Your Guide to Home Fragrance

It’s easy to change and improve the way our homes smell with comforting scents — and we’re not talking about diffusers that plug into the outlet.

Henry Phillips

The ancient writings of Suetonius claim that Nero, Roman Emperor from 53-65 AD, routinely showered guests in his banquet hall with aromatic flowers and perfumes through vents in the ceiling. He wasn’t just showing off; the scents were meant to welcome guests and create a sense of distinction for the royal house. It likely worked, since smell is an easy route into our hearts and minds. Humans’ olfactory bulbs are located in the limbic system of the brain, found in close proximity with the amygdala and hippocampus, regions largely responsible for both emotion and memory. Smells help us form abstract associations between ourselves and our homes, where scents are cues for routine, bring us comfort or let us know something isn’t right. Consider the burnt gasoline and sawdust of your garage or the kitchen with a roast chicken in the oven. We can also change and improve the way our homes smell with inviting, comforting fragrances — and we’re not talking about diffusers that plug into the outlet. These boutique home fragrances will make your home more welcome for you and your guests. Just don’t burn the joint down like Nero did.

FOR MORE FRAGRANCE STORIES: 5 New Small-Batch Colognes | Our Summer Fragrance Picks | Fall Fragrance Guide

Aomori Hiba Distilled Water Spray

Renowned for its ability to repel moisture and mold, Aomori Hiba is considered to be one of three precious woods in Japan (alongside Kiso hinoki and Akita-sugi), often used as a building material in traditional Shinto temples. Endemic to Japan’s mountainous regions, this conifer’s essence is often included in room sprays to deodorize and clean living spaces without the need of chemical additives, and is also said to be effective against eczema, insect infestations, and depression. It carries a distinctively crisp and woody scent with delicate musk that briefly enlivens its environment.

Where to Use It: Kitchen, Office

Buy Now: Approx. $32

Juniper Ridge White Sage Smudge Stick

Indigenous to the deserts of the southwestern United States, white sage is a large evergreen shrub, once believed by native peoples to ward off evil spirits when burned. These all-natural “smudge” sticks, sustainably harvested by the small team at Juniper Ridge, are wrapped together with organic cotton into long-burning incense wands. The smoke is highly fragrant, filling a space with a bright, instantly recognizable scent. Said to relieve stress, white sage leaves can also be broken off and steeped like a tea, delicately releasing their aroma without the need to burn them.

Where to Use It: Living Room, Kitchen

Buy Now: $10

Santa Maria Novella Pot Pourri

Made of herbs and flowers collected in the Florentine hills of Italy, this potpourri was first created by local monks to repel unwanted moths and insects. Production has remained relatively unchanged at Santa Maria Novella over the past few hundred years: the mixture is soaked in a secret blend of essential oils before being aged for three months in wax-sealed, centuries-old terra cotta vats. The result is a concoction of damp leaves that infuses any room with an earthy bouquet of resin, grasses and berries. The company recommends placing the mixture in a small, open receptacle and occasionally fluffing it to re-release its spicy yet sweet aroma, which lasts upwards of a year.

Where to Use It: Bathroom, Bedroom

Buy Now: $35

Le Papier D’Armenie Traditionnel

Translated to English as “Armenian paper”, these French room deodorizers date back to 1885, having since been used with loyalty to combat the disagreeable odors of tobacco smoke and musty animal fur. The individual strips are lit, extinguished, and left to smolder, quickly turning to ash before leaving behind a faint, enduring sweetness in the air. Each strip contains Benzoin resin from the styrax tree, an antiseptic and expectorant deemed helpful against stress and asthma.

Where to Use It: Bedroom, Living Room

Buy Now: $12

Paine’s Red Cedar Incense Cones

Established and continued in Auburn, Maine, Paine has been churning out all-natural and sustainable products since 1931, utilizing the local shrubs and branches of the American Northeast to craft their unaltered incense “cones” and “logs”. Though cedar is an ideal year-around fragrance, the company also sells Balsam Fir, a scent best suited for the holidays. Each box comes with a convenient wooden holder for burning, though they do equally well simply tossed into the fireplace to envelop the home with a subtle but familiar woodsiness.

Where to Use It: Living Room

Buy Now: $7

Jack Seemer is the deputy editor at Gear Patrol.
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