In the beginning, a shared interest in fragrance led Studio WM principals Wendy Legro and Maarten Collignon to the perfume capital of Grasse, France. “We got more familiar with the different production methods of essential oils and their applications,” says Legno. “We felt there still was a lot to be discovered, and set ourselves the goal to create three diffusers.”
The results comprise Nebula, a modern take on the atomizer in black porcelain with a brass diffuser and flocked bellows for alcohol-based perfumes; Ventus, a CNC-milled Carrara marble slab with a mouth-blown glass funnel and brass propeller set in a shallow pool of essential oil; and Aer, a reservoir in frosted glass that drips water-based fragrances onto a sloping plateau of concrete and white marble power.
While the Studio continues to make small refinements, much of the diffusers’ development was completed in four months. Exploring the fragrances themselves were a big part of this process. “The theory of combining top, heart and base notes to create a good perfume caught our attention,” Legno says, explaining that everyone in the studio took smell breaks throughout the day, trying to raise their consciousness of the scents around them. “Even with the help of wool and coffee beans, it’s really difficult to smell more than three scents in a row,” Legno says.
All told, they distilled roughly 30 fragrances in their kitchen, and settled on six combinations they were happy with. Still, Legno is quick to admit that fragrance design is not something you can leap into: “Perfumery is truly an admirable art. We are very aware of the fact that our creations do not come anywhere near a good perfume.”
Each fragrance’s medium and delivery method helped shaped the diffusers, but – of course – there were technical challenges in executing the designs: “How do we make the spraying head of the Nebula watertight? Where can we CNC-mill such small pieces of marble with such high precision? How do we make sure the Aer only releases 5 to 6 drops a minute?” The solutions, Legno explains, lay with the manufacturers, “artisans that have been working with one material all their life, often in family companies.”
In its final form, the collection reveals surprises when the user interacts with it – the unusually large cloud of mist released when Nebula’s bellows are squeezed, or the way the tiny brass propeller springs into motion when Ventus’s cork stopper is placed into its hollow on the marble surface. The collection, as Legno says, is at its best “when look, touch and scent come together.”