When planning all the thoughtful details that put your personal stamp on your home, almost all of the attention is focused upon how it looks—creating a visual experience. But what about that oft-overlooked but unmistakably powerful sensory pleasure: our sense of smell? A fragrance can instantly elicit a flood of memories, influence moods and even affect stress levels, because the olfactory bulb is part of our brain’s limbic system—an area so closely associated with memory and feelings that it’s sometimes called the “emotional brain.” If you’ve ever walked into a place for the first time in many years and immediately recognized it because of its smell, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
You, too, can use the sense of smell to create an atmosphere that puts the “you” into “your home.” A beautifully fragranced home not only makes you feel good, but it will also influence how your guests feel when they enter your home. Choosing a signature scent (or combining several to create a group of favorites) is a highly personal process. Through your selections, you can express your individuality and personal preferences, thereby sharing what brings you pleasure and evoking lasting memories with those closest to you.
The base aromas you choose for your personal perfume will likely be the same ones you’ll enjoy when fragrancing your home. People tend to know whether or not they favor “floral” or “citrus” (or if they have strong feelings for or against patchouli). Use your already-familiar preferences as the starting point when thinking about your home’s signature scent, and know that throughout the year, your preferences may change. Do you have a “wintertime” perfume and a “summertime” perfume? Or do you wear the same signature scent, year-round?
While modern science works to validate claims that aromas can energize, calm, rejuvenate and purify the body and mind, why not just enjoy them for the sake of pleasure? Although attempting to define what smells “good” may be subjective—a matter of personal preference—most of us will agree that certain scents will evoke typical responses. Several scents are said to lift moods and clarify thoughts, nearly immediately. Cinnamon is said to offer a revitalizing second wind to the weary. The aroma of fresh-cut grass evokes summery thoughts and reminds us of nature. Ginger is a spice well known for its ability to soothe an upset tummy and perhaps its zesty kick can also stimulate and improve your mood. Mint and pine, scents that are especially abundant at this time of year, purportedly help cleanse, ease tension and promote an overall sense of wellbeing—that’s why they are such popular ingredients in everything from aromatherapy balms to cleaning products.
Feeling lonesome or homesick? Vanilla provides a soothing, sedating feeling that can help you feel connected to family and friends. Of course, the ultimate mood shifter is the herb lavender, which can take you from an agitated state to a relaxed state with just one whiff. If you’re feeling irritable, the sweet smell of a rose or jasmine can help release stress and maybe even turn your mind towards romance. That’s why they are such popular ingredients in women’s perfumes.
Choose Scents That Make Sense
Whatever your favorite scents, it’s also worth noting that they should also complement your décor. For example, coconut wouldn’t make sense in a mountain lodge, just as a swimsuit would look silly with snowshoes. Just as different design styles can evoke different feelings in a room, so can different essences. Spend some time thinking about the overall impression you want to create for your home with fragrance, because a pleasantly scented home indicates that positive energy is freely flowing through it—like feng shui for your nose.
If you have a lot of dark wood and earth tones in your décor, choose earthy scents, like spices or musk. A contemporary home that’s sleek and uncluttered would be complemented by fragrance with light, fresh notes that evoke the outdoors, like white tea or fresh-cut grass.
Fragrance should also benefit the activity that takes place in that area. For example, lavender or chamomile is great in the bedroom or bath where relaxing occurs, but perhaps you’ll also want to incorporate some energizing citrus or peppermint body wash for those times of day when you need a pick-me-up. Florals might clash with food aromas in the kitchen and dining room and, by that same token, food smells, like spices or vanilla, might be off-putting in a bedroom.
Scenting Your World
If you’ve ever accidentally gone overboard on perfume, you know that there’s a difference between a pleasantly scented room and one that makes your guests’ eyes water. Mothers have told daughters for generations to lightly dab perfume behind their ears so that a gentleman has to lean in to notice it. So, how do you create that sensual appeal for your home that whispers to your guests instead of shouts?
The most popular ways to scent a room are with candles, reed diffusers and sprays. A high-quality candle can fragrance up to 800 square feet, but a reed diffuser typically only fragrances a 3-foot radius. Reed diffusers work continuously, as opposed to candles which only work when they are lit. On an aesthetic level, candles are beautiful—until they melt and their shape can become distorted. The appearance of reed diffusers, on the other hand, doesn’t change over time. Many reed diffusers serve as a spa-like and elegant adornment to a room, compared to the more casual look of jarred candles.
Sprays are conveniently packaged and flameless, but keep in mind that you’re essentially launching tiny droplets of scented liquid (and possibly chemical particles) into the air for you to inhale. Additionally, sprays are a temporary solution, as you only get the benefit of the spray when you use it and for a short
Other tools in your “scentsory” toolbox might include fresh flowers, bowls of fruit, scented sachets, drawer liners, potpourri, and even the soaps you choose for the powder room. All of these have their place and will add a subtle, albeit fleeting, effect in a well-scented home.
Of course, none of this is important if your home isn’t clean to begin with, or if it is swimming in heavily scented cleaning products. Cleaning is one of the best ways to make your house smell nice. White vinegar and water can clean almost anything, even though initially the mixture doesn’t smell “good.” Its piquant odor soon dissipates, so don’t let this natural home cleanser’s initial impression turn you off from using it.
A home doesn’t feel “homey” if it feels sterile. Fragrance can be that third dimension that gives your home its special character, elevating what you’ve worked so hard to create visually to the next level by adding an extra layer of sensory delight. Choose fragrances to suit your personal style and apply them with a gentle hand. Make your guests want to lean in and linger in order to capture the essence of your home.