Making scents of great design

Incorporating the sense of smell into your venue’s interior design can add a new level of quality to the space

Our senses are the gateway between the world around us and our reactions to it. The way something looks, sounds, feels and smells has a direct impact on our response to it, and this is true of the environments we surround ourselves with and the services we choose to use. A hotel, restaurant or other setting that ignites our senses in a positive way is one we are more likely to feel positively about.

We’ve already covered how light and sound play a significant role in the design of a space, so now we’re turning our attention to smell. Scent impacts us in two phases: an instinctive connection (where we decide whether we like the smell or not) and identification. This two-stage process can lead to pleasure, conversation and a strong emotional connection.

We’re going to look at the power that scents can hold, and how to harness this power in the design of your establishment.

The power of smell

Scent can affect us in an endless number of ways, from our mood to our memory. In many cases, the power of a smell may not be something we consciously recognise, but the impact is always there, and therefore it should be something we always take into account when sprucing up an interior setting. Let’s take a closer look at just some of ways we are influenced by the scents around us.


Of all our senses, smell is the most closely linked to memory. The scents we catch have the power to instantly transport us back to a particular place and time, whether it’s the smell of a certain food reminding us of home or fresh seaside saltiness reminding us of a beloved family holiday. In fact, studies have shown that people can remember smells with 65% accuracy after one year, while visual memory drops by 50% after only a few months.

Smell cements itself into our minds and stays there, significantly impacting the way we associate memory and place. The right scent has the power to help your establishment stick in the minds of visitors for all the right reasons.


It’s not just our memories which are affected by smell — our mood is too. The emotions we feel every day are closely related to the scents we catch, which in turn can impact the way we react to particular places and brands. Scent expert Dr Alan Hirsch has conducted countless studies into the effects of smell on human behaviour, and states that the connection between the two is even closer than we might think: “The part of the brain that smells and tastes is part of the emotional brain where our personality lies.”


Smell can also impact the way we perceive time, potentially increasing or decreasing the amount of time we feel we are spending in a particular environment. The longer we think we are spending, the more the surroundings stick in our mind. For a hotel, this can make guests more likely to think of your establishment in the future when looking for a place to stay.

In one study, Dr Hirsch exposed participants to one of three scents: baby powder, coffee and no aroma at all. The results showed that while the coffee smell produced a reduced perception of time, the baby powder produced an extended perception. Other studies have shown that pleasurable fragrances encourage people to stay longer in a setting.


Research has also revealed a link between what we smell and how healthy we feel. Soothing scents like lavender have been shown to help us relax and unwind, which is particularly important in care home settings where residents may become easily agitated or confused.


Smell can even affect how hard we work and how productive we feel, which should be an important consideration in venues such as student accommodation and even hotels, where business travellers are becoming more and more common. One Japanese study found that when the scent of lemon oil was diffused throughout an office building, productivity among workers increased by 54%. For workers trying to complete tasks in a hotel environment, a successful afternoon may help them associate the venue with positive feelings of productivity.

Incorporating scents into design

Bringing scents into the design of your establishment is as simple as it is effective. Incense, essential oils, scented candles, potpourri and diffusers can all help you bring the right ambience to the space.

These methods can be used to emphasise the freshness and cleanliness of the setting. Candles are a fantastic way to bring relaxation to a space (though be aware of health and safety aspects regarding open flames), while incense can help create a pleasant scent and a tranquil atmosphere. Essential oils can be used to create a slightly subtler scent, giving off just a hint of sweetness, sharpness or musk.

Whichever method you choose for bringing scents into your design, make sure it amplifies the atmosphere you’re trying to create in your venue. This may mean creating an energetic vibe with fresh scents, relaxation with calming scents or luxury with warm, inviting aromas. And, of course, you should consider where your plants, diffusers and candles should be housed – something that relies on the careful placement of your furniture and fixtures.

Creating hotel elegance using aromas

We’ve already seen how smell can impact many vital factors such as wellbeing and mood. For hotel owners, it’s important to apply this knowledge to your design in both communal and private areas. Just as you would consider the way your lobby looks, think about what kind of scent you want to greet guests with when they first step into your establishment. If you have a bar or restaurant area, do you want your guests to enjoy warm, foody scents to increase their appetites? If your venue includes coworking spaces, will you be factoring in fresh scents to encourage productivity?

In the bedroom, scent and luxury should be inextricably intertwined. Relaxing scents can be used to encourage a good night’s sleep, while rich, musky scents can make a space feel more like a home away from home. Even a smart choice of toiletries can fill the room with a plethora of pleasant aromas for guests to enjoy.

Remini-scents in care homes

The effect smells have on our memory is particularly significant when designing care home environments, especially those spaces designed for dementia residents. Scents form links between the smell itself and its sources, allowing a certain aroma to bring forth a memory or mood we’ve learnt to associate with it. For dementia residents, smells can be a powerful way to strengthen reminiscence and maintain calm emotions.

Every scent’s experience is unique to each individual, meaning smells can be a useful way for care home staff to get to know residents on a more personal level. Universal effects can also be put to use, with calming scents like lavender being used to reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality. Research from the University of Cincinnati has also shown how the smell of peppermint can help increase concentration.

If you are looking to refurbish or refurnish your venue and consider scent to be important, YTM are able to work with you closely to achieve the right results. Whether it’s providing surfaces to rest vases or candelabra on, building units to house potpourri and diffusers or something completely unique, let’s start a conversation.

Call us on 01977 66 50 50 or leave us an online enquiry by clicking here.

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