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Sating The Senses

March 07, 2012
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Recently, I visited a beautiful Asian-influenced boutique hotel that was artfully appointed with modern furnishings and tasteful decor.

While my eye was pleased by the look and feel of the hotel, my nose was dismayed by the stale Victorian-era aroma that enveloped my olfactory senses.

As an ambient designer who works with hoteliers, health care providers and retail and casino managers, I strive to ensure that sensory satisfaction is achieved with all of the senses.

Fortunately, more and more innovative companies realize that creating a more memorable and satisfying environment demands the use of scenting.

An article in the Journal of the Human-Environment System reported that, "The impact of indoor air quality (IAQ) on the well-being and comfort of a building''s occupants is a key to creating an indoor environment which increases human performance. Research clearly shows that the addition of olfactory substances to the indoor air can significantly increase the satisfaction rate of building occupants."

After Belgium''s Middelheim Hospital spent considerable time and money refurbishing their facilities, they found that the hospital retained a typical "hospital smell."

The hospital conducted a pilot study to determine the psychological effects of scent in a hospital and the use of smell as a way of improving the hospital experience.

The survey results suggested greater well-being, emotional comfort and satisfaction were achieved by participants who spent time in the scented hospital lobby and main seated areas versus the unaltered original hospital smell.

There are many reasons to consider the incorporation of scenting into any environment, but here are my top four reasons to take the sensory hurdle:

1. Eliminating stale, stagnant air

We have all visited a space with stagnant and stale air.

The absence of a malodor does not mean that IAQ cannot be improved.

The introduction of a scent ambience into an interior space enhances IAQ.

2. Odor remediation remedy

Stinky situations abound.

A casino or smoking floor of a hotel, for example, may feature a strong tobacco smell due to the lack of air circulation in the hallways and main meeting areas.

Or, the top floor of a facility may feature a moldy smell from the humidity caused by the doors to the rooftop.

A hotel that accepts pets may feature musky animal smells long after the animal has departed.

3. Building sensory brand consumer connection

Sensory branding stimulates a consumers'' relationship with a brand and cultivates an emotional connection that optimizes brand loyalty.

In 2006, Omni Hotels & Resorts was a pioneer in offering sensory branding as part of their public space amenities with the use of a green tea and lemongrass- infused scent in their lobbies and cappuccino and mochaccino-infused scenting in their Morsels coffee cafés.

Today, the hotel has optimal brand scenting in their lobbies, elevator banks, guest corridors and conference rooms.

Each Omni property worked to determine their unique scent profile and how each hotel could optimize scent branding.

Some of the Omni properties also employ a seasonal scent branding program, which provides new scents each season — with even a special holiday scent in December.

Members of Omni Hotels'' Select Guest loyalty program have access to individual scent branding units.

A guest who desires a "fresh cotton" scent or spa-infused "green grass," for example, can receive on-demand scent branding.

4. Optimizing life through aromatherapy

There is a growing body of evidence that the essential oils used in aromatherapy — which is the use of scent and the essential oils of flowers, herbs and trees to promote health and well-being — can promote relaxation, reduce stress, improve alertness and mood and energize the body.

The introduction of aromatherapy scent branding can improve the quality of life in health care settings, spas, hotels and offices.

I look at the incorporation of scent from a design perspective, not merely as an odor remediation issue.

By analyzing the market we are reaching at the senior living residence, oceanfront hotel or smoke-filled casino, we come up with a scent brand profile that energizes and empowers each environment.

Adding a tailored scent to a facility creates a deeper connection with the consumer.

A hotel near the ocean, for example, might feature a beach-inspired scent with notes of coconut and lime; an upscale senior living residence may incorporate lavender or other aromatherapy-infused scents that promote relaxation and harmony.

Based in Seattle, Roel Ventura is an award-winning ambient designer for Ambius. Born and raised in Hawaii, Ventura brings a collaborative "Paradise of the Pacific" vitality and vision to his design work. He was honored with the Plantscape Industry Alliance (PIA) Award of Excellence in Holiday Design for his festive and modern holiday display at both Tishman Speyer''s 400 South Hope Street in Los Angeles and at the Intercontinental Los Angeles at Beverly Hills Hotel. Recently, Ventura has partnered with Schnitzer West LLC at the Bellevue Shops at the Bravern and Kemper Development Company with their Bellevue Collection retail properties to provide their scenting experience programs. For more information, visit

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