How To Design Your Dream Home: Tips To Bring a Blueprint to Life

When you design your own home from the ground up, the sky’s the limit when it comes to design. You get to choose the architectural style, the floor plan, and all the flourishes that make this place uniquely, well, you.

Sounds fun, right? It is, but figuring out what you want to build can also be incredibly intimidating. Before you start picking out tile and light fixtures, you need a plan.

In this final installment of our Guide To Building Your Own Home, we’ll help you focus on the joys—and potential pitfalls—of designing your space. We’ll show you where to get inspiration, how to narrow down your needs versus wants, ways to make trade-offs to stay on budget, and much more that will help your architectural plans come to life with as few hiccups as possible.

Where to get home design inspiration

You probably already have a picture in mind of your dream home—its style, feeling, and design. If not, scour sites like Pinterest and Houzz for visual ideas, suggests Elizabeth Sanchez Vaughan, creative principal at In-Site Interior Design. These sites often let you create “idea books” and save images you like.

“When you look at all these images as a whole, you will start to see a pattern of the things that you like, and it will inform your style decisions,” she says. “If there’s an element that repeats itself within those images, then chances are good that it’s really something you will like to live with.”

This process will at least give you a starting point. Sharing these images with your builder and designer will also help them get to know your style so that they can guide you through the process.

Questions to ask before you build a floor plan

Don’t get ahead of yourself when designing your dream home. Justin Riordan, interior designer, architect, and founder of home-staging company Spade and Archer Design Agency, suggests thinking broadly first.

Some questions to consider: Who will be living in the home and what will the home be used for? Are you planning to grow your family, or will you become an empty nester soon? Will you be working from home for the foreseeable future? The answers will help you choose a functional layout that will meet your needs now and in the future.

“Once all of these questions are answered, you can then start to create a bubble diagram to show how the spaces needed will be laid out to best accommodate the various uses of the house,” Riordan says.

This will guide the schematic design, which includes a floor plan. And a budget and timeline for construction can be set based on these drawings.

The biggest mistake people make when building a home is not spending enough time planning, Vaughan says. You may be eager to break ground and start the construction, but don’t skip the prep stage. After all, this is when the budget is set and gets everyone on the same page.

“If the plan is 100% right, then the rest of the construction process will go smoothly and not require time-consuming changes,” she says. “Really have the professional walk you through the space and describe what the flow will be.”

And don’t make these decisions alone—make sure your builder, designer, and anyone else on your team is involved, says Amala Raj Swenson, an interior designer working in Los Angeles and San Diego. “Designers, architects, and the builder will all have knowledge specific to their trade that can help the other plan details more accurately.”

Don’t pick trendy designs you might regret

Have you fallen in love with the latest home design trends on Instagram? Think twice before incorporating them all in your new home. Think about your long-term needs and whether you’ll get sick of decor fads down the road.

“I recommend a mix of long-term classic style incorporated with more trendy, modern styles,” Swenson says. “I find that adding accessories—sofas, throw pillows, and lighting—that are more trendy makes it easier to change in the long run, if you want to update anything.”

A big mistake homeowners make, she adds, is focusing on a specific aesthetic and not considering the functionality of the home.

“It’s so important to consider the use of the space, just as much as the look of it,” Swenson says. Functionality should drive the design, not the other way around.

Make trade-offs to keep your home construction on budget

If you have expensive tastes but a modest budget, you might have to rethink some of your design choices to avoid spending too much. That’s why making a list of needs, wants, and like-to-haves and setting a budget early on are such important steps.

All homes need a roof, for example, but Riordan says an inexpensive composition roof accomplishes this need, even if you have your eye on a pricier option like slate. Maybe you’d rather spend that extra money elsewhere.

Home fixtures and features like appliances, lighting, countertops, tile, and flooring come in all price ranges. Most likely you’ll find something you like that’s also budget-friendly.

“If you need to make trade-offs to stay in budget, I would focus on putting the finances toward anything that is structural,” she explains. “I advise against cutting corners on items like cabinetry, flooring, or paneling because these are the long-term items that will cost more in the long run to update or change.”

And keep revisiting your priority list. Vaughan says it’ll help you make all the important decisions along the way.

Check in on your construction site often

Building a home is a huge investment, so you should keep tabs on how it’s progressing. Vaughan suggests scheduling regular meetings with your builder, designer, and any contractors involved.

“Make sure you spend time in the space—without the contractor, as well as with them—just after framing and just after sheetrocking,” says Vaughan. “This is so critical to make sure the flow of the rooms feels right, as well as the size of the rooms.”

At this stage, think about how you might arrange your furniture and where electrical outlets should be placed. Visit more frequently when finishes are being placed to make sure everything is correct.

Regular check-ins can save you time and money in the long run, since your questions and concerns are being addressed along the way, Swenson says.

“The best way to have fun and not get too stressed about everything being Pinterest-perfect is just to remember what an achievement and blessing it is to be able to build your home,” she adds. “Have fun with the process, and truly take time to enjoy and take in all the details of options, layouts, and materials that are out there.”


What are the home decor trends for 2021 – Atlanta Journal Constitution

“We are seeing a trend towards homeowners wanting to create zen sanctuaries in the home,” said Imani James, certified award-winning interior designer and owner of Imani James Interiors. “A quiet oasis type of environment designated for peace and reflection to recharge and recalibrate. These small secluded areas are filled with natural elements such as plants and crystals and are scented with warm uplifting scents from essential oils and candles. We are adding doors where there wasn’t one previously and creating peaceful nooks wherever we can.”

ExploreThese are the latest design trends for 2021

Keeping it fun by mixing finishes

As LaMont Bynum, owner of consignment furniture boutique Rite At Home, put it: “don’t be boring… mix it up.”

“Out with the old model of everything must match. Today’s rule is mix it up to add interest and fun,” said Bynum, who is also principal owner/interior designer of Bynum Design Group. “Mixing metal with design makes a statement in a room and can help bring different looks to a space. Ultimately, the finish you choose should fit in well with the style you are trying to emulate.”

To infuse a modern appearance in your room, Bynum said a polished look focused on matte finishes is usually the go-to, while traditional rooms favor fixtures with oil-rubbed finishes.

But there are also things that have gone out of style.

“When it comes to furniture, buying living, dining and bedroom sets are a thing of the past and provides no life to a room,” he said. “Find one foundational piece and start designing. It is like a woman finding the perfect black dress.”

Defined spaces for work and relaxation

Working from our dwellings means our home lives have blended with our office lives. As such, many residents hope to outline rooms for work and play, sepearting the two in an effort to obtain work-life balance.

“A real focus, and one that we definitely see continuing through the coming years, is a more defined and fuller use of every space in the home, whether it be for work, for relaxation, or for family activity,” Grossman said. “While most of our clients either already had home offices or spaces easily converted, we saw a wonderful trend toward adding bright spots of color — rays of happiness — as those spaces were organized and brought to life for full-time use. We saw an emphasis on creating comfortable spaces for the family to gather once the work and school day was done.”

Grossman noted her company converted a dining room into a family dining lounge, which included a custom banquette with chaise lounges, ideal for reading or watching a movie after supper. Outdoor areas and sunrooms were transformed into areas where people can have socially distanced get-togethers.

“I can only see this embrace of home continuing as the world opens back up, with newly found enjoyment and respite as continued themes,” she said.

ExploreTrilith European-style micro village aims to bring homeowners together

Transitional rooms and luxury living spaces

As with many things amid the pandemic, what clients seek from home decor has changed. Ashley Miller, a leading interior designer in the southeast and owner of Ashley Miller Design, said clients no longer ask whether or not their home makes them feel “comfortable, alive, or secure.”

Now, they ask more specific questions.

Aside from moving away from open floor plans, Miller said she also notices “clients desiring spaces that can transition them from one place to another — be it from a home office to a sitting room, or a living room with the kids, to a quiet, relaxing room designed to let them sit in peace and quiet.

“One room might be airy with light tones, while another close by may be a combination of stronger colors with more pattern,” she continued. “In other words, what used to be large, open floor plans with a continuous theme running throughout is being replaced with multiple rooms and transitioning styles that are curated depending on the mood the client wants.”

Clients are also seeking ways to decompress at home rather than taking a seasonal getaway.

“We all wish we could travel like we once did so now we are looking to bring the travel experience and luxury into our everyday lives,” Miller said. “For instance, clients are now trying to mimic the experience of having just stayed at a fine boutique hotel — whether it’s in the dining room, bar/entertaining area, or master bedroom. This has been a developing trend over the past few years but the pandemic has only accelerated it. Why not replicate that same experience at home?”


9 Dumb Ways You Are Ruining Your Home Value

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Your home might be your biggest asset — and yet, you could be inadvertently making it less valuable. Some updates and renovations can backfire when it comes time to sell.

“What I have seen a lot of people do is rip out a closet,” says Steven Gottlieb, a licensed real estate salesperson with Warburg Realty Partnership in New York City.

Where he works, space is at a premium. That means eliminating a closet can be a costly mistake.

“I don’t know that it detracts from the [appraised] value,” he tells Money Talks News, “but it inevitably shrinks the [buying] audience.”

And with fewer people interested in a property, the chances of a quick sale or a full-price offer can decrease.

From removing closet space to painting walls garish colors, here are some dumb ways you could be dragging down your home’s resale potential.

1. Selecting the wrong color paint

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You may think neutral is boring, but buyers could be turned off by brightly colored walls.

That may seem silly, since it’s relatively easy to repaint. But some people don’t want the hassle, says Keri Rizzi, a real estate salesperson with HomeSmart in White Plains, New York.

“Buyers will judge based on paint alone,” she tells Money Talks News.

So, consider yourself forewarned if you decide to paint your rooms every color of the rainbow.

2. Using bold and busy designs

Living room with ugly wallpaper
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It isn’t just colorful walls that can derail a potential sale. Busy or bright patterns on wallpaper, tiles or flooring can be a problem for some people.

“Those are much harder to change than just paint and can have more of an effect on value,” says Amanda Rogers, a Realtor with Rogers Real Estate Group in Ada, Michigan.

If you don’t have any reason to think you’ll be moving, go ahead and be creative. Otherwise, think twice about loud designs and bold colors.

“Always choose neutral options for permanent items, and add your personal style with accessories, furniture pieces, wall art, etc.,” Rogers tells Money Talks News.

3. Removing closets

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“In an urban setting, especially New York City, space is at a premium,” Gottlieb says. An apartment with minimal closets might not get a second look from buyers.

Even in a suburban or rural setting, storage space often is highly valued. Consider carefully before converting closets to living space or removing a rarely used pole barn from your property.

4. Ripping out bathrooms or laundry rooms

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If you have a small household, you may be tempted to rip out a rarely used bathroom for closet or living space. Don’t do it, Gottlieb says.

“A bathroom is worth a lot,” he explains.

Even in urban areas, bathrooms and laundry hook-ups trump closet space.

5. Making trendy updates

Room with blue carpet
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Renovating a home with the latest trends can backfire if the look becomes dated or is not the preference of a potential buyer. Rizzi has seen this happen when sellers install new wall-to-wall carpeting only to find that buyers really want hardwood flooring.

If parts of your house are looking tired and worn, consider giving buyers a credit to do their own work. Don’t sink money into updates that may not boost value.

6. Adding too much tech

Woman using a smart home control system
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Technology changes quickly, which means an expensive smart home system may be obsolete in just a few years.

“People invest too much for the most current electronic system,” Gottlieb says. “Then, they are often disappointed in five to seven years when [buyers] are not impressed.”

Go ahead and install the latest bells and whistles for your own use and enjoyment. Just don’t expect such upgrades to boost your home’s sale price down the road.

7. Lowering ceilings

Workers plaster a ceiling
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Some people might want to lower their ceilings to accommodate lighting, but avoid that if possible, Gottlieb says. Ceilings on a main floor of 9 feet or more were among the most desirable features and design trends for 2020, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

By some estimates, high ceilings can add as much as 25% to the value of a home.

8. Failing to control landscaping

Man mowing weeds in an overgrown lawn
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Curb appeal isn’t necessarily reflected in a home’s appraised value, but it can make or break a sale, according to real estate professionals.

“Make that first impression the best impression,” Rizzi says.

Clear out debris, trim overgrown bushes and pull weeds to create a clean exterior.

9. Letting your home fall into disarray

Plumber at work
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Keep a home’s interior clean and well maintained.

“If something breaks, fix it,” Rogers says. “If you don’t know how to fix it, hire it done.”

Neglecting plumbing and electrical work could have dire consequences to your home’s value if it leads to structural damage.

Bottom line, according to Rogers: “Clean sells.”

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.


Top 2021 Design Trends to Watch

Our homes became the center of our worlds in 2020. As we move forward into 2021, what home design trends are expected to emerge? Here are some top predictions from interior designers. 

  1. Neutrals Mixed with Bold Colors – Neutral tones will never go out of style, but some homeowners are saying “yes” to pops of color. Pantone led the way by choosing not just one, but two independent colors for 2021: Ultimate Gray and Illuminating (a cheery yellow). As Pantone explained, the combo of a neutral and vibrant hue “highlights how different elements come together to support one another.” Now isn’t that the story of 2021? 
  2. Entertainment Spaces — “Staying in is the new going out,” says designer Brad Ford. Expect more attention paid to creating entertainment opportunities at home with bigger TVs, better sound systems, mood lighting, lounge seating, and substantial dining tables that mimic the feeling of going out. 
  3. Multi-Functional Living Rooms – Now, more than ever, living rooms need to be comfortable, approachable, and functional. Designers are refashioning these spaces by adding a games table, library table, and several seating areas for reading and relaxing that allow the family to be together in the same room no matter the activities they’re doing. 

Which style are you?


14 Products That Flopped Big-Time

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We’ve all had brainstorms that didn’t work out.

But some awful ideas get made into products that cost big bucks to promote and then become embarrassing belly flops.

Those products live on in our collective memory, a reminder that even CEOs and high-paid marketing whizzes are capable of blowing it.

Here’s a look at some fantastic flops that sent their inventors back to the drawing board.

1. New Coke

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Let’s just crown New Coke the king of all product whoopsies.

When Coca-Cola introduced the reformulated soft drink in 1985, the company hoped to re-energize its brand.

Instead, cola consumers bubbled over with complaints. As the Coca-Cola Co. says, the change “spawned consumer angst the likes of which no business has ever seen.” Just 79 days later, the company brought its original formula back.

Since then, New Coke has become a prime example of the risks in messing with something that isn’t broken. The beverage’s brief, turbulent life has even been rehashed for lessons on marketing failures in business schools.

In 2019, New Coke had the last laugh, making a very brief promotional comeback tied to an appearance in Netflix’s 1980s-themed sci-fi series “Stranger Things.”

2. The Edsel


Pity the poor Edsel. The brand of car, produced by automaker Ford beginning in 1957, was named for Edsel Ford, son of famed Ford Motor Co. founder Henry Ford.

Now, though, it’s included in certain dictionaries as a term for a product that fails to gain public acceptance despite high expectations.

Some blame the car’s unusual look, especially the vertical chrome oval on the front grill. Others blame mechanical issues — a joke circulated that Edsel was an acronym for “Every Day Something Else Leaks,” according to the Washington Post.

Ford stopped producing the car in 1959. But that’s not the end of the story. Today, a mint-condition Edsel can sell for up to six figures, the Post says.

3. Google Glass

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Created in 2011, Google Glass sounded like something out of a science-fiction movie or novel.

The product resembled an odd pair of eyeglasses. The makers promoted it as a wearable computer that could take photos, shoot video and act as a GPS, among other things.

Amid product bugs, bad reviews and worries that Glass wearers could surreptitiously record people in public places, Google shuttered the original program in 2015, the New York Times writes.

And yet, Google Glass never completely went away, and MIT Technology Review recently reported the release of a new version, the Glass Enterprise Edition 2, priced at $999, for sale to businesses only. Glass “has quietly gained a foothold in various industries, including logistics and manufacturing, providing hands-free access to information as people work,” the report says.

4. Crystal Pepsi

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In the 1970s, earth tones dominated design trends. The 1980s brought neon brights.

And then came the 1990s, when the trend was for no color at all — clear products were all the rage.

Crystal Pepsi, the see-through soda, led the charge with a caffeine-free product it launched in 1993 with a big Super Bowl ad splash.

Pepsi pulled the soda pop from shelves by the end of 1994. Even its inventor says Crystal Pepsi didn’t taste enough like the original Pepsi.

Crystal Pepsi was brought back for a limited time in 2016 before fading into 1990s nostalgia, along with “Seinfeld” and grunge music.

5. WOW! potato chips

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Fat-free potato chips? It’s enough to make a consumer say “Wow!”

That was the hope. But when Frito-Lay introduced Wow! chips in 1998, there were issues.

The chips reportedly tasted like regular potato chips, achieving their fat-free status by using olestra, a fat substitute, which Procter & Gamble marketed as Olean, the New York Times reported in 1999.

However, there were gut-level side effects that occurred with excessive consumption of olestra over short periods of time that were, er, hard to stomach. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration required olestra products to carry what the Times called “arguably the most unappealing food product label in history: ‘Olestra may cause cramping and loose stools.’”

The FDA lifted the label requirement in 2003. But it was too late for Wow! chips.

6. ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ video game

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“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” was a blockbuster at movie theaters, winning four Academy Awards in 1983.

But the video game of the same name, designed for the Atari 2600 computer, has been called the worst video game ever. Game designer Howard Scott Warshaw had just five short weeks to develop the game. Apparently, it showed. Players rejected it.

Truckloads of cartridges were buried in a landfill in a New Mexico desert — as documented by a film company that dug some up in 2014.

7. The Apple Newton

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Apple Inc. has created plenty of dazzling, world-changing products, including the iPhone.

The Apple Newton MessagePad was the company’s first attempt to create a handheld digital personal assistant or tablet computer. The Newton, equipped with a touch screen, could be used to take notes, translate handwriting into text and even send a fax.

Or could it? The handwriting translation worked about as well as trying to read your doctor’s messy scribbles — even “Doonesbury” mocked it in 1993.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs hated the Newton. That sealed its doom, according to Wired magazine. Jobs canned the Newton shortly after he returned to Apple in 1997.

8. The DeLorean

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John DeLorean’s car company made just one model of car, the eponymous DeLorean, but thanks to “Back to the Future,” many Americans recognize it.

The DeLorean’s famed gull-wing doors were hinged to open at the car’s roof, making the vehicle stand out from the crowd.

The cars were made only for model years 1981 through 1983. There were quality-control issues, and the car lacked power, CNN recalls.

It didn’t help that John DeLorean was arrested in a drug-smuggling case (he was later acquitted) and his company filed for bankruptcy.

The striking car might have been forgotten if not for its use as a time machine in the popular 1985 movie “Back to the Future” and its sequels.

9. The XFL

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Remember the Memphis Maniax? The Los Angeles Xtreme? The Chicago Enforcers?

No? That’s understandable: Those were all team names from the XFL, a defunct American football league that took the field for one season, in 2001.

Half-owned by NBC and half by the World Wrestling Federation (now the WWE), the league may be best remembered for letting teams allow players to put nicknames on their jerseys. Running back Rod Smart made himself infamous by wearing “He Hate Me” on his Las Vegas Outlaws jersey.

The league deflated after one championship game and about a year of TV programming.

A new XFL launched in 2020, with such teams as the Seattle Dragons, St. Louis Battlehawks and Tampa Bay Vipers. But in March of last year, it had to cancel the remaining games as the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread. In April, it suspended operations, let players go and filed for bankruptcy.

But, wait. There’s a sequel. In August 2020, actor Duane “the Rock” Johnson and a group of investors purchased the league. They now hope to play again in spring 2022.

10. Microsoft Clippy

A man is frustrated at his laptop computer while trying to work
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Hi, it looks like you’re writing an article about failed products. Would you like some help? Microsoft thought you might.

Beginning with Office for Windows, in 1997, Microsoft created an interactive virtual assistant that could pop up in a user’s document on the screen to offer help. The default setting for the assistant was a paper clip named Clippit, dubbed “Clippy.”

Clippy’s tendency to pop up and insert himself into a user’s work was often more annoying than useful.

The company turned off Clippy’s default setting in 2001, and by 2002 was actively poking fun of Clippy in its ads. He quietly clipped off into the sunset after that.

11. Betamax

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PC or Apple computer? Marvel or DC Comics? VHS or Betamax? The VHS-versus-Betamax competition has found its place among some of the great debates of our time.

Both were formats used by consumers to watch and record video. Betamax lost the format war.

According to PC Magazine, Betamax was introduced in 1975, and early cassettes only held one hour of video. VHS came out a year later with longer recording time. The fight was on.

As the magazine notes elsewhere, many users thought Betamax was the better format, but in the end, that didn’t matter. VHS caught on, and Betamax was gone by the 1990s.

VHS fans couldn’t gloat for long. VHS eventually was replaced by DVDs.

12. McDonald’s Arch Deluxe

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In 1996, the fast-food chain tried to class up its menu with the Arch Deluxe line of sandwiches that included burgers, chicken and fish. The Arch Deluxe burger, aimed to appeal to adult tastes with a “secret” mustard and mayo sauce, was the marquee item.

Analysts estimated that development of the Arch Deluxe cheeseburger cost the company between $100 million and $200 million, the L.A. Times reported.

McDonald’s commercials bragged that the burger wasn’t for kids. Really, was that the best sales technique for a family restaurant? McDonald’s pulled the product by the late 1990s, Business Insider reports.

13. Bic for Her pens

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Sure, some products appeal more to one gender than another. But you’d think the simple ballpoint pen is a unisex accessory.

When pen company Bic came out with Bic for Her pens in 2012, the jokes pretty much picked up the Bic pen and wrote themselves. Hilarious Amazon reviews skewered the concept.

The pens themselves were designed in pastel colors but were otherwise unremarkable. Bic for Her pens (later called the BIC Cristal for Her Ball Pen) are no longer made, but you can gaze on their oh-so-feminine packaging at Amazon.

14. Smell-O-Vision

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Hollywood movies have come a long way. Silent films gave way to talkies, and black-and-white films to Technicolor. IMAX, 3-D, Dolby surround sound — they’ve all found their way into the theaters.

Some movie marvels, though, were goofy gimmicks. Case in point: the 1960 invention Smell-O-Vision and the similar Aroma-Rama, introduced in 1959.

As American Movie Classics’ “The History of Film” recalls, cinemas pumped relevant scents, such as pipe tobacco or smashed grapes, into the theater to accompany a “scented” film. Only a very few movies ever took advantage of the trick.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.