It is that time of the year when we start welcoming guests into our home with more regularity. After a summer, of breezy open windows, the cosseted winter months can be less forgiving when it comes to the array of aromas trapped in our home. The interesting thing about our sense of smell is that we are designed to stop smelling that same scent after a relatively short time, a biological throw back to when we needed to detect new threats on the horizon. So whilst you might only be aware of the vase of flowers you have just titivated an incomer will be treated to rich whiffs of everything from damp dog to the monkfish you fried earlier.
The best way to go about fragrancing your home for an event is to imagine your scent scheme like the lighting, you want a subtle background scent and bursts of accent aroma in key areas.
If you have a hallway start there, you cannot beat a vase of fresh flowers – roses give off the most scent, or lilies, but remember the pollen of lilies is poisonous to cats. The Fresh Flower Company on North Cross Road creates a beautiful arrangement with fronds of mint. A diffuser is another good option and if your home is large you can dot them on a couple of floors or at different ends.
Strategically place scented candles to create scent zones. Always use a good quality candle; you want a clean burn so avoid cheap paraffin wax and it should contain a high concentration of fragrance oil. If your background scent is woody or herby your accent aroma could be something softer and more floral. However, I am rather taken by the current trend for fireside smells – look for a candle containing birch tar. After around 15 minutes most candles will have yielded their optimum scent so extinguish them and the molten wax with continue to fragrance. Relight when the wax has set again. Never burn a scented candle all evening (the burning time shown on the label is the total, not one session) and do remember to trim the wick – nail scissors are perfect for this.
Potpourri is so passé I recently witnessed someone unaware of what it was trying to eat it. I predict a revival, but in the meantime a bowl of pinecones spiked with fir or cypress essential oil works a treat and is unlikely to be eaten.
If you are lucky enough to have an open fire, pinecones thrown on create a natural burst of aroma as do cedar wood chips, but make sure you are using a fireguard to avoid any stray airborne ignited bits.
Try to avoid bombing your party with blasts of commercial aerosol air fresheners; especially in private areas where they act like an olfactory alarm that the bathroom has been used. Keep a natural room spray to hand for guests, one with a high concentration of forgiving essential oils.
You can also flood your home with the welcoming scent of mulled wine on simmer in the kitchen; red wine, cinnamon sticks, star anise and nutmeg, with orange and lemon rind. What a welcome.
Lawrence Roullier White writes the Hectic Host for SE22.
This feature first appeared in the November 2015 issue of SE22 magazine.