Home Fragrance Is Something You Should Care About

Yes, “scent branding” — it's a thing. Home cold-air diffusion machines from companies like Air Esscentials and Air Aroma debuted in hotels and shops with the intention of creating a luxurious — and proprietary — vibe. But, as much as we love the idea of our custom fig-peppercorn-cypress scent wafting through our HVAC system — it's not going to happen. We don't even have central air. The solution? Just create your own DIY scent system yourself.
The key is layering your fragrances using varied delivery systems, such as sprays, candles, scented pebbles, and those reedy diffusers — all at the same time. “Planning this layered approach of fragrances that work well together allows you to dial in and out with the desired impact you want to deliver at various times of day and different occasions,” says New York-based interior designer Elaine Griffin. You can pour on extra power where you need it (um, near the dirty-clothes basket) or be more subtle elsewhere (a bedside diffuser smelling of lavender and vanilla will get you both in the mood...to sleep, or whatever).
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The danger with multiple scents? Olfactory overload. “The secret to not having your house smelling like the perfume counter at Bloomingdale's is to combine fragrances as they might be found in nature,” says Griffin. Some good mash-ups: “Multiple trees in a forest; a tree and a flower in the field; driftwood on the beach; multiple white flowers; or lavender, rosemary, lemon, and olive in a field in Provence."
According to Kat Burki of Kat Burki Fragrance and Skincare, you should keep earthy scents (herbs, like sage and rosemary) with exotic ones (sandalwood or oud) and citrus with floral. “Fragrance, like color, really comes alive when matched well,” she says. However, she encourages experimentation. You may find that the exception to the rule is what makes your nostrils happy. Ahead, we've picked — like flowers from a hillside — nine great options to set you on your scented path.
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Room Sprays
These are great when you need a quick scent savior, and they can really work a (large) room. “Sprays are the most effective go-to for an immediate fragrance experience, blooming in the air as soon as you spray the scent,” says Stephen Nilsen, senior perfumer at Givaudan. “You are also able to control the amount of fragrance.”
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Linen Sprays
Burki likes to use sprays on upholstery, curtains, and cushions for subtle scenting. To make sure your spritz is fabric-friendly, test it on a white tissue to see if it stains, says Clement Pinard, manager of the upscale Soho perfumery and skin care boutique Osswald. Or, opt for a spray intended for cloth.
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Candles
To fill wide-open spaces, the old faithful candle can’t be beat. And fragrance will linger for a few hours after it’s snuffed, according to Griffin. (For safety’s sake, don’t leave lit candles unattended.) More tips from Pinard: “Keep the wick short and centered, and keep it away from drafts.” Candles in a single note (like lavender or rose) play well with others, he says. In general, says Griffin, the more expensive candles use the more pricey (and higher in quality) fragrance oils. Her cheap trick: Keep an eye out for luxe brand candles at discount stores like Marshalls and buy in bulk.
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On the go? Pick up a pack of these travel votives. Or just place them all around your home for a common theme (the cute matching matches are included).
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Diffusers
Stick these lovelies in smaller spaces for steady scenting. “They’re the backbone of your fragrance library — the most-present scent,” says Griffin. “They give off a fresh charge of perfume that can last days every time the sticks are flipped over.” She stations them in key locations such as the foyer, kitchen, bathrooms, and bedrooms. “They don’t all have to be the identical scent, but they should all complement each other. (To avoid damaging floors and furniture finishes, do this over a paper towel and wipe off the bottle after.) Griffin’s trade secret: “Scented oils are an easy DIY, and the sticks are reusable between fragrances. Just wash them well with soap and let dry before reusing."
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One of the colorful glass bottles (there are 18 hues and scents to choose from) from Lafco are sure to fit into your room palette.
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Scented Pebbles
Best for very small spaces like closets or powder rooms, scented rocks are the new potpourri. “Although they do a good job of exuding fragrance temporarily, they tend to dry out fairly quickly (as in months),” says Griffin.
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Plug-ins
Great for medium to large areas, “these give continuous bursts of room fragrance for as long as they’re on,” says Griffin. Once you’ve invested in the gadget (whether drugstore or deluxe), all you have to do buy refills. High-end candle brand Diptyque has a new diffuser. Pat it on top to start the scent release cycle. It shuts off automatically after an hour. Each pod contains 40 hours of continuous scenting, and you can pop them in and out at will.
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Paper Incense
As Euro as drinking Lillet and smoking cloves, this burnable paper incense has been made in Paris since 1885 — and it has the retro-cool look to prove it. You tear off a strip, fold it, and burn on a heatproof dish for a quick hit of resin-y goodness, perfect in the kitchen after searing those salmon steaks.
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