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Making Scents - Fragrances can be welcoming, but don't let them be overpowering

From the Albuquerque Journal, March 10, 2010
By Matt Andazola

Walking into a house that smells of buttered popcorn may put you immediately in a movie-theater frame of mind.

But what about one that smells like eucalyptus? Or lemons?

The sense of smell changes the way people experience a home, local experts say, so you need to be thoughtful about which scents you choose and how you use them.

But first things first: If your house actively smells bad, you're going to have to scrub it clean.

No amount of added scent is going to hide the stink, and it might actually make matters worse, says Patti Harrell Hoech, interior designer and owner of Patrician Design in Albuquerque. Instead of smelling like wet dog, your house could smell like a wet dog that has wandered through a patch of lavender.

When you're ready to start adding, you should be aware of how various scents interact. "Sometimes it can be fabulous but other times it can just become muddy," she says, adding that it's usually best to keep it simple with one or two scents at a time. That also means you should dial down the amount of scent you put in a home, Hoech says, because too much can be a full olfactory assault on people who walk in. "It ought to be something subtle and subliminal," she says. "You almost need to go outside and come back in to test it."

Also think about the various dispersal methods you could use: Candles are popular, as are atomized sprayers and bamboo diffusers.

Hoech says the advantage of smaller items like spritzer bottles or sachets is that the scent stays where you put it, rather than blanketing an entire room. With all that in mind, the scents you choose are up to you. Here are guidelines to get you started.

Sweet sensations
According to the principles of feng shui, the sweet smell of vanilla is associated with family and well-being, says Carol Olmstead, owner of Feng Shui for Real Life in Santa Fe.

Rosanna Tussey, co-owner of New Mexico Candle Co. in Albuquerque, says a lot of her customers choose vanilla or other sweet smells like sugar cookie for the kitchen, though she cautions against burning a candle too close to where everyone's eating. "Your mashed potatoes might not taste the way you want them to."

Smell o' the earth
If sweet isn't your style, you might want to consider something more "earthy" like eucalyptus, Olmstead says.
She says eucalyptus might be good for a home office because it can help keep you awake.

Similarly, mint excites the appetite. That's why she recommends it for the dining room.

Pine is a popular scent around the holidays, Hoech says, because it's festive and refreshing.

Cedar has a sharp and fiery scent, Olmstead says, which, according to the feng shui principles of balancing energy, makes it perfect for the water-element-centered bathroom.
In the same vein, she says sage is a cleansing scent, good especially for people who have just had a hardship or moved into a new home.

Flower power
Floral scents are great, Hoech says, but they tend to be a little more feminine in flavor.

Lavender is relaxing, Olmstead says, so it might be a good idea to disperse it in the room of, say, a toddler who has trouble falling asleep.

Rose is another popular floral smell, which Olmstead says can get people in an amorous mood. If it does the trick for you, it might be a good thing to keep in the master bedroom. Tussey says some subtler floral scents, like light sunflower, are popular in entryways.

Feeling fruity
Scents from fruit are popular, pleasing and liked equally by men and women, Hoech says. They are also versatile, she says, pointing out both a bamboo diffuser large enough to leave a whole room smelling like raspberries and a pomegranate sachet small enough to slip unnoticed in a dresser drawer.

Olmstead says citrus fruit smells have a connotation of cleanliness, so they go well in the kitchen.

Fruit smells are popular in some unexpected places: Tussey says one of her most popular smells is black cherry, which many people put in their master bedrooms. Strawberry and mulberry are big choices for kids' rooms.

"The only thing I would caution when you get fruit," Tussey says, "is to make sure you've got a really high-quality candle.
"The higher-end fragrances won't have that chemical sting at the end of the fragrance."

Spicing it up
It wouldn't be New Mexico without chile, and Tussey says it took 30 years of persuasion to get her fragrance supplier to help make candles that smell like red and green peppers. Now they are among her store's top sellers, she says.

Also, cinnamon is good — Hoech notes that it's a homey smell that puts people at ease.

It's also a conversation starter, in a very literal way, Olmstead says. It makes people feel intellectually stimulated, she says, so if you're looking for conversation, that's the way to go. Similarly, she says basil is cheerful.

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