L'Officiel Nose: CJ Powers of Scenthouse

Years of work went into Undertone A, but the goal is for the scent to enhance a space's unique identity.
Reading time 4 minutes

Many fragrances aim to transport the viewer to other places, but CJ Powers wants to create a signature scent for wherever you are. Having always noticed how smells evoked vivid memories and emotions everywhere he went, from high-end hotels to loved ones’ homes, he loved the idea of using scent to establish a welcoming sense of place. This desire led him to LA’s Institute for Art and Olfaction, where he trained until starting Scenthouse in 2015. True to Powers’ interest, the brand focuses on creative intent for your space’s fragrance, and though it holds the spirit of Los Angeles, the subtle scents are meant to work anywhere. Using a process that ethically combines natural and synthetic ingredients to realize abstract, sensory concepts, Scenthouse pushes towards a goal of “scent branding” that settles perfectly into the owner’s home.  

Currently, two options are on offer, both called undertones to emphasize how their subtle qualities bring out the best in a space’s identity. Undertone A has a simple description of “warm, reassuring, and welcome,” leaving the buyer with much to discover upon spraying it for the first time. It comes out of the bottle strong but settles subtly into any room, though the brand recommends spraying it near vents for those who want a more powerful effect. The bottle’s minimal decoration (a series of black stripes) means that just like the scent inside, Undertone A can take a backseat to any environment and allow its effect to gently mix with a space’s signature qualities. To give a better idea of the individualized concept, Powers described the scent through a versatile palette, a Call Me By Your Name reference, and plenty of encouragement to write your own story.

If your fragrance was the star of its own movie, which actor would play the starring role? 

YOU are in the starring role. Undertone A is a stellar supporting actress that exists only to move your story forward.  I’m the peach and you are Timothée Chalamet. I suppose that makes us both stars. 

What color(s) does your fragrance smell like? 

A home fragrance is an amalgamation of everything that makes you you -- your travels, your treasures, your truths.  I see that as a palette of ambers and neutrals. 

Which city/place in the world does your fragrance encapsulate best?

For me, it’s the Hollywood Hills, where I spent countless nights developing the fragrance.  But the scent itself is intentionally devoid of location associations.  It will come to smell like your home.   When you invite a friend over for a cocktail, they may not remember the story you told them about your trip to wherever.  They may not even remember the night.  But they will remember what your home smelled like. 

If you had to place your fragrance in an iconic decade past, which one would it be? 

In the 1940s, perhaps in the glamorous New York apartment of Hitchcock’s Rope where John Dall and Farley Granger are telegraphing undertones of their own.

What item from your wardrobe would you compare your scent to?

A practically weightless cashmere sweater. 

What genre of music do you think your fragrance most aligns with and why? 

I was just in Kanazawa sitting at a little jazz bar named Bokunen and no matter what record the owner played, it just “worked” in that moment, in that environment, with those people.  That’s the canvas I want to create with this fragrance.  It should work with whatever song you want to play.

If your fragrance had a night out on the town, what drink would it order at the bar? 

Something from that little bar room at the San Vicente Bungalows in LA. 

If you were to relate your new scent to a book, what would it be? Why?

Write your own story with this scent.  I don’t like to give too many references for it -- I want you to assign your own narrative to it.   

If it wasn’t called Undertone A, what would it be called?

Honey Vinyl.

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