Mmm, that smells just like home!

The secret to creating the perfect ambience at home lies in activating all your senses, especially that of smell, writes Mario D'Souza

Mmm, that smells just like home!

Waking up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafting lazily through the house on vacation days; the lingering fragrance of your mother’s signature perfume that stayed behind to keep you company after the parents left for an evening out, or even the comforting scent of cinnamon and sandalwood that enveloped your blankets as you drew them out for the winter — the strongest trigger for recollecting forgotten memories, or favourite childhood moments, is a familiar fragrance. Even Marcel Proust felt much the same way as we do!

When it comes to home decor, the sense of smell is often one we forget about. We create touch through textures, sight through a palette of colours, and even an aural ambience through our favourite playlists. But it’s the little detail of activating one’s sense of smell that truly enhances an ambience and ties it all together.

Choosing the right scent

Think about your home and lifestyle before your choose your fragrance. There are many scents you could use to create a variety of moods, and it’s best to spend some time choosing one which serves your purpose, while complementing both your decor style and personal sensibilities.

Different rooms in the house are used for specific purposes, and this allows you to experiment with various fragrances to create a mood that alleviates each space. Remember, though, to keep your fragrances complementary to your decor, and each other. Contrasting scents will only leave a guest (and you too!) disoriented, and uncomfortable – quite the opposite of how one should feel at home. Adjust your fragrance like you would the music in your home.

For a conversation in the living room, a mellow scent in the background works well. But when you have a party, up the ante with a happier, more robust fragrance that creates a fun atmosphere. While there is no rule book for this, a tip we follow is to match scents to the decor.

Rooms with heavy furniture in rose wood, teak and mahogany are made lighter through a mix of vanilla and cinnamon. One can carry similar scents through into other rooms of the house as well.

For example, the family room which is often the hub of animated activity would welcome cheery citrus notes. In most Indian homes, there are certain staple fragrances we all instantly identify with, and are easy to lay our hands on as well.

Hitting the right notes

Jasmine is one of the most familiar scents you will find in any Indian home, and for good reason. It’s great for calming nerves, and creates a sense of optimism and confidence. Other calming fragrances include lavender, lemongrass, frankincense, green apple and citrus notes like orange or a floral hint of rose.

Did you know that cinnamon boosts concentration? It is said to combat mental fatigue and increase focus. A lemony scent, and even peppermint have the same effect, which makes these fragrances perfect for a study or kids’ bedroom, especially during exam time. And you’ll need some lavender and jasmine for your stress levels!

Use fruity fragrances for the dining and kitchen, as floral fragrances fight against the natural spice smells that usually linger in these spaces. A great alternative is rosemary, with its slight, yet delightfully biting aroma. A rejuvenating fragrance, rosemary works well as a pick-me-up, to spur you on every morning.

Ways to set the mood

For bathrooms, you cannot go wrong with fresh hints of lemon, pear, and orange. If you’re looking for a deep, relaxing soak in the tub, look to create a slightly more sensual mood that you can carry into the bedroom. For this, a vanilla-based fragrance might work well. As an interesting aside, a hint of pumpkin is said to be a great aphrodisiac, with its spicy aroma hitting the right romantic notes.

Lavender is also an easily available go-to fragrance for creating a soothing bedside ambience, especially if you have some trouble falling asleep. Once you have chosen your fragrances, think about how you want to spread these around the home. In the Indian context, agarbathis or incense sticks are the easiest solution, now also available in fragrances like lemongrass. Other easily available options are pot pourri, diffusers and one of our favourites – aromatic candles.

Remember to choose candles which are made of pure beeswax or soy. Candles which have paraffin in them are harmful to people with respiratory ailments. Also, check for beading on the candle when burnt – beads usually mean the wax and fragrance aren’t compatible. If you cannot smell the fragrance in a candle, simply rub around the wick to release the scent.

A must-have in our opinion – essential oils in your favourite scents. These are powerful concentrated oils, and just a few drops work wonders. Add a few of drops of lemongrass essential oil, for example, in half a bucket of hot water and mop to get rid of unwanted pet odours. Similarly, add a few drops of your favourite essential oil onto cotton balls or tissue, and place these in your cupboards.

An easier way still is to mix an essential oil into a cupful or so of distilled water to spray a room. Our absolute favourite method to make a home smell wonderful, we must admit, is simply bunches of fresh flowers or just a string of jasmine blossoms. We’ll leave you to find the right note for yourself!

(The author is content lead,

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