scent's emotional power - a conversation with ashley
Every abd interior considers scent as an integral piece of its creation. Here, Ashley talks about her lifelong interest in the aromatic world and its powerful ability to evoke both emotions and memories.
What was your first experience with scent?
That would be with my mom. She has worn the same perfume her whole life. It was something my dad would buy her as a special gift when he came back from a trip. The connection between one scent and memory is never as strong as it is with my mother.
Do you have a signature fragrance?
I have never found one, if you can believe that. It bothers me that I don’t have one. But it’s different now because there are so many perfumes and options. I’m constantly surrounding myself with fragrances through incense, scented candles, hand soaps, laundry detergents, you name it. Even my addiction to chocolate is connected to scent. I would love to have my own fragrance and I’ve been considering designing one for a while now. In fact, that’s often where my creative impulses come from — when I can’t find exactly what I am looking for, I start exploring ways to realize it myself.
Do you wear perfume?
I have allergies, so I’m sensitive to wearing it directly on my skin. I’m also conscious of what scent can feel like for other people. I keep that in mind because most of us strongly prefer particular aromas and not others. Perfumes can be overwhelming. For me, a scent is particular. It’s not easy, but it shouldn’t be complicated, either.
How do you use fragrance in your interiors?
I use candles the most. I like the mood they create. One of my fondest memories as a teenager was visiting a family friend’s house, where they would leave out candles that had burned to almost nothing. That left an impression on me. It felt as though something was still lingering in the room, or the melted wax was a reminder that something had taken place and the candle had been simply forgotten. You know how you can stop noticing objects in a room after a while? Used candles are always noticeable. They leave a visible trace of time and memories.
How do you use scent at work?
I would use candles at the office, too, but I’m nervous about having them lit. I tend to gravitate toward incense, which I’ve grown to love, especially after visiting 45RPM in New York. It’s an incredible Japanese clothing store on Mercer Street that burns incense as part of the shopping experience. My first visit there changed my perception of fragrance beyond being a pleasurable aroma to something that is an essential part of a spatial experience. It led me to bring scent into my design practice in a more intentional and meaningful way.
What other ways do you bring scent into a space?
With flowers, for sure. Honestly, I get a sensory ding to my brain just seeing them. First of all, they are beautiful. But what I love most is that I can capture a moment with them. They are a direct expression of my feelings. I don’t buy the same flowers every time. What I choose depends on many factors. I can go into a florist and walk out empty handed if there is nothing that strikes me as the right match. I look for flowers that embody how I feel on that particular day. It’s very personal. Flowers are about creating a moment, which is a big part of what I do as a designer. Fragrances are like that. They create ambiance. I love how scent can strengthen an interior, and, almost instantly, turn it into a fully immersive experience.