The scent of success

By Jane Whitttington on January 29th, 2017 / Comments

Of the five senses, the sense of smell is perhaps the most evocative. Catch the scent of newly mown grass, coconut suntan lotion, a wood burning fire, the distinctive perfume of a certain person—these smells can transport us to another time, another place, another experience.

The husband and wife team of Kevin Peterson and Jane Larson know the power of scent, and they use their expertise to create unique natural perfumes for their line of Sfumato Fragrances . These fragrances are complex and subtle, which, to Peterson and Larson, are the most important elements of any scent they create.

The couple both live and work in Corktown. They have been in Michigan for about ten years and in Detroit for five. Originally from Minnesota, they were drawn to Detroit by the entrepreneurial spirit of the city and the opportunities it provided.

Peterson says, “My background is in the culinary world. I worked as a cook for several years but became enamored with cars and decided to go back to school to become an engineer. That led us to the Detroit area.”

He continues, “Even though I was working in the automotive industry, I was still interested in cooking and combining individual ingredients to create something new. Eventually, I started buying essential oils and mixing them with herbs and spices to craft fragrances. Being here in Detroit and seeing all the entrepreneurial activity and the energy around us inspired us to start our own business.”

Unlike many perfumes which are made with synthetic ingredients, Sfumato Fragrances use only natural ingredients creating a scent unlike anything else available in the marketplace.

Peterson says, “I am the ‘nose’ of the business, and Jane is the ‘eye’.  I use the essential oils derived from various raw ingredients like jasmine or nutmeg and experiment to create the perfect blend for the final product. Both my experience as a cook as well as my training as an engineer go into the thought process as I blend ingredients.”

Larson says, “My contribution is the design element of the product. We put a lot of thought into making our fragrances look as good as they smell.  My background in art and design goes into creating the aesthetics of the product.”

The couple started selling their products in holiday markets around 2014 and continue to rely on pop-up shops and holiday markets to introduce Sfumato to the public. They are also available in an increasing number of stores in the Detroit area including El Dorado General Store in Corktown, Detroit Denim Company and Well Done Goods as well as many others. In addition, they are also available in select stores in Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Oregon.

Larson says, “In planning and setting up our business, we participated in Detroit’s Build Institute, and I also used the services of the Michigan Women’s Founation.”

Peterson says, “The name ‘sfumato’ comes from an artistic technique used by Leonardo DaVinci. It means soft, blurred or hazy. That’s the kind of scent we have created—not overwhelming but soft and suggestive.”

Sfumato offers five different scents: siren song, gravitas, mocha valentine, epiphany, and survival instinct, as well as a sampler flight of four fragrances.  Each are described on their website. For instance, “Epiphany is intense greenness with hints of dew-covered moss and life ready to step into the sunlight with notes of citrus, herb and green.”

Sfumato is available online or through retail stores and pop-up shops. For more information on the company and its products, visit their website at

About the Author

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Grand Rapids. A Michigan native and Michigan State University grad, she enjoys reading, travel, politics and volunteering.