Home fragrances might be invisible but in terms of setting the ambiance for a space, there’s nothing that can make a bigger impact. After all, there is something very luxurious about walking into a home filled with curated scents. But knowing the right fragrances to choose and how to combine them takes knowledge and a bit of experimenting.
So, how do you choose the perfect scent for each room, layer and blend them? I spoke with several fragrance industry experts to learn how.
Candle, Spray, or Diffuser?
There are many different ways to scent a home of which candles are one of the most popular. They also evoke a mood and are a great way to decorate. “Candles are perfect for when I want to unwind, or have friends over for dinner,” says Nicole Eckles, founder, and CEO of Glasshouse Fragrances.
However, to get the full effect of a candle, Eckles says you may need to burn it for up to two hours.
So if you’re in a rush, use a room spray first. “In that instance, a room spray gives you everything you need— the full impact of your favorite fragrance in a matter of seconds,” says Eckles.
These types of home fragrances can also be layered. “Sometimes, if you want your fragrance to be both immediate and last the length of a dinner party, I recommend spraying a room fragrance and then lighting your candle, so the scent can last from the moment your guests walk through the door.”
Bee Shapiro, founder of chic sustainable fragrance brand Ellis Brooklyn also suggests using room sprays to cover up unpleasant odors. “They are little pick-me-ups for layering on top of whatever scent was in the room already— like clearing up cooking smells.”
Shapiro also likes using them as a quick mood boosters. “I love how a linen spray or soothing room spray can set the mood for a certain time of day— like bedtime.”
Reed diffusers are another vessel to scent your home. They often come in stylish bottles and deliver a fragrance continuously. They are ideal for small spaces as well as homes with children and pets, where a lit candle left out could lead to disaster. “I love diffusers for bathrooms or guest rooms where you wouldn’t want to monitor a burning candle. Diffusers offer constant scent which can be an easygoing low maintenance choice,” says Shapiro.
Another popular way to scent your home is through an electric oil diffuser. While there are many different types of diffusers, Alo’s Aura Diffuser is one of the best options for large spaces like living rooms. It can scent up to 700 square feet for up to 22 hours. It also has auto-shutoff and a sleek modern look among other features. Diffusers use essential oils, which are ideal for those who like single notes like lavender or want to create their own custom fragrance blend.
Many people also like to scent rooms using plug-in devices. Plug-ins are ideal for continuously scenting a room prone to unpleasant odors such as near pets beds, bathrooms, or home gyms. While many people associate this type of vessel with something that smells like chemicals from the drugstore, there are higher-end plug-ins available. Pura is a great example of this. The Bluetooth device allows users to control scent intensity, choose between two different fragrances, and set a schedule through an app. Pura has partnerships with a range of brands including Ellis Brooklyn, Nest New York, and recently launched with Studio McGee in October 2022.
Eckles tells me that most fragrances will fall into one of several categories. A popular category especially around the holiday season is gourmand scents. “[These are] indulgent and edible— think vanilla, caramel, sweet fruity notes.”
On the other hand, floral scents are generally feminine and sweet such as jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, tuberose, ylang ylang, and violet.
Love the fragrance of a magical forest? Woody scents tend to be warm and balanced. “This includes cedar, vetiver, sandalwood, and amber,” explains the fragrance maker.
Some amber scents are similar to woody scents. However, Eckles tells me they tend to be “warm and sensual.” This category includes patchouli, amber, vanilla, moss, exotic woods, spices, and flowers.
Fresh scents are exactly what they sound like. Think citrus and grass-based scents.
How To Scent Any Room In The Home
Not sure where to start? Cordelia Smith founder of Formulary 55 believes you can’t go wrong with citrus. “Most choose fresh, clean scents for their home— typically something in the citrus family. Anything that offers a clean-smelling experience.”
Another way to choose a home fragrance is to base it off of a favorite personal fragrance. Eckles tells me, “The fragrance categories are the same for personal and home fragrances [at Glasshouse]. Our candles start as a fine fragrance and then we work them into a home fragrance suitable for candles and diffusers. Some people love a floral in their home, while others prefer a rich oud. I find people select their home fragrances in a very similar way they select personal fragrances. What mood am I in? What emotion do I want to express? What is the occasion?”
Shapiro prefers to choose a scent based on the room, opting for “cozier” scents in living rooms and television rooms, but “more lively citruses and approachable florals for kitchens and foyers.” She prefers herbal scents such as lavender and rosemary in the bedroom for a spa-like experience.
How To Layer And Blend Fragrances
No matter what fragrance you choose, it needs to blend with the others in your home. So, finding a balance is essential, explains Eduardo Valadez, director of marketing at Diptyque Paris. “I recommend curating the home with different fragrances that complement, balance, and enhance the space. For the bedroom, utilize a fragrance that has calming notes like lavender, and sandalwood. In a vibrant living room, you may want to pair the room with a bright and punchy scent, and for a room that is richer and warmer, lean towards a scent that has oriental or woodsy notes to accentuate the vibe.”
There’s only one real rule when it comes to layering fragrances. “Be careful not to layer a light delicate scent over something that’s heavy, as the scent will get lost,” says Smith.
Shapiro likes to keep things simple by categorizing scents as warm or cool. “There are warm florals and warm woods and they would blend well together. Warm notes are roses with musks, woods, and amber. Cool scents are more herbal or green. Some white florals are cool as well.”
However, the perfumer also warns against mixing herbal and woodsy notes. “It can be done but it can also make the scent muddy so it’s not goof-proof.”
How To Choose A Fragrance Without Smelling It First
Then there’s the reality of living in a world where most of us purchase just about everything online. Unless you go into a brick-and-mortar store, there’s no way to know exactly what a candle or room spray will smell like until it arrives at your doorstep.
While there’s no foolproof way to purchase home fragrances online, Smith suggests starting by reading reviews. “Often, other shoppers will leave great information in the review section which can help you find a new fragrance. Next, start in a category of scent you know you are already drawn to. For example, if you like woodsy-smelling home fragrances, don’t try a floral scent without smelling it in-person first. Stick with the fragrance families you know you are drawn to.”