Designing My Life Through Scent

This blog is about design of all kinds. It’s about illustration and graphics, as well as designing your life to be something that works for you. And an area of my life I’ve been working to design over the last little while is fragrance. Seems strange? Well, let me get scientific for a moment.

Dr. Rachel Herz at Brown University in 2004 found that a group of five women showed more brain activity when smelling a perfume with which they associated a positive memory than when smelling a control perfume they had never before smelled. The brain activity associated with the memorable perfume was also greater than that produced by the visual cue of seeing the bottle of perfume.”

– Sabrina Stierwalt, The Scientific American

Anecdotally, I whole heartedly agree. Certain perfumes take me back to very specific moments in my life, whether those scents were mine or someone around me. Estee Lauder Pleasures can’t help but make me feel like I’m 8 again following my mum around, and Elie Saab Le Parfum brings back terrifying memories of being 18 and on a gap year that I didn’t want.

As soon as I discovered that link between scent and memory, I’ve been trying to design scents around my life to make my memories more tangible. I’ve picked up new fragrances every time I’ve had a major change in my life, or at least when I’ve needed one.

So, I thought I’d share a few of the scents that I’ve used to define the past few years and some of the design that went into them, because so much of what makes a fragrance what it is the design that goes into turning it from a scent into a luxury.

Estee Lauder – Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia

This is my “signature fragrance” if I can be pretentious enough house a phrase like that. It’s the first fragrance that made me feel grown up. It was the scent that I wore on my first trip to America to visit some of the best friends I have ever, and will ever have. It was the fragrance that I wore when I started going out with my boyfriend. It’s what I wore when I graduated. It holds so many memories, it set the scene for me to define myself as a grown up. I changed an incredible amount through my time at university and my time wearing this perfume. It smells heavenly and the hammered gold cap on the bottle is supposedly inspired by jewellery given to Aerin Lauder by her grandmother, Estée Lauder, which makes it feel precious and that little bit grown up.

Jo Malone – Nectarine Blossom and Honey

This was my moving to London perfume. Peaches are my favourite summer fruit and this perfume gives me those summer feelings, it’s bright and fruity and sparkly. It’s a scent that smells like happiness and fresh starts and it helped lift my spirits in what was quite a tumultuous time.

Diptyque – O’Fresia

I bought this one when I needed to start over, at the beginning of this year. I wanted to feel like someone new when I stepped out of the door, so I moved from fruity to floral and it did the trick. This I think will be the scent that brings me back to my grad scheme. I, like pretty much every blogger in the world, love Diptyque’s packaging. Their typography and illustrated bottles feel really special, and really make you feel like you’re treating yourself when you wear it.

Diptyque – Do Son

This one is a more grown up (warmer, softer, a little more skin-like) version of the Estee Lauder. I got it in a roller ball to take on holiday and in my bag with me for special occasions. It makes me feel dressy because I mainly wear it for evenings out and like I’ve been out in the sun all day without all of the sun tiredness because of all of its holiday wear. It’s the perfect pocket pick me up.

Clean Reserve – Warm Cotton

My current daily fragrance is Clean Reserve’s Warm Cotton. It smells exactly like you would expect, like fresh sheets. I wanted something simpler for everyday and Warm Cotton the bill perfectly. It also puts me in a really productive and accomplished mindset, because I always feel on top of my life (rightly or wrongly) once I’ve done my laundry. When it comes to bottle design, I love Clean’s dedication to eco-friendly packaging, especially as I’m trying to be more conscious in my consumption and reduce the waste that I put into the world. So, it’s a fragrance that not only smells lovely but fits into the life I want to design for myself.

Is there a fragrance that takes you back to a specific time or place?



  1. October 25, 2017 / 7:06 am

    while i was never huge on perfume (and i don’t really care if i spray myself that day or not), i can totally see how people associate perfume with memorable things. the only time i wear perfume is only for important events or dates but sometimes, when i forgot, i just forgot and i don’t care much LOL

    i’m not a perfume hoarder so i don’t have lots of experience with other brands but my favorite is the new york eau de toilette from pull and bear
    since i have sensitive skin, i don’t really loveeeee perfume so sometimes, i resort to using body mists instead. the only downside is how they don’t last throughout the day, lol

    • Natalie
      October 30, 2017 / 6:36 pm

      It’s nice just to keep scents for special occasions too, and body mists are so good and handy!

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