Scenting your open plan living space - versatility and connection

Open plan living spaces that contain a combined living, dining and kitchen area are a common feature of the modern house or apartment. This domestic space is flexible and free flowing with many different activities going on at the same time but also a space where people gather together.

Including scent as part of a well designed open plan area adds another stratum to our experience and can be used to reflect the versatility of this living space and feelings of connection.

Providing information about the people who use a particular space is the most crucial aspect of a well designed area. Information about ourselves and others creates a context for social interaction and spurs people to figure out what is happening around them.

People are more likely to enjoy a space where they feel comfortable, secure and valued and that balances their need for sociability and privacy, novelty and familiarity.

Scents of home

Each home has its own distinctive aroma, made up of the items and furnishings that decorate it and the people and products that we bring to it, molding our sense of place.

Our home is a reflection of who we are and what we have done in our lives, holding personal associations that can be mirrored with a particular scent.

Of all our senses, our sense of smell is the one that has the strongest emotional link. A smell is experienced in a particular context: either social, emotional, semantic or physical. The meaning and emotional associations of the context becomes linked to a particular scent which is subsequently interpreted in relation to our very first experience of it.

Scents of versatility and connection

The open plan living space suits modern life and synchronises with the Australian lifestyle and favourable weather.

These spaces are fluid, adaptable and informal - a place where multiple activities are in motion yet still somewhere where everyone can come together to connect, even if we may not be necessarily doing the same thing.

Usually this area is where informal eating takes place and where we are watching some sort of a screen, be it the TV, computer, phone or tablet.

In an increasingly frenetic and disengaged world, this space can provide a modicum of security and social connectedness and at the same time gives us flexibility and choice.

Thinking about the types of scents we want to use in an open plan environment, take into consideration that various activities are apt to be taking place, what people want to accomplish here and what associations the people using that space may have to the aromas you want to use.

Scent is a useful tool to gradually modify and bring out different mood shifts and responses in these types of spaces.

Aromas that are congruent with the seasons are a factor in open plan design as these rooms often are seamlessly integrated with the backyard or an outdoor room.

Suggestions for integrating decor and scent can be found on our Scent Styling page.

Experiential design ideas discussed in a previous post on scenting the living room are equally relevant to an open plan design.

Many open plan spaces lack contrasts between big and small or exposed and private areas which can make a large space more appealing. Movable furniture allows different kinds of furniture arrangements for varied social interactions and design features like alcoves or nooks can create privacy or quiet spaces which make a room more comfortable. Scent can play a part here to support these created zones.

Scents for your open plan living space

Focusing on the idea of versatility that is important in an open plan design, I have included some examples here that you can vaporise in these spaces.

Blend 1:

5 parts bergamot, neroli, 4 parts cypress, 2 parts Australian sandalwood essential oils.

This blend suits the flexible and relaxed feeling of open plan areas and can be used when you want to create a tranquil and languorous ambience when you're relaxing at home or when casually entertaining.

Blend 2:

5 parts lemon, 4 parts rosemary, 3 parts Siberian fir, frankincense, 2 parts East Indian sandalwood essential oils.

A bright, sharp, energising blend for when you desire a more stimulating and focused ambience or when people are working or studying.

Scenting tips:

As some of these open plan living areas can be quite large, create scented corners e.g place a diffuser at the entrance and exit points and at two designated spots in your room. Your choice of fragrance is perceived more effectively with this configuration as the aroma waxes and wanes as people move around the space, thus avoiding olfactory adaptation to the particular scent.

This is also useful in open plan design when different activities are taking place concurrently so pockets of space can be scented with varying aromas.

Diffuse grapefruit essential oil in your oil burner or vaporiser when people are eating as it doesn't interfere with food aromas.

De keuken van het Oude Vrouwenhuis - C. de Jonker 1785 - Gorcums museum

Further reading

  • 20 best open plan living designs. HomeLife.
  • How to style an open plan living space. Homedit.

Research articles:

  • Plasma 1,8-cineole correlates with cognitive performance following exposure to rosemary essential oil aroma. Ther Adv Psychopharmacol. June 2012.
  • The essential oil of Abies sibirica (Siberian fir) reduces arousal levels after visual display terminal work. Flavour and Fragrance Journal. May 2011.
  • In this Japanese study, the inhalation of Siberian fir reduced arousal levels after a visual display terminal task which may be useful in offsetting the negative effects of prolonged computer use.
  • From the burner today. Our Pinterest board has essential oil blend recipes if you would like more ideas.
Gotthardt Kuehl Das Gartenzimmer c1897