The Nose Knows: A Guide To Having The Best Smelling Home On The Block

Smell is one of the most primal human senses (one waft of your coworker's lunch, and you get some serious cravings) — and the one most closely related to memory. It’s why a whiff of cologne can send you reeling over a lost love, or the smell of home cooking can elicit warm childhood fuzzies.
With such a strong, visceral connection to emotions, it’s no wonder that home fragrance is one of the most rapidly growing sectors in the burgeoning home-decor market. From scented candles to linen water to fragrance diffusers, there are now a barrage of products hitting the market every day. So, how do you begin to decipher what's right for you? We break it down, ahead.
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“Candles are still the number one home-fragrance seller and the item most individuals will purchase,” states renowned fragrance authority Gary McNatton, who has designed scents for labels like Restoration Hardware. “Look at the box of a candle. The ideal candle should be made of a soft paraffin, soy, or a soy-paraffin blend wax with an all-cotton wick and free of chemical additives.”

The Honest Co. Lavender Mint Aromatic Soy Candle, $19.95, available at Nordstrom.
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Delving deeper, McNatton explains that most fragrances have three notes: top, middle, and bottom. In less expensive fragrances, these notes can become muddled and singular due to the use of synthetic oils or hard waxes, which don’t carry fragrance well. In premium scented candles, the essential oils are natural and occur at much higher percentages allowing the scent notes to ring true. However, McNatton acknowledges that the top notes, those you smell when a candle is unlit, usually do not translate well through flame. “Plain, simple, and delicate notes, such as citrus and some florals, do not translate well and can be altered by heat.”

Cire Trudon Spiritus Sancti Candle, $85, available at Barneys.
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Of course, you have your personal favorite scents, but you can create a sensory experience for your guests, too. “Entertaining is a layered process that should stimulate all the senses including smell,” says event producer and entertaining guru Kelley L. Moore. “At events, I do my best to keep scents fresh and crisp,” states Moore.

Henri Bendel Black Currant Signature Reed, $35, available at Henri Bendel.
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An easy place to incorporate lovely scents into entertaining is in your powder room, but the entry is a better environment to establish a fragrance story. “I like to use fragrance in the entryway as a way to draw people into a room. I avoid using scent in a dining room, especially at dinner parties where I want the cooking to take center stage.” The sensual swirl of gardenias and Indian food? No thanks.

Red Flower French Lavender Little Flower Candle, $14, available at Red Flower.
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“When planning a party, think fruity florals,” suggests McNatton, while Moore loves using more earthy and spicy scents, like cardamom and sandalwood.” However, both experts agree that nothing is better for creating a relaxing mood in any space than jasmine. “I love using De-Stress 11 by the brand 21 drops with my jittery brides. It’s an essential oil that is full of lavender, jasmine, chamomile, and other soothing scents that immediately place brides at ease and make them feel like they have stepped into a spa,” says Moore.

21 Drops 11 De-Stress Essential Oil Rollerball, $29, available at Sephora.
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For day to day, the experts agree that anything goes, and much like personal fragrance, your home fragrance should be a reflection of your personal style. High on their wish list of home fragrances is the Cire Trudon Spiritus Sancti and the brand’s Merida candle, with the latter being a heady and modern mixture of guava and fireworks (think fruit and smoke), which McNatton loves. Moore, on the other hand, is smitten with Diptyque’s Lavendar Leaf and thinks it sets the standard in elegant fragrances.

Diptyque Feuille de Lavande / Lavender Leaf, $60, available at Diptyque.