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How To Make Your Home Smell Like A Place You Miss


Ahh… Remember places? You used to go to those things all the time. And yet, as our current reality dictates, you won't be able to return to most of them for a while. But fear not! When it comes to the places you miss the most, a little ingenuity might be the thing to tide you over. According to neuroscientists, the best way to connect with an experience or place in your past is with smell. And places sure have smells. They’re not often the most beautiful, or even particularly pleasant, but every spot along your regular daily route has its own specific scent. Right about now you might be missing the strange scent landscapes you’ve grown to love—I sure am, and so are the members of Into The Gloss: The Group on Facebook. So, in lieu of a traditional candle story, here’s how to turn all the rooms in your house into your favorite spots via a little olfactive magic. Sometimes that involves candles, but sometimes it doesn’t! You can get creative in your kitchen, with your personal fragrance, with stuff you just have around the house. This week, try staying home and exploring…

Your Local Coffee Shop

There are people sipping lattes and people who only came there to read, a bell that jingles every time the swinging door brings in a fresh gust of wind, and the faintest smell of cinnamon wafting from the pastry display. But at its core, a coffee shop is easy to set up at home—it just requires a bit of prep and a good amount of snacks.

The look: Probably a sweater and jeans—I don’t know, what do you usually wear to a coffee shop?

The setting: The dining room, study, or whatever room where you’ve got a sturdy chair and a desk-height table.

The scent: Start by brewing a fresh pot of coffee—close up it’ll smell good, but to approximate that intoxicating, fill-the-room coffee smell, you’ll want something stronger. Boulangerie’s Espresso candle smells exactly what it sounds like and is under $20. Next, throw together this cinnamon bun recipe, and pop those puppies into the oven. You’ll thank me later. Or, if you’re not the baking type, double down on the coziness with a gourmand (but not sickly sweet) cup o’ wax like Homesick’s Library candle or Diptyque’s Vanille. Either way, you’ll add a dash of nutty spices, and that soft, vanilla-y pastry smell. Open the window in another room enough to hear the rhythmic whoosh-ing of fresh air without compromising your olfactory masterpiece. Is it counterintuitive to open a window while you’re burning candles? Maybe. But is it necessary? Absolutely.

A Juice Shop

Owning a juicer doesn’t quite approximate the distinct pleasure of visiting your local juice shop. There’s fresh pressed juice and wheatgrass, sure, but there’s also the metallic smell of refrigeration, sweaty post-workout people, and maybe a little leftover dirt on the veggies.

The look: Workout leggings and a sweatshirt and no shoes. A tee and Nike shorts. Furry slides and a loose, flowy dress.

The setting: The kitchen! It can only be the kitchen. If you have a blender, put it on the counter. If you have frozen fruit, put it in the blender. (And if you’ve gotten that far you may as well make a smoothie—here are some suggestions.)

The scent: Juice places are always freezing. I don’t make the rules! Blast your AC for a few minutes to get the feel of being surrounded by rows and rows of chilled juices. Then, cocktail your own vegetal aroma. Carrière Frères’s herby ginger candle is fresh and spicy, and this beauty from Linnea’s Lights x The Sill smells like fresh-picked greens. On the budget end, you’ve got Basil and Cucumber from Paddywax, DW Home’s Carrot Seed, or Illume’s Wheatgrass and Lemon. Or, go the diffuser route: Vitruvi’s Sweet Orange blend stands in for that giant, pinball-esque orange juicer in the corner and, depending on the vibe and regular clientele of your juice place du jour, consider adding in a few drops of patchouli. We’re going for accuracy here folks!

The Library

This one’s for you, college students who are finishing out the semesters at home. Less romantic than a home library, big university libraries mix the smell of musty books with overworked students who haven’t moved in days, minty gum, some energy juice (coffee? Red Bull?), and half of a snuck-in sandwich that is definitely wrapped in parchment paper.

The look: Something that says “I just threw this on,” but also, “Just got a tip that my lit class crush is studying on the third floor and there’s an open seat at his table.” Deodorant and some natural-ish makeup, hair up or off your face, jeans, and a comfy-casual top will do.

The setting: The kitchen table, probably, with your laptop in front of you and a few books stacked to your side.

The scent: Enough brands make library-scented candles for this to be a thing, so you’ve got options. On the expensive end, there's Byredo’s spicy, velvety Bibliothèque. Smack in the mid range is Kobo’s Mahogany Library, and on the cheapie end, this Public Library candle. Steep a cup of peppermint tea or light this Mrs. Meyers peppermint candle and go for the coffee instead. And then address the sandwich in the room—today it’s yours, built from bread and whatever you’ve got in the fridge. Deli meat? Cheese? Veggies? Hummus? The only requirement is that it’s eaten cold.

Your Yoga Studio

A yoga studio is but a room filled with sweaty people, scented with subtle base notes of rubber (from the mats) and, really, whatever said studio chooses to scent it with. The best way to get a spot-on read is just to… ask.

The look: Workout leggings and a sports bra, yoga pants and a tank.

The setting: Your biggest, most open room. Maybe the living room? A hallway? Someplace near a window? Work with what you’ve got.

The scent: There are a few ways to go about this one. There’s the literal route, which entails emailing your favorite yoga studio and inquiring why their space smells so good. Sky Ting in New York, for example, is one part Good Home scents and one part the 3rd Ritual body lotion favored by its instructors. Other studios, like Y7, develop their own signature scents—and purchasing them is a good way to support your favorite studios when you can’t make it in for a class. Or, go the more general route and burn some (ethically farmed and sourced, of course) incense. Incausa is our favorite source, but if you’d prefer to stay flame-free, Highborn’s Défumé mist is the most spot-on version I’ve come across. As a last and crucial step, sit on the floor (on a yoga mat, if you’ve got an at-home one) and line up all your sweaty sneakers and socks around you. It wouldn’t be a yoga studio without a little stank.

Dinner With Friends At A Fancy Restaurant

You can still have dinner with friends without goint out for dinner with friends. So this is the easiest one to accomplish! You'll just need some good food, some good friends, and a little imagination.

The look: Put on makeup, do your hair, and throw on something that’s dry clean only.

The setting: The dining room, kitchen table, or your living room with a tablecloth over the coffee table.

The scent: Step one is planning the Zoom, Google Hang, or FaceTime call. Make sure everyone knows the time (7PM?) and place (their respective homes). For the food, try coordinating delivery from your favorite spot. You could also really spoil yourself and order food from a fancy place you’ve always wanted to try. For example: in New York? Now’s the time for Carbone’s spicy rigatoni. Or, cook something really delicious. Decadent! Aromatic! That very specific thing you’ve been craving! Then, set the mood. Dim the lights, light some candles (the unscented kind), pour yourself a drink. The last step sounds crazy, but trust me on this: grab a few pillowcases or tees, and spray each one with a different perfume to simulate being surrounded by all your friends. Restaurants don’t smell like restaurants without people in ‘em! If you want to make it extra special, you and your best friend (or significant other) can each order the other’s signature scent, and spray a cloud of it whenever you schedule a dinner date. When social distancing is over, exchange them as gifts.

The City Streets

A caveat: if you live in New York, you could absolutely pop your head out a window and smell the city yourself. But if you’re not, here’s this recipe—the combination of scents is chaotic, but that’s what you love about it.

The look: Anything goes! This is New York!

The setting: A small closet or tiny bedroom.

The scent: SO many things. In terms of cooking, try a halal cart copycat recipe, and consider toasting some nuts in the oven. In terms of candles, light something that smells like it could be Le Labo’s Santal 33, but it passed by you so quickly that you’re not quite sure—Maison Louis Marie’s Bois de Balincourt is a classic, and Siblings’ take comes with a fun activity baked in. You’ll also need a little fresh cut grass, a little fresh rolled grass (Kush from Boy Smells will work in a pinch), and a sprinkling of garbage best achieved by pulling the bin out from under the sink and leaving it open. Finally, as a finishing touch, just pull your pants down and pee on the floor. There you have it! Just like normal.

—Ali Oshinsky

Photo via ITG