How to make your house smell good—it’s a quest we’ve been tackling for millennia. Long before the shame-squashing innovation of Poo-Pourri, back even before the 1980s craze of dried potpourri, humankind dabbled in the olfactory arts. “Frankincense resin has been harvested and traded for thousands of years,” says Elise Vernon Pearlstine, a biologist turned perfumer and author of Scent: A Natural History of Fragrance. “Smoke from burning the resin has been traditionally used to scent homes and clothing, purify the air, and welcome visitors,” she says.
We’ve come a long way since resin. Candles, diffusers, sprays, plug-ins, and even TikTok tutorials on stovetop potions have helped make our homes easier on the nose. So what to use and where? We’ve gathered tips from fragrance experts and interior designers on scentscaping or adding fragrance to your surroundings.
Whatever you choose, interior designer Jerad Gardemal of JF Gardemal Designs in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, notes that it should be done with intentionality. He says, “Just like a hand-picked piece of original art, the way that your home smells is also a way to communicate your own personal style and evoke certain emotions when you enter a room.”
When it comes to making your house smell good, Chrissy Fichtl, founder of Brooklyn-based home fragrance company Apotheke, says the first step is to find a signature scent and know that’s your staple. “Then always have a little bit of fun seasonally,” she says, adding that pine or cedarwood are her go-to’s for winter, while tomato tarragon is a favorite for warmer months.
If you’re going to establish a signature scent for your home, the entryway, whether that’s a foyer or a mudroom, is the place to do it. Guests will be greeted with it when they arrive and reminded of it when they go. As for the vessel? “I think the Pura device is great,” Fichtl says. “You can monitor the scents from your phone and it’s also a night-light.” A plug-in for the 21st century, the Pura Smart Fragrance Diffuser has a coordinating smartphone app. Users can load two different fragrances into the device at once and choose which fragrance they’d like emitted as well as the intensity—all remotely. Have the fragrance of fresh linen, fireplace, or lemon greet you when you walk through the door.
Citrus is a universally agreed upon scent for kitchens, not only for its edible affiliation but also because it’s invigorating. “The picture I go to when I think about a candle in a kitchen is it’s a sunny day, the windows are open, and you’re chopping fruit,” says Cartter Stout Sacchet, creative manager at Paddywax, the Nashville-based candle company. “It’s all about the story and the environment that the fragrance is creating.”
Paddywax makes candles that are so ideal for the kitchen, they’ll live on there even after the wax has burned through. Their Orange Blossom candle from the La Playa collection, for example, is meant to be repurposed as a margarita glass. Other vessels become guacamole bowls or bud vases.
Double purpose is the name of the game at Safely, the Kris Jenner and Emma Grede–founded line of cleaning products infused with luxurious scents. The idea is that you can nix the candles altogether—simply wiping with the brand’s Universal Cleaner both degreases counters and leaves a lingering fresh fragrance. “Right before bed, I love doing a final clean of the kitchen with our Calm Universal Cleaner and waking up in the morning to the scent still in the air,” Grede says.
To combat more, well, aggressive odors, spritzing Poo-Pourri Before-You-Go Toilet Spray keeps the air fresh, even when opening a window isn’t possible. For general ambiance, Fichtl says to go with a fresh ozone scent like Apotheke’s Canvas, which comes in both candle and diffuser form. “It won’t actually clean your house,” she laughs, “but it does have the psychological effect of cleanliness.”
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