Why Scent Is Essential To Design

Angelica Angeli
Jan 19, 2016 · 6 min read

Interior design should indulge as many of our senses as possible: vision, hearing, touch and smell. When a space is envisioned, designed, and created with the intent of intriguing as many senses as possible, only then will the space truly reach its full potential.

Smell, being the most powerful link to emotions and feelings, is often overlooked and has only recently been strategically incorporated into interior designs.

However, If you think about it, a scented room has the power to create a certain ambiance and mood; meaning that selecting a scent that best matches your space is just as important as hand picking furniture or art.

Physiological Benefits Of Home Perfumery

Smell has the ability to have such a strong an effect on our experiences because it is processed in the Olfactory cortex of the brain’s limbic system, close to the area in which emotions, memories, and feelings are stored. To put it simply, scents trigger emotional reactions. According to Dawn C. Buse, Ph.D., clinical psychologist in the Department of Neurology at Montefiore Medical Center, “the first time that we experience a particular scent, we associate it with events, people, and emotions of the time.” So, when entering a scented room, two things may happen: if the smell is familiar, old memories will be evoked, possibly offering a sense of nostalgia. If the smell is completely new, then new memories will be created.


It has been proven through a number of studies that fragrance has an effect on a person’s mood. According to the Smell Report, there have been tests done with odorless placebos where subjects were told that despite the fact that they could not smell any fragrance, pleasant scents had indeed been administered. In the placebo test, the subjects’ moods were altered positively a bit, however, when subjects could actually smell a pleasant fragrance, the positive effects on their mood were far greater.

Deciding On Scents For Different Spaces

Gemma Hopkins, fragrance expert and founder of Design in Scent suggests that “when you choose which home fragrances to use, consider how it will harmonize with its surroundings and ensure it complements the mood that you have curated through visual design.”

In the same way, each piece of furniture is chosen to match and fit in with the rest of the design, scents should be incorporated with already existing home fragrances in mind. Every smell, from cleaning products to pets and children, should be considered. You will want to avoid including a scent so strong that it monopolizes the entire room, possibly causing some kind of discomfort. However, you will also want to avoid the exact opposite, too, and not be able to smell the chosen scent at all.

Strategical placement of fragrances throughout the entire house can be a challenging task as there are different elements one must bear in mind during this procedure. Relying on an expert is something worth considering as their expertise will help guide in making a perfect choice. Antica Farmacista, a fragrance specialist company, has some suggestions that apply for every room of the house: fresh and clean fragrances best complement kitchen spaces; soothing, warm scents can be beautifully incorporated in the bedroom to create a relaxing ambiance; heady florals find a good home in any powder room, as small spaces can be nicely treated to fresh scents; and clean fragrances are the most desired choice for living rooms.

There are also certain fragrances that are believed to intrigue our minds and feelings in certain ways. Fragrances containing thyme, pine, and sweet marjoram are believed to have the ability to stimulate conversation; this is why they are often found in living rooms, where people are most likely to socialize. The scent of a zesty lemon is thought of as the best neutralizer for a kitchen, as kitchens are most likely to be the home of a mixture of smells.

Lavender’s scent is known for causing relaxation, therefore, a perfect match for the bedroom.

And lastly, if you want to match your scent to the season, fresh citrus scents, like mandarin or bergamot, are a popular choice, during hot, summer months, when fresher scents are wanted.

In addition to finding the right scents to meet your needs, you’ll also want to provide a top scent company to buy from. It is important to source your scents from a reliable speciality company to keep your air clean of harsh chemicals and your scents pure in effect. Highly recommend are Kobo Candles.

Ways Of Incorporating Scents In Your Interior

There are many different ways of pleasantly fragrancing an interior: scented candles, incense, essential oils, diffusers, and potpourri.

Whichever method is selected, it should be used in such a way that a sense of cleanliness is enhanced, rather that creating a heavy atmosphere that leads to uneasy breathing. Candlelight, for example, always creates a relaxing environment and is a perfect visual decor as well. Burning incense to create a pleasant scent and tranquil atmosphere is another option, however, this method should be used with caution. Incense can be safely used as long as they are of good quality, used in moderation, and in a well-ventilated space. If leaving a candle or incense lit makes you feel a bit uneasy, then essential oils might be a better choice. Although the playful flickering of a candle is sacrificed, a pleasant scent will surely be accomplished.

Sensory Design

The importance of scents does not only apply to home interior designs. When it comes to the retail sector, scents play a major role in affecting consumers’ purchasing habits and determining whether their in-store experience is one that will be repeated or not.

Eric Spangenberg, a consumer psychologist and academic, and his colleagues found that once feminine scents — such as vanilla — were released, women’s sales doubled. Similar were the effects on men when more masculine smells were released, such as Rose Maroc. According to Spangenberg, “Men don’t like to stick around when it smells feminine, and women don’t linger in a store if it smells masculine.” Scents are such an important part of a consumer’s experience that there are firms which specialize specifically in scent marketing, such as Scent Air, which help businesses conquer the art of perfectly scenting spaces that aid in the company’s growth.

Another common strategy big brands follow is using a signature scent as their brand identifier. These companies take full advantage of sensory design by scenting their spaces with aromas that represent their brand and appeal directly to their target market. Abercrombie & Fitch, for example, has their own men’s fragrances, “Fierce.” Fierce is scented throughout the stores as a way to support the company’s character, giving off what they would describe as a “lifestyle…packed with confidence and a bold, masculine attitude.”

Although some retail store owners will argue that they like to concentrate on visual elements, ambient scenting offers a number of proven benefits to retailers. Customers browse longer in stores where pleasant fragrances are diffused, increasing the chances of a purchase. Also, when scents that boost a fun and inviting environment are added, the shopping experience becomes memorable and the shopper’s perspective of the store is affected positively.

The sooner the power of scent is recognized, the sooner we can benefit from incorporating it into home and retail design — bringing about pleasant, intimate memories or creating new positive experiences.

Interior Design Collection

A carefully curated collection of articles on interior design. To submit your article, tweet me at @style_reporter

Angelica Angeli

Written by

Lover of beautiful things and places! Interior Design & Architecture Journalist.

Interior Design Collection

A carefully curated collection of articles on interior design. To submit your article, tweet me at @style_reporter

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