy our Jack Johnson/Dave Matthews Pandora station. Dustin listens to instrumental jazz when he is studying. Having a soothing melody in the background of a menial task can change it from boring to therapeutic. I have actually enjoyed washing the dishes to the smooth sounds of Concha Buika. This was a one-time occurrence, as dishwashing is my single least favorite chore, but hey – it’s progress! Click here for my “At Home Playlist”


  • Photos/Collections- Home is such an exciting and new place in your twenties. While Starbucks has shrines that pays tribute to its coffee farms – It’s YOURS to do with as you choose. It’s a place to honor family traditions you love, while introducing some new ones of your own. My “Uncollectables Gallery” features photos and treasures of those near and dear and give me a boost of happiness every time I see it. What event in your life elicits joy for you? Your wedding? Your annual camping trip? First Day of School pictures of your kids? Dedicate a space in your home for a “shrine” to the event!

  • Seasonal Tributes- While “shrines” serve as a constant reminder of something that is important to you, seasonal tributes can give you just as much of a happiness boost when they pop-up once a year.

Starbucks does this subtly with its signature menu items like the Pumpkin Spiced Latte in the fall, fresh brewed summer teas, and red Christmas cups. These things have actually become the sign of the holiday starting for me!

Similarly,  I anticipated the retrieval of decorations for Halloween and Christmas. The collections served as a symbol of the celebration that would soon be upon us. Since, for most of my twenties, I lived on my own and without my family, I rarely had the luxury of a decorated household. I lacked the storage space for such goodies. But Christmas just didn’t feel the same without the familiar creaking sound of my mom’s creepy Santa moving his rickety neck back and forth on repeat through the month of December. Naturally, my feelings of homesickness took their worst toll around the holidays. So, this year I have decided that it’s time to make my own holiday crafts and have at least ONE seasonal or holiday tribute to make home feel homier. And I cannot express the regret I have for not making this decision sooner. My biggest and best financial investment was $30 towards a medium sized Hurricane Vase. I use the same

hurricane year- round and change out what I display based on the season. Pinecones and evergreen branches for winter, wax green apples for summer. Mini gourds and pumpkins for autumn, and colored easter eggs for spring. Just the process of changing the display gives me a burst of energy, and by the time I start getting sick of it, it’s time to change it! This is a simple and pretty generic example, but the more personal your seasonal/holiday tribute is, the greater your energy boost will be. My favorite personal holiday tributes: A homemade Easter Egg Tree (a staple at my best friend’s

childhood home) and this Christmas StoveTop Potpourri that I simmer to flood the house with my favorite Christmas scents that are all-together missing since moving to south Florida.

The comfort and happiness we feel in a place like Starbucks can absolutely be cultivated in our homes. It takes attention to detail. Intangible detail.

Take note of the environments that make you happiest, then have a blast infusing your home with all those sensations. More than just the way it looks, your home should have a happy scent, sound, touch, feel and even TASTE to it. 

What are your happy scents, sounds, and tributes? Post in the comments below!

7 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page