I read a headline today, February 1, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, that just cracked me up: “Room scents personalize the air.”
Personalize the air.
Now we all know that, especially since September 11, the emphasis
on personal identity and individual imprint on the home environment
has never been more prevalent. While by nature, most people are
cattle—following trends directly to slaughter—the trend
emphasis on “me!” so fervently embraced, is becoming
hopelessly overplayed by those manufacturers hoping to grab market
share. This was an article about fancy room deodorizers.
As quoted by Frances Ingraham Heins in her personalization-of-the-air-you-breathe
article*, Terry Molnar, the executive director of the Sense and
Smell Institute in New York says, “ . . . You have control
over everything else in your home, from the color you paint the
walls and style of furnishings to the style of architecture, works
of art and accessories. Why not [control] how it smells?”
What? Wet dog and freshly baked blueberry muffins one day and sneakers,
pot roast and a vanilla candle the next aren’t personal enough
for you? Get out of town! Honestly . . . it just all seems a little
FROWNING WOMAN: “I need something to mask the smell of my
teenage son. I don’t want it to smell like boy. I want a more
flowery home signature.”
SMILING PRODUCT DEMONSTRATOR: “Why not try Stink-Ease—it
smells like perfume from France!”
NOW SMILING WOMAN: “Great idea! And that way, my home will
now have the personalized, pretty smell I can call, Le Garçon
Français Puer [Stinky French Son]!”
ANOTHER TWO OF THE FIVE SENSES
And yet . . . personalization of the air we breathe isn’t
so off base (I say, reluctantly) when you consider that design should
encompass more of our senses: not just what clients want to see
in their homes but also what they want to feel and even what they
want to hear.
Feel: When your client sits on his new sofa, does
he want to be able to sink in and take an afternoon nap or does
he want a more formal, tailored sofa to sit upon in a more businesslike,
Hear: When your clients open their draperies, do
they want to hear the rustle of silk taffeta or the smooth almost
silent glide of cotton?
Feel: When they lean against their headboard to
read a book or watch television at night, do they want to feel soft
upholstered goods? Metal? Wood? Do they want many pillows to pile
behind them or a few stiff, frilly accent pillows that are best
off the bed when night falls?
Hear: When they walk across their floors, do they
want the silent pad of carpeting, or do they revel in the tap of
heels on hardwood or tile?
Feel: When they open their window treatments in
the morning, do they want the ceremony of pulling the draperies
back or would they prefer to touch a control pad and let electricity
do the work?
Hear: Do they like the sound metal blinds make?
Or would a soft fabric/vane combination be more appropriate?
Feel: Would they like sitting frequently in a leather
chair or is soft fabric a better choice?
So often, we focus on what our clients want to see when we personalize
a space that we forget about how they will feel in a space, or even
what they want to hear every day. I have to say, while I like the
look of the colorful metal blinds in my daughter’s bedroom,
the clanking sound they make against the window frame when the breeze
is blowing makes me regret my choice. And yes, some clients will
be concerned about what they smell—don’t forget that
off-gassing from carpeting and other adhesives can be a big problem
for some people.
The personalization of our interiors is not a new trend, but the
pervasive attitude about having something that no one else has is
nowhere near peaking. Set yourself apart . . . don’t just
consider one of the five senses, add in a few more for good measure.
* “Room scents personalize the air” was first run in
the Albany Times Union, reprinted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Kathleen Stoehr is president of Chem-istry Creative, based in
Minneapolis, MN. She is a former editor-in-chief of Window Fashions
magazine and is the author Dream Floors, Hundreds of Ideas for Every
Type of Floor, and Dream Windows: Historical Perspectives, Classic
Designs, Contemporary Creations. Stoehr can be contacted for comments,
queries and trend information at email@example.com.