Monday, 31 January 2011

How to make your home smell good

In case you missed my little box of tips on this topic in last week's Independent on Sunday (part of a regular series), here is the extended version. 

Diptyque candles (above) smell divine. So do Jo Malone’s. These are the staples of the home scent arena – but, at £38 a pop, as a daily option and in more than one room (especially with festive credit card bills lurking) perhaps not the most realistic. What else is there? 

The base for every sweet smelling home is cleanliness and you can’t beat freshly polished furniture. But an all-time top tip comes via a documentary about slack cleaners tricking clients into thinking they’d been busy by spraying Mr Sheen behind the radiators in winter. Genius. 

On a less slovenly note, I have fond memories of my father buffing 70s pine floors with Johnson’s floor wax. The heavenly, comforting, smell lasted for days.

A Rebel Rebel creation (not one
of their most fragrant)
Flowers, of course, do the trick – the right ones. Mairead Curtin of celebrity-loved florist, Rebel Rebel, loves Scilly Isles scented narcissi. But “plain daffodils have a lovely fragrance,” she adds. “Try also mimosa, genista, lilac, scented roses.” Some scented plants can be grown indoors, too. 


She also suggests using herbs as part of a floral display. "Rosemary and Sage are particularly fragrant and available now. They are long lasting and inexpensive which is always a bonus! As the season progresses try Dill and Lavender." And for summer, Mairead says: "Stocks smell fantastic , English snapdragons have a totally unexpected and delightful scent, peonies smell of little old ladies gently dusted in talcum powder and sweet peas just smell gorgeous. You could also try Mock Orange Blossom and Wisteria."

Febreze is dreadful, dreadful stinking stuff. Buy, instead, fabric softener and dilute it in a water spray bottle for proper eau de fresh laundry. 

On that tip, while air freshener is generally vile, I was shocked to fall for Glade’s ‘Clean Linen’ after discovering why a friend’s bathroom was always so seductive.

Activate scents with heat: One friend drapes a perfume-doused cloth over radiators, while another is evangelical about dabbing spa-favoured Aromatherapy Associates oils onto lightbulbs (while cold). 


Bruce, meanwhile, swears by his food dehydrator: “do fruit in it: the house smells delicious all day”.

Man up. I had to be forcibly removed from a True Grace ‘Library’ candle last year – all beeswax and peppery leather-bound books. Most masculine. Invest in the pricey room diffuser version – lasts for ages. 

Chappier still, the afore-mentioned Bruce loves the smell of sailing and the sea. We worked out that hemp rope, yacht varnish and unwashed seashells could do the trick. 

A Demeter cologne was one of the best things I last left New York with. 

Their affordable fragrances – for body and home – come in weird but wonderful flavours including Rain, Bonfire and Dirt. Got friends visiting the US? Suck up.








Can’t kick the candle habit? As a general rule of thumb when going off the pricey piste, avoid anything sweet. Classy cheapies include Muji’s glass candles (£10.95) and St Eval’s lovely Victorian Herb range (£8.95), my favourite (out of the four I've tried) is Celery & Herb. My very discerning friend Vic also recommends Betty Jackson's candle trio for Debenhams: "three scents in neat box for £18". Burn generously.

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