Scent of a Woman
Ian Phillips -- Interior Design, 4/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Frédéric Malle knows perfume. In addition to his 18 years creating scents for the likes of Christian Lacroix and Hermès, he's the grandson of the founder of Parfums Christian Dior. No wonder the self-described "publisher of fragrances" understands the importance of shops that present perfumes under optimal conditions.
For his first Paris boutique, Andrée Putman designed a space containing olfactory booths of transparent glass. For Malle's latest, in the 16th Arrondissement, Patrick Naggar distilled the experience further, taking the lab as keynote.
Spanning one sidewall of the narrow 250-square-foot shop is a Jules Verne–esque scent machine. Behind its glass face, brass pipes mix perfumes with compressed air; the results issue out through conical aluminum diffusers at the top.
"When people test a fragrance with a scrap of paper, they have no idea what effect it will have when worn," Malle explains. "The machine reconstitutes the scent trail that a woman leaves behind." (Wall, floor, and ceiling vents prevent the experience from becoming too heady.)
An aluminum counter, shaped like an I beam, follows the shop's central axis one third of the way from the front door to a glass-fronted storage refrigerator at the rear. The slender profiles of counter and fridge emphasize verticality to alleviate narrowness in the space. The oak-clad second sidewall, opposite the scent machine, features portraits of respected nez, the noses behind the perfumes.