The big name architect and interior designer are on board, the original artwork and bespoke chandeliers are in production and the private residents’ lounge is taking shape…what else does a luxury developer need to think of these days? Ah yes, the smell! What is this development going to smell like?
While luxury new-builds sell themselves as being a feast for the eyes (those views! That £150,000 kitchen!), ears (think soporific background music to lull you into thinking you’re already at home) and touch (throws to envelop yourself in, rugs to melt into), appealing to the sense of smell has usually been limited to the reliable old waft of freshly baked bread and just-brewed coffee.
But developers are starting to get more sophisticated in their indulgence of the olfactory. They are realising that creating a “proprietary fragrance” is all part of the process of enticing buyers. The team behind One Thousand Museum, Zaha Hadid’s futuristic bottle-opener of a building on Miami’s Biscayne Boulevard, has commissioned the bespoke New York-based perfume factory 12.29 in their first residential project. Their task? To come up with a scent that matches Hadid’s architectural vision.
The resulting beach-breeze aroma that will be diffused around the huge reception area is “the aesthetic message of One Thousand Museum”, according to its marketers. The gym has its own smell too – no, not sweat, but a motivating citrus with dark wood, while the rooftop aquatic centre will emit a smell called “warm skin” – a coconut and orange flower combination that’s “reflective of an ocean breeze”.
The main purpose behind it all is branding. As 12.29’s founder, Samantha Goldworm – who has invented scents for Lady Gaga, trendy hotels such as the Quin in Manhattan and Miami’s glamorous Art Basel event – puts it: “we took the developers through the process that translates their brand identity into a scent”.
But there’s also a more romantic motivation, that smell is “the most powerful link to emotion and memory”, says Goldworm. As Samantha’s twin sister and 12.29 co-founder Dawn explains: “when you scent a space, you’re changing the way people feel about it”.
In New York, INSTRATA Lifestyle Residences – a portfolio of luxury residential buildings throughout the city – also have a custom scent. It’s called Golden Bamboo byScentAir and its top notes of satsuma and lime blended with a base of apple and bamboo emit a scent reminiscent of a massage or meditation session, according to Rob Neiffer, Director of Invesco Real Estate. “The use of a distinctive scent is a relatively new concept for residential real estate but growing in popularity. If the right scent is selected, it can help to reinforce a luxury feeling and experience when entering the building,” Neiffer adds.
For luxury British developers Millgate, white tea and fig is the signature scent that infuses its projects, including six-bed mansions in Holland Place, Sunninghill that cost from £4.25m. The idea, says sales director Jonathan Cranley, is “to create a soothing, luxurious environment. We believe that scent is a powerful way to connect on emotional and memorable levels with our customers, forging a greater association when a buyer first walks in”.
The leading candlemaker Rachel Vosper has been drafted into One Tower Bridge, Berkeley Homes’s new development of luxury apartments beside the iconic London landmark, to give each of the three show flats a distinctive smell.
For the “Tom Ford Suite” show apartment, designed by Honky, Vosper chose an oriental spice blend to complement the river and park-side location, while the Casa Forma-designed apartment lent itself to a fresh, minty smell. “Bringing an apartment to life doesn’t just involve scents but an acute attention to detail to make it feel simultaneously lived in and like a blank canvas,” says development manager Doug Acton.
Given the effort and expense that goes into creating bespoke scents for properties, it all seems a bit of a shame that the most effective smells are those we scarcely notice. But it’s far preferable to send a subconscious message of luxury than to thrust an aroma, quite literally, right up our noses.
In one £55m London apartment that Camilla Dell from Black Brick buying agency came across, the smells were carefully choreographed to suggest sheer decadence. “The men’s walk-in wardrobe and bathroom had a very masculine smell and empty shopping bags from Hermès and Loro Piana scattered around, whereas the woman’s walk-in dressing room and bathroom had a floral, feminine scent and was dressed with Chanel and jewellery. It all combined to create the feel of a family living there with the best of the best,” says Dell.
We choose perfumes to suit our personalities. Why not use scents as a subtle way to announce the personality of properties too? That must be what they call paying through the nose.