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Aroma Space Design

Maki Ohashi's aroma oil spatial exhibition for Droog shows how aroma, like furniture and food,  plays an intergral role in how we use and feel within a confined space. She brings a Japanese sensibility to her exquisite range of vessels and blended oils.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 10-09-2009

After giving up a career as a television presenter in Tokyo, Maki Ohashi started studying and practicing various aspects of the Slow Life movement.  It was a position as an aroma therapist in a hospital that led her towards the less trodden domain of aroma design.

“I’m very influenced by the power of aroma,” says Ohashi, designer at Aromamora.  “It’s so discreet – never pushing anyone to feel anything.”

With plans for an aroma exhibition and a series of exquisite containers recycled from the same brown glass used to bottle essential oils, Ohashi phoned up Droog in Amsterdam to suggest they do business.

“At first they were hesitant,” says Ohashi.  “But when I explained to them that a full sensory experience stems from good design, they started to take more notice.”  The bottles are designed by Nendo, who has previoulsy worked with Droog. As with music and food, aroma is an integral component of how we feel and use space.  

“To me, aroma is like a creature,” says Ohashi. “It is alive.”

Before coming to Amsterdam for this current exhibition, Ohashi was collaborating with boutiques, fine-tuning a customers experience via aroma.  “The way I see it, the oils start a sensory reaction on the street that can be finalized when a customer reaches the products,” she says.  “It’s like an aroma journey and the final destination is a sale.”

Ohashi blends all the natural oils herself depending on the client and the desired effect.  “There are different medicinal effects in different oils,” she says,  “Some are anti-bacterial, some help to reduce blood pressure and then there are the perennial basics like eucalyptus oil, which helps you to breathe more easily.” The concept for this range and exhibition is based around the powers of a magical pumpkin.  Each oil bottle has a little porcelain lid shaped like a pumpkin with a small dip in the top for the oil to sit in.  As the oil seeps in, the pumpkin “magically” changes colour and the aroma starts to spread.  Each pumpkin is fastened shut with a different gadget depending on the blend of oil.

“There is a closed drawer, a padlock, a zipper, a safety pin … and each design reflects back to the inspiration behind the oil blend,” Ohashi explains.  “Canopy, for example, was inspired by the Japanese rainy season. It’s when we need to open all our drawers to let the clothes breathe so they don't get moldy.  The canopy oil bottle is presented with a tiny drawer.”

The one hiccup in Ohashi’s negotiations with Droog Design concerned money.  “All the oils are 100% natural and made from Japanese indigenous plants,” she says.  “That makes them expensive.  "In this business, it is always such a drag to negotiate money.  It became so tough that our discussion with the sales team came to a halt.    It wasn’t until we started introducing the broader concept of space design to the event and the exhibition that things got back on track.

“To just discuss money is of course boring," Ohashi says.  "You need to come up with something new that both sides can get excited by.”

Maki Ohashi’s Aroma space Design exhibition runs at Droog in Amsterdam until this Saturday, 12th September.

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