Decorating with Scent: The Role of Fragrance in Interior Design

Have you ever noticed how certain rooms in a house, or places of business, have a particular scent? One that evokes memories and emotions within you?

Scents can be powerful. Some spark some sort of lingering feelings and help people recall certain experiences they associate with that specific scent.

Of course, you’re not the only one who has noticed this. Many people – particularly businessmen and real estate agents – understand the importance of using scent to complete an experience that sells. And this can be quite useful in some situations, like during home staging prior to an open house or a restaurant fit-out.

Although there are plenty of methods you can use when designing a room, some experts believe that it will only be effective if you consider the emotions people experience when they stay in that room.

Besides furniture, color, and accessories, the scent of a room is vital in interior design. And when you take it into account, you create an experience that goes far beyond what the eyes see.

This article will show you how you can decorate with scent and its role in interior design.

Hotels and Fragrances

Fragrances have always been used in hotels – be it in their elevators, lobbies, and other areas used for socialization.

According to Executive Vice President of Brand Operations Jorge Trevino of the Commune Hotels, housekeepers in hotels and other luxury properties refill hidden clay oil dispensers every week to maintain a unique smell in a particular room. This way, guests and residents can associate these scents with the place.

The scent doesn’t just pique people’s interest and recall, though – it also triggers fond memories and emotions that make them look at the place in a more positive light.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Dawn C. Buse told The Observer that man is built to associate scents with emotions. After all, the olfactory cortex – the part of the limbic system in the human brain responsible for processing smells – is situated near the areas where memories are kept and emotions are processed. This means that scent memories are among the most emotional, lasting, and powerful memories of all.

“The first time that we experience a particular scent, we associate it with events, people, and emotions of the time,” Dr. Buse of the Montefiore Medical Center’s Department of Neurology said.

This explains why certain situations are associated with specific fragrances. Like the warm cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg scent in shopping malls during winter that evoke happy feelings of the holidays (think: Grandma’s baking), hotels also use specific fragrances to create an experience and memory that will encourage guests to return.

This is also true in restaurants and other food service establishments. There’s no better way to make your guests crave than to immerse them in the wonderful smells of your freshly cooked dishes or brewed coffee.

Scent and Home Staging

Besides commercial establishments, fragrances can also help sell a house. In fact, it is considered as one of the most important elements for effective home staging, working to boost a house’s appeal to potential buyers.

When staging a home prior to an open house, sellers and real estate brokers normally have the place deep cleaned. But while a house that’s squeaky clean reflects the amount of effort and care that was put into maintaining it, deep cleaning can leave certain odors that may not be appealing for people who enter the premises.

To prevent this, you can use products with cleaning agent ingredients that smell great.

You can also light scented candles or use reed diffusers. Just don’t go overboard when picking a scent. Stick to calming jasmine and lavender fragrances or crisp, earthy scents like citrus and cinnamon.

You can also add plants to help clear the air of any unpleasant odors.

Plus, don’t forget to use the stove to your advantage. Cooking something delicious will work, but you can also use a pot of boiling water and a couple of drops of essential oils to fill the air with wonderful fragrances.

Evoke wonderful feelings by adjusting the scent according to the season.

For example, warm and spicy flavors of cloves and cinnamon call up memories and pleasant feelings associated with the holidays. In summer and spring, opt for the fresh citrus scent of lemon or orange.

Experiment as much as you want, but make sure that you test the smell first before the open house. Also, avoid adding too many different scents so as not to overwhelm other people.

Smells and the Emotions They Evoke

Decorating with fragrances is all about feelings, memories, and emotions. In short, it’s all about the experience beyond what the eyes see.

Many different scents can be used to evoke entirely different emotions. Some examples are:

  1. Lavender, Jasmine, and Vanilla

As a widely used aromatherapy scent, lavender is known to have strong healing properties that help reduce stress levels. Whether used on its own or with other fragrances, lavender can help calm people who smell it.

Vanilla and jasmine also offer a relaxing effect, which makes them excellent fragrances for bedrooms and spas. With jasmine, though, you feel the stress slipping away and feel a bit more optimistic at the same time.

On the other hand, vanilla can leave you feeling warm, fuzzy, and nostalgic. Its familiar sweetness tends to remind people of the comforting and nurturing feeling of contentment.

  1. Peppermint, Citrus, Cinnamon, and Rosemary

Peppermint is an excellent scent for invigorating the mind and offering a sense of clarity. Often, this smell is used to help employees think more clearly during workshops and skills training. It is also effective in helping retail stores engage more customers in their shopping experiences.

Like peppermint, cinnamon, rosemary, and citrus also invigorate the mind. In an office setting, the refreshing, clean smell of lemon can help enhance performance and attitude towards something stressful, like deadlines.

  1. Sandalwood

Thanks to its animalistic quality, sandalwood is often associated with more sensual feelings. It is characteristically dark and smoky, making it the perfect choice if you’re going for a mysterious ambience.

Decorate with Scent

Be it in commercial establishments or residences, fragrances play a crucial role in interior design. Besides what they see, people react more strongly when scents are incorporated in certain places. As illustrated in this article, the role of fragrance in interior design is immense.


Lamia Rochdi is the Marketing Manager at Bell Flavors & Fragrances EMEA. A successful family-owned business, Bell’s core competencies include customized solutions for the food and beverages industry, the household and personal care sector, and the perfume industry.


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