Dezeen Magazine

Antonino Cardillo combines scent and texture for Illuminum Fragrance shop interior

Italian architect Antonino Cardillo has created a multi-sensory space for experiencing and buying fragrance by coating a room inside an old London building with volcanic ash (+ slideshow).


Antonino Cardillo was invited by British fragrance company Illuminum to redesign its London store, which occupies a 28-square-metre room inside a Georgian building on Dover Street.


Described by the architect as an "Appollonian and Dionysian grotto", the single room has been coated with a rough-finished plaster made using ash from Italy's Vesuvius volcano and putty lime.

"This mineral dust was widely used in ancient Roman for building the largest constructions of the late-ancient era," said Cardillo. "The most famous one is the dome of the Pantheon in Rome."


The floor is lined with a plush grey carpet, complementing the tone of the walls but offering a contrasting soft texture.

"Behind a portal on a Georgian street in London, lives a small grey grotto," said Cardillo in a poetic text he wrote to accompany the project.

"Its rugged walls, imprinted with gestures of the mason's trowel reveal the eroticism which was conveyed in the act of construction by the ancients."


Grey was chosen to provide a neutral backdrop for experiencing the company's 37 different scents, which Cardillo described as "invisible colours revealed only by the nose."

This idea is also reflected in the name of the project, which is called Colour As A Narrative.


New sections of wall have been created to form narrower openings in front of the three existing window frames along the street-facing facade, which have been painted in a muted green colour.

Two tiny mirrors are mounted at an angle on the middle strips of wall along this side of the space.


The room is lit by two freestanding black metal spotlights with short tripod-style legs.

Instead of featuring displays of products and samples and a sales desk, the space is largely empty apart from an installation called Scent Suspended, which consists of 37 irregular, hand-blown glass containers. These are suspended from the ceiling in a semicircle on thin black cords of different lengths.


Designed by Illuminum creative director Asakala Geraghty and produced by glass artist Elliot Walker, each vessel is filled with a different one of Illuminum's fragrances, contained with a cork stopper on the underside.


"Stripping away learnt associations built around graphics, names, ingredients encourages a more physical and intuitive experience of scent; the components of which (fragrance oils) are originally sourced from the earth," said Geraghty.

"Closer to the earth within the grotto, visitors are invited to experience a rite: exploring their personal narrative, their personal journey among the thirty-seven invisible and concealed odorous places."


The fragrances can be purchased from an assistant carrying a tablet and a portable credit card machine.

A range of luxury and experimental fashion brands have stores nearby. Illuminum closed its original store on Dover Street last year, relocating to this new gallery-style space. The company is commissioning three different architects and artists to create new interiors each year.


Cardillo's design will remain in situ until mid-September, when it will be replaced by the next project in the series.

Photography is courtesy of Antonino Cardillo.

Project credits:

Architect: Antonino Cardillo
Client: Illuminum London
Construction company: Italian Art Design Ltd.
Masons: Adrian Paiunui Mihai, Fabio Di Monte, Gianmarco Di Monte
Carpet: Natural Elements Flooring