Smells Like: is an exploration of the human experience of scent through personal stories and connections.
For our seventh installment in the series, designer Christopher Al-Jumah shares the wide array of smells that fill his Manhattan apartment, a scent from an old flame, and the the somniferous power of nutmeg.
Tell me about yourself and your work.
I run a NYC-based architecture and general design studio called Yalla Imshi. Lately, we are designing a coffee shop with a digital art gallery, a cafe and retail space in the heart of Bedstuy with an anti-gentrification mission, and an exhibition all about borders in the physical and abstract sense.
What scents are you encountering today?
Palo Santo, which I light constantly to fight my superstitious and paranoid nature, strawberries and peanut butter from the smoothie I just made, fish that wafts in from the Chinatown fish market I live above, and the trash I haven't taken out because my post-covid brain fog has made even the most basic household task impossible to complete.
Do you have a signature scent?
A memory you have of this scent:
Truthfully, this scent belonged to an old flame. A very gatekeep-y (but also lovely) person that would hate knowing I wear it, so I secretly love that I've adopted their scent and now wear it all the time. I suppose now it's not really a secret, but oh well.
Describe yourself as a place:
A clean room with all the dirty clothes swept under the bed.
As a taste:
I don't know why, but nothing clever is coming to mind. For some reason "nutmeg" entered my brain and won't leave. So I guess nutmeg—sailors used to take it with warm milk to fall asleep at night. So maybe I make people sleepy?
As a color:
I feel like I wake up one way and go to bed another way, you know? I think that's a Bob Dylan quote or something like that. Maybe I'm a honey color. It's not really an overbearing color, but it has a visceral feeling to it, you know?
As an emotion or feeling:
Annoyed/Irritated. I think my baseline is dissatisfaction. I'm great at parties.
What's the last thing that brought you joy?
I'm a new uncle, which is a weird way of saying my sister just had a baby. I honestly have never, ever liked kids. But the other day I was facetiming my dad and the kid kept crawling towards the phone screen and laughing every time he heard my voice. I'm not going to know if he's laughing at me or with me for like … 5 more years. But there was something very pure about that experience and I have to say I've been feeling a lot lighter since experiencing it.