The lobby of Toronto’s Trump Hotel has all of the elements of a ritzy, five-star lodging. The check-in desk is wrapped in Macassar ebony. The floor is inlaid with onyx and the drapes are velvet.
The most luxurious design detail, however, isn’t visible or even that discernible. Subtle wafts of champagne and caviar drift through the foyer, giving the place an air of exclusivity, and providing an olfactory signal to the c-suite clientele that they’ve arrived – literally and figuratively.
Scent is very similar to great lighting,” Pepe says. “Great lighting – as opposed to just a light bulb – can change the mood. It can warm you up. It can invite your guests. Smell is the same thing.” Harsh or garish lighting, on the other hand, can be repellent.
But whereas lighting is a commonly accepted requirement for a good space, scent design is much less ubiquitous. Until now. According to Pepe, the olfactive-branding industry (which she currently estimates to be worth $500-million a year, a tiny fraction of the multibillion-dollar perfume business) is set to boom over the next two years.
That’s “because we’re at a tipping point,” she says. “We, as a society, are kind of dead, visually. We’re on our phones, we are constantly looking at screens. So there’s this hole. And what scent does is that it propels you back in time so you remember what it felt like. If you’re walking in a mall, for example, and you smell crayons, you’re going right to that emotional connection of peeling the paper off. And all of a sudden there’s a human aspect to it.”
Credits – Tracy Pepe, the founder of Nose Knows Design, Brampton, Ont. and reporter Matthew Hague.