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At Home: Get a whiff of this — home scent management

Marni Jameson: People often overlook their homes' smells, not only because they're invisible, but also because — and here's the tricky essence of the problem — we don't always know what our homes smell like to others.
BY MARNI JAMESON Published: April 23, 2012

Among the first impressions the old house gave off was its smell. The place hadn't been lived in for months and rather reeked of neglect.

Even after I opened the windows and doors, and shook the place up by moving in, the house smelled musty, the bathrooms dank. I don't fault the house. I'll surely smell musty, too, when I'm 130 years old. I just hope someone douses me in Estee Lauder's finest.

The house (like many) needed a home fragrance makeover.

Fact is, every house smells. They can smell delicious, clean, fresh and familiar in the best sense. Or ... they can smell like pets, gym shoes, fried fish, mildew, diaper pails, kitty litter, or an aromatic blend.

People often overlook their homes' smells, not only because they're invisible, but also because we don't always know what our homes smell like to others.

“We adapt to scents and must be mindful that when others come in, what you no longer smell will seem strong to them,” said fragrance expert Helen Feygin, owner of Intuiscent, a fragrance designer and supplier in Middlesex, N.J.

To get a fresh, honest whiff of your home, you need to go and come back, Feygin said. Then take an unbiased sniff as if you've never smelled the place before.

Then blast, don't mask, odors as much as you can. Try an open window followed by a good cleaning. Next layer in pleasant fragrance — carefully.

After a thorough cleaning and airing at my place, I tried an electric scent warmer. You plug it in, and a concealed light bulb melts scented wax. While I liked the idea, the scent was smothering.

I snuffed that idea, and tried a few spray mists, which didn't last. Next I tried reed diffusers with natural oils, a grapefruit blend in the kitchen, and lavender mint in bedrooms and baths. Ahh, now when I come home, the place smells like bliss.

“People use fragrance to create a mood, and also to cover odors,” said Feygin, who also teaches environmental fragrance at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

Here's what she says to consider if you want to make your home smell better than a barn:

Fragrance options. You can add scent to your home with potpourri, spray mists, electric diffusers, reed diffusers, scented candles, warmers, and aromatic salts and crystals. Warmed scents go further and are best in large spaces. Reeds and salts are the most stable.

Two sides of scent. Fragrance products have two components: the fragrance itself, which varies in strength and quality; and the vehicle that transports it, or its base, which could be wax, oil or crystal. Both have to be good. A good quality fragrance in a poor quality base will disappoint.

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