Home fragrances are more than just a passing novelty. Besides making a space smell nice, they can lift moods, and evoke memories of places and occasions.
Studies have shown that there is a link between scents and the way we feel, with pleasant smells having a positive impact on our moods, self-esteem and energy levels. With the growing trend in lifestyle-oriented products, home fragrances are skyrocketing in popularity. Some hotels, malls and boutiques have even concocted their own scent as a new form of branding; Ion Orchard and Naumi hotel are just some examples.
London-based Singaporean master perfumer Martin Koh gives his insights on home fragrances, which are his speciality. Martin started out in the perfume industry with Swiss company Firmenich, where he developed perfumes for personal-care products and major household product brands such as Ambi Pur and Airwick. Still with Firmenich, he recently worked with local lifestyle boutique Poetree to design a trio of home fragrances specifically made for our tropical climate.
The Science of Fragrance
A perfumer needs more than a good nose for fragrances. “Both natural and synthetic ingredients are used to make fragrances, so you need a good knowledge of science, especially chemistry,” says Martin. With numerous options such as air fresheners, room sprays, scented candles, fragrance gels, and reed diffusers in the market, it’s important to note that how the fragrances are diffused will also affect its components. For example, Martin explains, candles require ingredients that evaporate slowly, while reed diffusers need those that evaporate quickly. As scents in electrical diffusers have heating elements, the ingredients have to be selected with that in mind. The final product has to have a nice colour, and should not turn dark or cloudy over time. Home fragrances also work very differently as opposed to body perfumes such as skin creams and cologne, in terms of the ingredients used and the intensity of the scent; home fragrances tend to be more “heavy”.
Ever wondered why the smell of freshly baked cookies or bread is so wonderful? It’s because the aromas are associated with home, family and the holidays, which invoke feelings of comfort and happiness. As various scents trigger different emotions and sensations, imagine how they can influence how we feel at home. Martin’s fragrances for Poetree were inspired by Asian olfactory preferences and tropical climates. “The idea behind The Ode collection is freshness for the home,” he says. The scents is said to evoke feelings of love, and rekindle pleasant memories. Each distinctive smell is crisp and clean, but far from being sterile and “antiseptic”. But even within Asia, preferences vary. For instance, Singaporeans tend to like a mix of flowery and fruity scents, while people in the Indian subcontinent prefer more traditional smells such as sandalwood or orange flower, says Martin. North Asians seem to like greener smells like cucumber, and folks in the Middle East like opulent floral notes, such as roses
What’s in a Perfume?
If you’re wondering why some perfumes and fragrances don’t come cheap, it’s because of their ingredients. Firmenich is well known for its over 1,500 speciality ingredients, some of which are unique to the company. One such ingredient is Martin’s favourite – Paradiso, which is based on jasmines and has a subtle floral note. Just a bit can transform a fragrance into a more floral scent, he says. Clearwood is another revolutionary ingredient by the company, as it is made naturally using the process of white biotechnology and has the smell of patchouli without the need to cut down any trees. While natural patchouli goes for $50 to $60 a kilogram, natural jasmine sells for $5,000 to $6,000 a kilogram. One of the most expensive is the extract of iris, which can cost as much as $20,000 a kilogram!
There are many ways you can add scent to your space:
Candles – Candlelight creates a great ambience, and scented candles can easily infuse a large room. Look for those made of a clean-burning wax that have high concentrations of oil. Use them as a tabletop centre piece, especially when you’re entertaining.
Oils – For use with burners, these produce strong fragrances quickly in an average-sized room. Place your burner in a corner away from traffic, but keep an eye on it. You can use various types of scented oils with a single burner.
Reed diffusers – If you want a continuous fragrance, these are convenient and not too intense. They also add a decorative element to your interior. Put them out of reach of children and pets.
Room sprays – Turn to these when you want an “instant action” application, such as quickly freshening up a powder room.
Gels – Ideal for small spaces such as wardrobes, lockers and cars, these are convenient and inexpensive.
Potpourri – These provide a very subtle, but constant, fragrance best for small spaces such as foyers, guest rooms and powder rooms. They look good when displayed in beautiful vessels, too.
Liquid electrical air fresheners – These continuously release fragrance when plugged in. They even come with features to adjust the scent intensity or switch between fragrances.
By Louisa Clare Lim, Home & Décor, December 2014