How to Make Your Home Smell Exactly Like the Vibe You Want

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I recently visited a wellness resort in Arizona, and the minute I walked into the lobby, I was hit with a fragrance I couldn't quite place — it was slightly earthy but bright at the same time, indulgent and energizing all at once. I, a perfumery novice, couldn't tell you at all what I was smelling. Nevertheless, it screamed: "You're here to relax; don't worry, we're going to take care of you." And every time I walked through that lobby, I instantly felt at ease.

The whole experience got me thinking: how cool would it be if everyone (me included) experienced a similar reverie when they stepped foot in my apartment? Could I transform the vibe of my own space simply by scent?

According to Bernadette Lim Baricaua, a certified fragrance specialist and cofounder of BC Fragrance, the answer is yes. "Most people don't realize that our homes, just like our bodies, have a characteristic smell to it that we no longer notice because we're so used to it," she says.

Baricaua says the first way to "reset" the smell of your home is to "cleanse" the space. Begin by opening your windows and ventilating the space, and then eliminate any scents you don't want (e.g., existing room sprays or fragrance, or smelly foods). This will allow for a "clearer, more intentional fragrance experience" once you figure out the scent vibe you really want to go for.

Right now, my studio apartment decor aspires to that of the Arizona resort — airy, Southwestern, with just a touch of trendy flair. I use an eclectic mix of candles and am generally drawn to cleaner scents over floral. But what if I wanted to lean into the breeziness of the space, or create a more intense mood? It turns out that resetting your home vibe is as easy as selecting specific top notes in scented candles and diffusers.

I asked Lim to suggest tips and specific scents for creating four distinct home vibes: a beachy bungalow, an edgy enclave, a minimalist oasis, and a cozy sanctuary. Keep reading to find out which scents will help evoke each aesthetic, plus product recommendations for each, as well as general tips for maximizing fragrance in your home.

Fragrances to Create a Breezy, Bohemian Bungalow

Two Mockup Picture Frame on Cozy Room's Green Blue Wall. 3D Render
Getty | asbe

If you're someone who wants to create a coastal, beachy vibe for your space, look for fresh, airy scents. Citrus and marine evoke the ocean, while lighter woodsy fragrances can add a subtle and grounding effect.

Top Notes: Citrus (lemon, bergamot), marine notes, light woods (bamboo, sandalwood) Seasonal Adjustment: In the cooler months, try incorporating warmer citrus, like mandarin, to maintain warmth without losing that breezy vibe.
Product Recommendation: The Apotheke Sea Salt Grapefruit candle ($44) has all the trappings of a laid-back, beachy fragrance. The brightness of the grapefruit is mellowed out by that indisputable sea salt tang.

Fragrances to Create a Cool, Edgy Enclave

Interior of a luxury loft home with smart automation system.
Getty | imaginima

If you're someone who's always dreamed of owning a trendy loft in New York City (ahem, me), then you should go for complex scents: dark florals and fruity woods can "mirror the dynamic energy of city life," Lim says. Chypre fragrances can also add sophistication and edge.

Top Notes: Dark florals (black orchid, violet), fruity woods (blackcurrant, fig), chypre
Seasonal Adjustment: In the summer, lean toward lighter, fruity notes; in the winter, emphasize the darker, more opulent floral notes.
Product Recommendation: The Homesick City Lights candle ($25) is aptly named: its amber and bergamot notes evoke all the endless possibilities that a night in a big city bring.

Fragrances to Create a Minimalist, Natural Oasis

Living Room Interior With Wicker Armchairs, Potted Plants And Coffee Table.
Getty | Nelle

If you're someone who likes their space to be tranquil, the idea is all about balance. Lim says you can achieve this by pairing warmer gourmand notes with light wood notes for a sense of calm and connection to nature.

Top Notes: Light wood (cedar, pine), light gourmand notes (vanilla, almond)
Seasonal Adjustment: Go for warmer gourmand notes in the colder months and lighter wood notes during the summer.
Product Recommendation: Similarly to the scent of that Arizona retreat, the Le Labo Ambroxyde 17 candle ($84) is a category-defining mix that instills calm. It encompasses musks, woods, and jasmine petals for an irresistibly natural aroma.

Fragrances to Create a Cozy, Cushy Sanctuary

Cozy living room winter interior with fireplace.
Getty | svetikd

And finally, if you're someone who loves the coziness the holidays bring — and want to re-create that feeling in your space year-round — then warm scents and spicy blends are the way to go. Leather and tobacco can add depth and richness, too.

Top Notes: Citrus blends (bergamot, grapefruit), spices (cinnamon, clove), leather, tobacco
Seasonal Adjustment: When it's warmer out, focus on the lighter citrus and less on the heavier tobacco and leather notes.
Product Recommendation: This P.F. Candle Co. Teakwood & Tobacco candle ($28) brings the perfect amount of smokiness and spice to an otherwise bright scent. Its mix of orange and leather top notes with a heavier base of sandalwood and patchouli will fill any room with warmth.

Tips For Maximizing the Fragrance of Your Home

  • Layer scents. Lim suggests layering different types of products for higher impact, especially in larger spaces. For example, you could burn a large candle as well as place reed diffusers in the same room. Diffusers offer a steady release of fragrance, Lim says, while candles are more versatile for scenting spaces of different sizes; room sprays, meanwhile, are ideal for quick fixes and immediate bursts of fragrance. You can also utilize indoor plants that introduce subtle and natural scents — eucalyptus, lavender, and jasmine are all great options.
  • Place strategically. Positioning your scent products near entryways or in the path of airflow can help distribute fragrance evenly throughout your space. You can also create "scent zones" by emphasizing certain scents in each room. For example, you might opt for lavender in bedrooms for relaxation (we especially love the P.F. Candle Co. Ojai Lavender diffuser ($34)) and fresh citrus in the kitchen for something a bit brighter.
  • Experiment with customization. From buying an electric diffuser to simply combining water and a few drops of your favorite essential oils in a spray bottle, you can create scents truly tailored to your personal preferences.

Lena Felton is the director of special content at POPSUGAR, where she oversees features and special projects. Previously, she was an editor at The Washington Post, where she led a team covering issues of gender and identity. She has six years of experience in journalism during which her focus has been feature writing and editing as well as spearheading projects you won't find anywhere else.