Home aroma: Signature scents are the newest NYC building amenity

October 24, 2016

Image: John Watson via flickr.

Something is in the air at luxury apartment buildings looking for new ways to charm residents. The idea of “aromatizing” building common spaces to entice buyers and renters with seductive scents is gaining popularity among developers, according to The New York Times. A growing number of the city’s rental and condo buildings have begun to infuse their halls with fragrance via building ductwork or standalone scent machines. With any luck, the result will be something far, far away from the smell of your subway stop in August.

Lobby at 21 West End Avenue, presumably scent-infused

The premise is neither new nor trivial; the strong associations we make when confronted with various scents–à la Proust–can conjure the warmest of memories and the most joyous of moods. Hotel lobbies don’t smell like an elegant life of not having to make the bed by accident. And the old real estate agent trick of popping a batch of cookies in the oven before an open house is eerily foolproof.

Included among the rental buildings and condominiums that have begun using scent in their lobbies, fitness centers and hallways is 21 West End Avenue. The Upper West Side rental building opened in September, and while residents may have noticed the lobby smelled like a day at the beach, few of them knew the source was a fragrance called Ocean Mist, which was being pumped in through the building’s ductwork.

A sampling of scents available from fragrance provider ScentAir

Management plans to tweak the fragrance choices seasonally, with Seasons Greetings on deck to conjure hot apple cider and cinnamon, all provided by ScentAir, a North Carolina-based company that counts the Coors Brewing Company among its clients. The company provides scents for 67 residential buildings in the New York area and says that multifamily properties represent the largest amount of business growth in recent years.

Some of the scents used in residential aroma campaigns are pre-existing versions chosen from collections of thousands, others are completely original. 12.29, the fragrance design company begun by Dawn and Samantha Goldworm–they’ve created scents for Lady Gaga and Valentino among others–whipped up a signature scent for developer DDG, who now uses the bespoke scent, called Craft, in the lobbies of all of its buildings including the condos XOCO 325 at 325 West Broadway and 41 Bond in Noho.

By now this attempt to bring as many senses as possible into the branding process should be starting to make…sense. 12.29 scent director Dawn Goldworm reminds the Times that smell is deeply interconnected with our emotions. “If you walk into a building that has the most beautiful architecture and the most incredible design you’ve ever seen, and it smells like the pollution and the trash outside in New York City, you’re not having a luxury experience.” Manhattan rental building 535W43, for example, isn’t taking any chances; they’re double-barreling the premises with two fragrances (sandalwood in the lobby, lavender in the fitness center).

But what if you you don’t like what you smell? Worse, what if it reminds you of something awful? Clearly not everyone is going to have the same reaction to every odor. Scent experts hope that creating a custom signature fragrance helps head off this problem; if the scent is brand new, no one can associate it with a bad blast from times past. But even that strategy is no guarantee that a resident won’t inhale while having a bad day and be forever biased against a well-intentioned aroma. Others just resent the olfactory onslaught altogether. Jonathan Miller of appraisal firm Miller Samuel says the trend is merely a gimmick used by developers “trying to one up each other to make the most noise.”

[Via NYTimes]


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  1. L

    If my building did this, I would sue to have it stopped. Chemical fragrances do have adverse effects!