Use candles and diffusers to set an ambiance in every room – but never leave a candle when lit

Article by Pattie Barron

There are so many great ways to make your home smell gorgeous, and a myriad scents to choose from. As Stanford Stevenson and Maurice Gibson, the founders of the prestigious San Francisco fragrance house, Agraria (Cher, Meryl & co are huge fans) say: “No great home is ever completely decorated until it has its most important accessory – home fragrance.” Hitting the right notes, however, can be a tricky business.

Using fragrance in the entrance hall sets a welcoming note for guests

First impressions – the hallway – are what sets the ambiance for the rest of the home. Chrissie Rucker OBE, founder of The White Company, whose runaway bestseller is Seychelles, a warm, ozonic scent of bergamot, amber and vanilla, uses a diffuser in the hallway and living room for a lighter scent in the daytime, then underscores the same scent at nightfall with one or two scented candles. It’s important, though, not to overpower your guests  – or yourself, for that matter – with anything too obstrusive. “A great test,” says Chrissie, “is to leave the room for ten minutes and when you pop back with a ‘fresh’ nose you can better gauge the level.”

Deciding on perfume, she says, should be affected by time of day, location and the season, as well as considering the atmosphere you want to create. “Spicy smells work well in winter to make a room feel warm and cosy – once I light one of our winter fragrances my family know Christmas is truly on the way. Energising citrus smells are perfect for summer months and along with mint, rosemary and eucalyptus are great for your home work space or in the kitchen – places where you want to be concentrating. Lavender, with its soothing quality, is favourite for bathrooms while blends of lavender, chamomile and clary sage suit bedroom and pillow sprays.”

You could, of course, bypass the minefield of choosing different scents for each room and every season by simply adopting one signature scent that you love to live with. Grasse is the perfume centre of the world, and legendary Grasse company Fragonard’s flowery Orange Blossom, herby Coriandre Lemongrass or zingy Gingembre reed diffusers make three outstanding choices (and are conveniently stocked at Marks & Spencer). Loewe’s Tomato Leaves, Jo Malone London’s almond-scented Pastel Macaroons and Tom Dixon’s earthy, woodsy Underground diffuser are more offbeat fragrance trails to pursue.

A grouping of Diptyque candles delivers a bouquet of diverse scent notes

Choose candles for instant atmosphere, but only, of course, if you are able to keep a watchful eye while they’re burning. After lighting the candle, don’t extinguish it until the top layer of wax has melted or eventually the wick will sink lower, wax will rise around it and you will lose many hours of burn time. Diptyque’s candles are perennial dinner party favourites, especially the classic fig tree fragrance Figuier and sublime Tubereuse. More unusual choices could be Lumos Apothecary’s Cuban Tobacco & Oak, Jo Loves’ Smoked Plum & Leather and Balmoral, offering the scent of ‘mist, soil and meadows’, from Cire Trudon, the revered centuries-old French candlemakers that supplied the court of Louis XIV.

The White Company’s ceramic electronic diffuser, £65, sends out pre-timed fragrance mists

Reed diffusers provide a constant and subtler scent, but these are more recently rivalled by electronic diffusers that hold aromatic oil and release puffs of fragrance mist into the air at pre-set intervals, rather like the overhead wires above the streets of Grasse. Their sleek, scuptural shapes make them a tabletop asset, too, as in The White Company’s tall white ceramic diffuser, Aromatherapy Associates navy ceramic bowl and This Works Scent Well Portable Diffuser, which is handily powered by USB.

There are other ways, though, to introduce touches of fragrance into your home. Jo Malone CBE spritzes her bedlinen with cologne while the white floorboards in her Chelsea home are washed with Pomelo, a fresh grapefruit-infused citrus creation from Jo Loves. The tired image of potpourri has been invigorated with fresh components such as seashells and coconut husks in the Seychelles collection from the White Co, while Agraria’s Bitter Orange potpourri is a chunky mix of cloves, bitter oranges and cypress. This celebrated spicy scent also translates into incense-style Burning Sticks as well as the elegant TasselAire, a long, orange silk tassel to hang on a doorknob or armoire key. If money is no object, however, L’Artisan Parfumeur provides the ultimate home fragrance accessory to display prominently on tabletop or console: a  hand-carved amber ball; yours for a mere £1500.

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