I spent the second week of January buttressed by luggage in the back seat of my best friend’s Subaru as we migrated from wintry Chicago to sunny LA. We crashed at night with aunts and at Comfort Inns with free breakfast.
Driving through Las Vegas, we paused at a hotel we thought would be fun in a kitschy kind of way, but turned out to be depressing in a depressing kind of way. The key cards for our ground floor room (“with a view”…of a stone wall and breaker box) never worked, so we had to grab Officer Rodriguez every time we returned. She liked us, or just felt bad, and hooked us up with $75 of drink credits, which we, in our state of exhaustion, used at the casino Starbucks.
I forgot, in my cinematic excitement, that Vegas ain’t (or never was) what it used to be, and that cigarettes, while sexy on camera, lose their appeal when puffed at any hour in a windowless, blue-lit room. The casino floor reeked. The cigarette smoke blended with hot fryer oil, pre-mixed cocktails, and, yes, the hotel-casino’s signature scent to create a rancid potpourri.
“You can buy the hotel’s perfume,” my travel companion said. To my surprise, she wasn’t kidding. Casinos diffuse the air with a signature scent to keep gamblers gambling. Initially a tactic to mask the tobacco stink, research in the ’90s revealed that the signature fragrance also created a nostalgic hit for customers to associate with big wins, long nights, and good times.
My brother used to travel often for work and recommended a small, familiar candle for making hotels feel like your own. In our Vegas room, I was without a homesick travel candle, but I found respite from the casino fog with the powdery smell of travel-size body oil.
Turns out, my brother has been “scent styling.” This technique is a booming trend with home designers that’s easily replicable with help from some of your favorite perfumers. There are more ways than ever to incorporate scent experiences into every room of your home (not to mention your car, clothes, and more).
Similar to the way everyone started redecorating their homes post-pandemic and lockdown, scent styling is a way to reclaim and re-energize your space. Smell is our most powerful and evocative sense; by incorporating scent into your home with intention, you can find new ways to stay grounded, rested, invigorated, or whatever way you want to feel in your space. Not to mention, it can add a rhythm to time–something that was robbed from many of us during the “every day is a Wednesday” years of 2020 til present. Cycle candles out to add more context to a season or an event. The first candle I ever bought was a Malin & Goetz Dark Rum votive, and it will forever transport me to my senior year of college—a corner bedroom flooded with Minnesota winter light.
If you use scent anywhere, you’ve been covertly scent styling. My partner’s Dr. Bronner’s almond soap smells remarkably of my Sicilian grandma’s Christmas cookies, and almost feels too festive to use daily. When I worked as a pastry cook, the restaurant would occasionally fill with the bitter smoke of a forgotten roast. My boss combated this by placing a small tray of spices in the oven and letting it perfume the kitchen. The cinnamon, clove, and coriander bloomed into a sweet, spicy, comforting aroma that now evokes hard work.
At home, I mix it up. In the bedroom we diffuse astringent, woody cedar and pine oils to dissuade moths. Our bathroom fills with the spa-like eucalyptus and rosemary of Dr. Singha’s Mustard Bath, aided by the cleansing herbal scent of Esker’s Terrazzo Plantable Candle. I like invigorating incense in the office, rich scents in the living room, and “you-but-better” skin scents on my clothes.
If you love the way the smell of coffee can perk you up in the morning, or how your pillow somehow smells like you, but sleepier, chances are you’ll love finding more pieces of scent to latch onto throughout your day.
Dedcool boasts that it has a “new olfactive system” with a range of “functional fragrances.” What does that really mean? They make it easy to incorporate your favorite scent into all aspects of your routine. Lucky for us, their portfolio is wearable, loveable, and full of crowd-pleasers.
Dedcool’s range of scents and products makes it so you can mix-and-match and count on the smells commingling nicely. Try the Smiley Face Poop Drops (yep) in the bathroom, a Taunt massage candle in the bedroom, and an air freshener dangling from your car mirror. I’m partial to the Dedtergent in Milk, the line’s skin scent, which starts potent and then mellows into a wearable smell that complements anything else I’ve got on. Dedcool’s room sprays, perfumes, and even chapsticks mean your signature scent can be as potent as you like.
Speaking of skin scents, Juliette Has A Gun transformed their culty Not A Perfume into a bunch of other things it’s Not: a candle, a room spray, detergent, bar soap, a room diffuser and more. A few spritzes of the room spray in my bedroom left an unnameable clean, warm, and fresh smell. It’s addictive, with a “what-is-this-smell” quality. I like to incorporate it in my home after a day of cleaning. Not only does it mask the ammonia smells of cleaning products, it blends in with the good ones like Murphy’s Wood Oil.
If you’re more adventurous and want to save skin scents for the skin, there are plenty of other options for transforming the olfactive character of your home.
In the living room, try a cozy scent to encourage nesting and relaxation. After burning Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Beau Sapin candle for the holiday, I’m swapping in Maison Margiela’s Replica By The Fireplace, which smells so real I have to fight the impulse to open the flue.
For living room options that skew more luxurious-hotel than cozy-cabin, try Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Oud Satin Mood candle, which has a surprisingly light and elegant touch given its creamy oud and violet accords. I also love St. Rose’s Terre Rouge candle, which perfectly straddles the line between musky and clean with its amber, sandalwood, and eucalyptus notes.
Speaking of eucalyptus, pairing it alongside mint and rosemary is a personal favorite for the bathroom. For me, they evoke the smell of my gym’s steam room, a favorite haunt I haven’t revisited since the pandemic started. Find those soothing spa-like scents with the Mayfair No. 9 candle from Elemis. Supercharge the effect by pairing it with their body wash and lotion.
In the office, crisp, refreshing smells can help associate feelings of focus and calm. The Rigaud Paris Tournesol candle is cheery and easygoing.
With our lives increasingly existing virtually and Willy Wonka’s smell-o-vision still a fiction, scents are one of the few experiences that can bring presence and groundedness in your space, not to mention a quick hit for any nostalgia junkies. I’m already anticipating reopening my carefully packaged, half-burned Beau Sapin candle in December 2023 and feeling the bittersweet pang from this year’s Christmas.
Lucky for me, I never again need to smell the rank scent of cigarette-hotel perfume-cheeseburgers, because, as they say, what happens in Vegas….