Dear Muse, How Do I Incorporate Scent Into My Design?

Dear Muse,
I want to incorporate the 5 senses into my next event I am planning, but I don’t really know where to start other then visual, obviously. How do I work in the sensory element of smell? 

To continue the question I received about incorporating the senses, this week we are going to talk about pulling in the sense of smell (see last week’s blog for the taste blog!) Smell might seem obvious – there’s food there, right!   So, that’s it?!?

Let’s talk about food. As much as you remember the wonderful scent of that steaming, perfectly cooked steak as it was served to you at your catering tasting, you have to consider whether or not the choices you made, the venue you are at, and the scenario in which guests will be served that food elicit the guests sensory reaction.   Did you choose something in that final menu that has a lot of fresh herbs, or a good strong scent? If not, your guests not might get a wafting of it at all when they are served. Also, how is the venue setup? Are guests being served out of a kitchen, where all the smells are trapped inside the kitchen instead of filling the venue? Is the food in a buffet separate from the dinner seating? Are guests being served, and is it being unplated in front of them? Probably not. The simple logistics of serving food en mass for a banquet often negate the wonderful smells we associate with dinners. That’s not a bad thing! Often those smells can compete with your flowers, your candles, or simply the perfume the lady sitting next to you is wearing. However, if you are depending on the food to pull in the sense of smell, think twice about whether that will actually happen at your live event.

Think instead of other ways you can incorporate the sense of smell into your event. Food and beverage is a great way to do it – but think outside of the box. Is hot cocoa being served to guests as they enter? Or is there a cappuccino bar serving up freshly brewed coffee? Can you have a chef-station making up fresh crepes, or a waiter grating fresh rosemary or basil onto the pasta?smell

Remember your centerpieces as well – whether they are flowers or candles, these items can be devoid of scent or fill the room with a very specific aroma. Even your stationery can be scented with essential oils such as vanilla or chamomile that sets your guests into an immediate mood.

Do consider your guests when creating your dynamic, and be respectful of allergies, providing tables or areas that are “scent free” zones, or at least know your guests well enough to keep it out of your design altogether if needed.
~Christina, Muse


For all of you reading this… what’s your design challenge? Have a question you would love to ask a designer to help you create your perfect space or event? Ask! Email me at with “Dear Muse” in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you.

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