As the mercury sinks and frost sets in, fresh air comes at the cost of comfort, and windows tend to stay closed. That makes the prospect of a good-smelling home rather daunting, especially once Christmas trees are sent to the curb. We spoke to a team of experts for tips, tricks and ideas on how to make sure every room in your home smells great, notwithstanding winter’s chill.
Out, out, damned smell
Before deciding what scents you’d like to add to your home, first think about the smells you want to get rid of. Removing bad smells is crucial, especially when you’re cooped up inside. “Make sure your garbage can smells clean by putting lemon or orange slices in the bag,” says Gary Ciuffo of Ciuffo Cabinetry in Deer Park. “Garbage adds an unpleasant odor in the kitchen, so citrus peels are a nice way to keep the trash fresh-smelling.”
It’s also important to pay attention to potentially musty bathrooms. “If you take a shower and don’t vent out the room, the steam won’t be good for your bathroom or the smells,” says Gina Mangano of GMM Designs in Long Beach.
Once you’ve banished bad smells, find scents that enhance what’s already in your home. “In a kitchen, you have food smells that change every day,” says Dana Souferian, designer and event florist at Feriani Floral Decorators in Huntington. “I don’t want to fight that scent. So there, you want flowers that smell more like herbs and spices that you’d use, instead of something that fights the existing smell. It’s important to not mask smells, but enhance what you think that room would naturally smell like.”
Change is good
Just make sure to alternate your scents. “When you smell something, your nose takes an imprint, so if you use the same scent every day for a month, you no longer smell it,” says George Decatrel, owner of Long Island Candle Factory in Long Beach. “I’m a fan of switching scents and taking breaks from your favorite scents. It’s good to have a set of candles or other scented products you like.” Decatrel also advises ditching the snuffer when using candles. “Extinguish your candle by pushing the wick under the melted wax, and then pulling it out. This eliminates the smoke. In a winter house, when the room is closed, that smoky smell can take over and obscure the candle’s scent. You can even use a paper clip. Just make sure that the wick is standing straight when it dries.”
Ciuffo recommends strategic placement of candles and other scented products. “Don’t put all your scents in one spot,” he says. “Houses today are very airtight, and not much fresh air enters, especially in the winter, so air can get stagnant. If you place scents around the home, then just by walking around, you carry and disperse the scent with you as you move around.”
Lastly, remember that scent is personal. “I don’t like perfume,” says Mangano. “But I love the smell of a fireplace in the winter, or the smell of somebody cooking. Those are smells that bring good memories with them.” Discovering the essence of what makes your home smell like you — even if it’s no smell at all — will help keep your house inviting all the way into spring.
Even when the temperature drops below freezing, it’s possible to bring the outdoors in with seasonal floral arrangements that capture the crisp essence of winter. For living rooms and other spaces such as living rooms and bedrooms, flowers are an elegant way to enhance your home’s warmth. For this seasonal arrangement, which is suitable for bedrooms, too, Dana Souferian, designer and event florist at Feriani Floral Decorators in Huntington, combined winter greens such as myrtle and seeded eucalyptus with softly scented white flowers including campanula, white stock, ginestra, lilies and spray roses, adding touches of white wax and brunia berries for texture. “I made sure to get flowers that are in season,” says Souferian. “All the flowers and greenery have a fresh, cool feel. And the colors are also wintry, all green and white. And everything I used here is very fragrant, with an almost minty feeling.”
Often the smallest room in your home, bathrooms can provide oversized challenges when it comes to balancing odors. “In your bathroom, you can have hair sprays and deodorants and soaps and shampoos, and all of these things are scented, so you don’t always need to add to that,” says Gina Mangano of GMM Designs in Long Beach. For this Melville bathroom, created with the help of Anthony Garziano of Sweet Hollow Contracting, Mangano worked to enhance the space’s airflow and eliminate unpleasant smells. In addition to having a functional vent fan, Mangano advises cracking open doors and windows whenever possible to vent out shower steam and avoid mildew. A tub of air-freshening odor eliminator, such as OdoBan, hidden inside a decorative container, can also remove more pungent smells. She says she also likes soft seasonal potpourris, as long as they’re not too strong. “Use scents with caution,” she says. “Don’t use potpourri and scented soaps and then also have something else. It would be like walking into a department store perfume aisle. It’s overwhelming. Instead, just pick and choose products that add value.” Finally, Mangano cautions against open flames in the bathroom. “I don’t use candles in the bathroom,” she says. “Instead, I add small, battery-powered LED candles for atmosphere. They’re pretty, but they’re not a hazard.”
Kitchens are usually both the center of a home and the source of the best and worst smells. From last night’s dinner to last week’s trash, the kitchen holds on to odors with alarming tenacity. But there are simple solutions for freshening up the cooking area. “In your kitchen, you really want to be proactive and to eliminate or reduce odors from the start,” says Gary Ciuffo of Ciuffo Cabinetry in Deer Park. “Be diligent about doing dishes and emptying the trash. And keep strong foods like garlic and onions in sealed containers. Your worst culprits for smell are what you have laying around, like your trash, your sink, your dishwasher and your refrigerator.” For this kitchen, which Ciuffo designed in Sagaponack, a Rangecraft custom hood helps to eliminate pungent cooking odors. Ciuffo recommends cleaning hood filters every few months to make sure they work properly. But even in homes where custom venting is not an option, there are ways to freshen and enhance the room. “Baking foods adds nice smells to the home,” says Ciuffo. “And also coffee beans in a bowl look nice and give off a great smell. Also, in the winter, a simmer pot is nice on the stovetop. Just cut up your favorite citrus fruits and herbs and warm them in a nice-looking pot.” Ciuffo also suggests bringing fragrant plants and herbs into your home. “There are many cooking plants and herbs that have a great fragrance to them, including thyme, rosemary, basil and lemon. You can make a planter in your kitchen and have small window garden.”
Sweet smells to buy
From gorgeous candles to sweet-smelling cleansers, we’ve rounded up a collection of products tailor-made for keeping your home smelling fresh all winter long.
Keep your favorite scented votive safe from dust, and put on a magical show when it’s lit. The Girachille Spinning Votive holder by Achille Castiglioni uses the heat of a tiny flame to cast colorful rainbows all over the room. $28 at momastore.org.
For a subtle scent in rooms where an open flame or a bottle of oil is too risky, this Porcelain Pendant in Storm is ideal. The artisan-designed piece releases its fragrant oil over time, gently filling a closet or hallway with a mix of moss, cedar, fig and bergamot. Leather cord included. $50 at calvinklein.com.
The simplest way to scent your home is with a great-smelling candle, and the locally made winter offerings from Long Island Candle Factory are our picks of the season. The Alpine Wood scent brings a rich balsam, cedar and evergreen scent, while the Fireplace scent perfectly captures a night by a toasty hearth. $12 to $22, depending on size, at longislandcandlefactory.com.
On nights when it’s so cold you can’t even remember summer, relish in one of the perfect joys of the season with a cozy hot toddy, which tastes as good as it smells. Never forget the basic recipe, either, since it’s handily printed on this set of Hot Toddy Mugs. $30 for two exclusively at uncommongoods.com.
The soft aroma of scented oils travels faster through your home when heated in an electric oil warmer. This pretty four-inch-high stoneware model allows for four hours of burn time. Oils not included. $14 exclusively at Pier 1 Imports stores and pier1.com.
Keep your bathroom smelling fresh and looking chic with Monogrammed Oval Paperwhite Soaps. Infused with the scent of paperwhites, this set of six soaps is perfect for a powder room or as a hostess gift. $49 exclusively online at potterybarn.com.
Wooden it be lovely?
In the colder months, a crackling fireplace provides both a comforting warmth and a deep winter smell. Even if you don’t have a hearth of your own, a pile of fresh cedar longs can bring the outdoors in for the season. Either way, this Rivet Hearth Wood Holder is a perfect way to highlight the rustic charm of your favorite logs. $279 exclusively at Restoration Hardware stores and restorationhardware.com.
Kitchen odors don’t stand a chance against the cheerful Meyer lemon essential oils in this Cleaning Kit from Williams-Sonoma. The set features Hand Soap, Dish Soap and Countertop Spray, and is gentle on skin, biodegradable and contains no parabens, ammonia, chlorine or lauramide DEA. Not tested on animals. $19.95 exclusively at Williams-Sonoma stores and williams-sonoma.com.
— LARA EWEN