The use of scent can have a profound effect on the impression of a space.
While quality design tries to evoke the senses, one element that may seemingly get lost as important in the process is the incorporation of natural aromatics.
Spaces are often more than just what is seen. There is also an invisible mood often which can be attributed to, among other things, fragrances in the air.
Sensory experiences, especially odors, can bring back memories associated with a particular smell or group of smells. Research on the importance of smell has been conducted in numerous studies.
Chemesthesis, or the detection of a chemical irritant, allows an ingrained sense of protection with regards to humans and animals. Coughing or other reactions to strong odors are natural reflexes. This defense helps safeguard against harmful substances in the environment (National Institutes of Health).
Ridding rooms of dustiness and chemical odors like those emitted from harsh paints, upholstery and carpeting made from synthetic materials can improve air quality. Things like air flow and ventilation can also affect one’s perception of smell.
Techniques of sensory design are evident in facilities like spas, hospitality destinations, hospitals and office spaces. This concept is also widely used in urban design and is a substantial marketing technique. Think of coffee, floral, bath and apothecary shops, which all use smell to entice customers. Aromatherapy is also used in many therapeutic forms.
Sense of smell as used in sensory design does not mean turning to chemicals to mask the air, though. There are simple things that can be done to naturally create an aromatic scent.
One researcher, Victoria Henshaw, states the significance of scent, and not just relying on aesthetics in a design. She has made studying scent experiences a focal point and has noted “smell walks” as an important tool for recognizing how many we actually encounter during for instance, a stroll. As part of her inquiry, she began taking partakers on these walks and has noted that many state things like breezes or flowing water can improve perception of air quality, lending to increased awareness of smells.
She provides an example of a landscape which creates a lingering fragrance. Located in the perfume capital of the world – Grasse, France is famous for its aromatic fields of jasmine and other flowers used in its popular formulas. She observed that throughout the area are also visual representations of the regional flowers, which can appear to make the spaces more fragranced with the familiar smell.
The concept of sensory gardens, or outdoor spaces that have been specifically designed to stimulate the physical senses, can be used at home to heighten the awareness of natural fragrances, as well as produce a relaxing effect.
Planting fragrant flowers or herbs by doorways and along walkways can entice before even entering an interior space. Stick with native varieties, but examples of powerfully scented ones are gardenias, honeysuckle, roses, violets, wisteria, lemon balm, rosemary and mint. Trees like cedars and pine also put off strong aromas. Certain plants can also be placed indoors in containers, such as herb gardens, for a lasting fragrance.
Homemade scents can also be used to naturally freshen the air.
Sensory design recognizes the importance of integrating the human senses, including sense of smell, into indoor and outdoor areas. Designs that keep the olfactory system, as well as the other senses in mind, can help produce stimulating spaces that are more than just visually based.
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