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The Definitive Guide to Scent

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Scent – we take it for granted. And yet it affects every aspect of our daily lives, from cooking and the inviting smell of food, to how we fragrance our homes. There are few finer things than finding a scent we truly love, be it the nostalgic aroma of freshly-cut grass or the warming hum of a newly-lit candle, and experiencing a wonderful world of fragrance is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

We all have our favourite scents; fragrances which conjure memories and moments, or which simply make us feel happy, relaxed and at ease in our homes. For thousands of years, skilled perfumers have combined natural ingredients to create rich fragrances for the body, the home and for worship – and their efforts have gifted us an immense palette of scents from which to cherry-pick our most beloved fragrances.

The question is, how much do we really know about our favourite scents? Where did they come from? What are their origins? And how do perfumers know which ingredients work together to form the perfect fragrance medley?

At Parks, scent is our passion. That’s why we’ve put together this, The Definitive Guide to Scent, a comprehensive insight exploring the origins and complexities of our favourite fragrances. From the history of perfumery to practical advice on pairing scents for a special occasion, our guide covers everything you could ever wish to know about home fragrance – so you can appreciate your life’s scents in a whole new light.

Explore our guide using the contents list below.

A History of Home Fragrance
Discovering Your Favourite Scents
Fragrances in Interior Design
Our Home Fragrance Gift Guides
Scents and Seasons

A History of Home Fragrance

From ancient antiquity to the present day, scent has complemented life in all its colour and diversity, allowing us to not only mask bad odours, but create a unique ambience and distinct identity within our homes.

While techniques and trends have come and gone over the centuries, the candles and reed diffusers we enjoy today stem from a long tradition of perfumery. Many renowned chemists, botanists and perfumers made creating scents their life’s work, and it’s to these early pioneers that we owe our favourite fragrances.

Join us as we explore a history of home fragrance, from its earliest origins to its impact in the present day.

The Origins of Perfumery

The Influence of Ancient Egypt

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• Cyprus is considered the birthplace of perfumery thanks to its ties to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, pleasure and the art of seduction. It’s thought Aphrodite herself created bewitching scents, but this is shrouded in the pages of mythology.

• The world’s earliest perfumes were discovered in Cyprus, and are thought to have been developed in a special factory over 4,000 years ago. Sadly, this early perfumery was reputedly destroyed in an earthquake around 1850BC, though archaeologists have discovered evidence of ingredients and apparatus at the site.

• Cypriot perfumes commanded a high price in the ancient world, and were traded throughout the Mediterranean and beyond.

• The origins of perfumery were perhaps better recorded by the ancient Egyptians, who used fragrances for religious ceremonies as well as cosmetic treatments.

• As aromatic incenses became more common, their uses grew, with early chemists creating scented balms, oils and candles which were specifically developed for use in the home, and to help strike a balance between mind and body.

• Thanks to her skill in creating highly-desirable body and home fragrances, Tapputi was appointed the chief perfumer to the Egyptian royal family.

• Some of the most prominent figures of ancient Egypt were infatuated by perfume. Tutankhamun was reportedly entombed alongside over 300 bottles of fragrance, while Cleopatra is said to have stocked her boats with rose and jasmine so that her signature scent carried across the seas.

• The base incense for many Egyptian perfumes was Kyphi, a compound made from a combination of 16 ingredients, including wine, honey, raisins, calamus, cassia, cinnamon, cedar, juniper, myrrh, benzoin, frankincense and spikenard.

Perfume’s Other Origins

Scent in the Middle Ages

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• The development of perfume and home fragrance played an important role in other ancient cultures too, including Greece, China and the Roman Empire. The Greeks, in particular, used scent extensively, with Hippocrates, the legendary ‘Father of Modern Medicine’, often prescribing perfumed ointments as a stress reliever and form of disease prevention.

• Perfume was hugely important in the Arabic world, and it was here, around 1000AD, that Persian polymath Avicenna invented and refined the process of steam distillation – changing the perfumery process forever.

• Thanks to Avicenna’s expertise, chemists were able to create early essential oils, marking a new era in perfumery. Fragrance products became purer and more effective, and their applications grew extensively both as a cosmetic and a home fragrance.

• Following the Crusades of the 11th century, Europe saw a rise in exotic home fragrances as knights returned from the Middle East with rare spices, ingredients and complex recipes and methodologies.

• In the 13th century, perfumery made a giant leap forward, as Elisabeth of Hungary ordered the development of the world’s first alcohol-based fragrance. ‘Eau de la Reine de Hongrie’, or ‘Hungary Water’ as it’s commonly known, was made from a distillation of rosemary in alcohol, and despite its simplicity, marked the beginning of a new age in perfumery.

• Following this remarkable breakthrough, alcohol-based perfumery was popularised in Italy, where heavily-scented home fragrances and perfumes were made en-masse for the first time. This trend continued for centuries, until Catherine de Medici, wife of Henry II, established her royal perfumery in Grasse on the French Riviera. What followed was a monumental shift.

• France became the centre of perfumery, with the readily-available flowers and ingredients of Provence establishing Grasse as the world capital of fragrance – a prestige which still exists today.
   

The Modern Age of Perfume

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• Following the development of iconic ‘Eau de Cologne’ by Jean Maria Farina in the 18th century, the use of both cosmetic and home fragrances rocketed, with the upper classes of Europe going to great lengths to develop new and more original scents.

• It wasn’t until the 19th century that the use of home fragrances and perfumes began to trickle down into more common classes, helped by the discovery of synthetic compounds, which made perfumery more affordable.

• Still, most home fragrances were used purely to mask bad odours, and not as a means of creating a pleasurable or relaxing ambience. For a time, cosmetic perfumes worn on the skin were much more popular, with designers like Coty and Chanel giving them luxe appeal. It wasn’t until the 20th century that home fragrances really began to shine, with an emergence of luxury brands and lifestyle products making it possible to recreate the pleasure of high-end perfume in the home.

• While the process of perfumery has changed beyond recognition since ancient times, traces of its earliest origins can still be found in modern fragrances today. Home scents, in particular, have come full circle since antiquity, with many homemakers filling their spaces with restorative and calming smells much like in the time of the Pharaohs.

Discovering Your Favourite Scents

Smell is one of the most powerful senses we possess, enabling us to distinguish hundreds of distinct scents in an instant. Though we often take it for granted, our personal ‘nose’ for fragrance is naturally attuned to some scents over others – meaning we all have our favourite scents that we’re drawn to by default.

Unravelling this further, it’s possible to pinpoint roughly what kind of scents a person prefers by looking at different ‘scent families’. Coined by Michael Edwards as part of his ground-breaking Fragrance Wheel, scent families are used to categorise different smells into groups, with the expectation being that if a person likes one type of smell, they’ll probably like others in a similar scent family too.

Michael’s Fragrance Wheel has proved a significant landmark in the ongoing advancement of perfumery, allowing both manufacturers and customers to quickly identify what type of fragrances a person is most likely to prefer. And, while it was developed with cosmetic perfumes in mind, it’s possible to classify home fragrances in a similar way.

Here, we explore the primary scent families of home fragrance, using Michael Edwards’ eponymous Fragrance Wheel as a guide to help you begin to identify the varieties of home scents which may suit you.

Floral

Scent Highlights

Rose


Lily


Frangipani


Freesia


Bold floral top notes capture the breezy freshness of a garden in bloom, filling your home with an invigorating flowery bouquet. Naturally seasonal, this is a great option for a spring kitchen.

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Soft Floral

Scent Highlights

scents guide

Jasmine


Magnolia


Vanilla


White Musk


Powdery and nostalgic, soft florals combine creamy notes of vanilla and sweet musk with the gentle petals of jasmine and magnolia – perfect for creating a calming atmosphere in the bedroom.

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Floral Oriental

Scent Highlights

Orange Blossom


Amber


Incense


Patchouli


Bright orange blossom is tempered with silky amber and incense, with a base of musky patchouli balancing the nose. Floral oriental fragrances work well in contemporary spaces, and will set the tone for a chic dinner party.

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Soft Oriental

Scent Highlights

Carnation


Ylang Ylang


Allspice


Incense


Exotic Eastern florals are paired with earthy spices in the soft oriental family, hinting at distant, colourful shores. Restful yet bright, ideal for a home office or studio.

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Oriental

Scent Highlights

scent guide oriental

Musk


Vanilla


Cardamom


Cinnamon


Evoking the warmth and colour of the Far East, oriental home fragrances combine the rich spices of cinnamon and cardamom with the gentle musk and creamy ebb of vanilla – transporting you to places far-flung from the comfort of your sofa.

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Woody Oriental

Scent Highlights

Sandalwood


Patchouli


Vanilla


Allspice


Warm wood notes of sandalwood and vanilla score through a dense swathe of patchouli musk, complemented by heady notes of allspice. Perfect for setting a refined and sophisticated tone in any room.

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Woods

Scent Highlights

scent guide woods

Cedarwood


Sandalwood


Vetiver


Oakmoss


Rich, dense and aromatic, woods carry a sophisticated and naturally warming scent that’s ideal for wintry evenings with the shutters drawn. Think sandalwood, oakmoss and cedarwood, lightened with notes of smooth and earthy vetiver.

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Mossy Woods

Scent Highlights

Oakmoss


Birch


Patchouli


Musk


Considered a ‘classic’ scent family, mossy woods have a natural masculinity that complements the modern bachelor. Here, musk and patchouli add a rich floral bouquet to calming wet woods – for effortless sophistication.

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Dry Woods

Scent Highlights

Sandalwood


Tonka


Tobacco


Leather


Dry wood scents are light, earthy and uncomplicated, with top notes of tobacco and Tonka serving to balance the blend. Think fine leather, smouldering embers and freshly-cut kindling.

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Aromatic

Scent Highlights

Basil


Cedarwood


Rosemary


Lavender


Defined by their natural and earthy bouquets, aromatic scents are clean and uncomplicated, relying simply on a balanced blend of natural herbs and woods, like basil, rosemary and cedar. Burn in your living space for a focused and refined environment.

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Citrus

Scent Highlights

scents guide citrus

Sea salt


Storms


Breeze


Marine


Feel the sea breeze invigorate your senses with the water scent family. For those who enjoy the scent of rain on warm tarmac or the marine notes of the coast, these fragrances offer a refreshing and reawakening experience.

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Water

Scent Highlights

Sea salt


Storms


Breeze


Marine


Feel the sea breeze invigorate your senses with the water scent family. For those who enjoy the scent of rain on warm tarmac or the marine notes of the coast, these fragrances offer a refreshing and reawakening experience.

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Green

Scent Highlights

Freshly-cut grass


Green leaves


Basil


Vetiver


Let spring in with the fragrances of green. Reminiscent of one of the world’s favourite scents, freshly-cut grass, green scents are bright, earthy and refreshing – the perfect antidote after a long, cold winter.

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Fruity

Scent Highlights

Peaches


Pears


Apples


Tropical Fruits


A staple of the clean, welcoming kitchen, these scents evoke mouth-watering fruits fresh from the orchard. Classic fruity scents such as apple are ideal for freshening up the pantry, while tropical fruit blends will complement an airy bathroom.

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Get to Know What Works

While there are 14 scent families in Michael Edwards’ iconic Fragrance Wheel, these fall into four broader categories, and really, they’re all you need to remember. These categories are:
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However, things get a little trickier here, as some scent families cross over into two different overall categories.

For instance, Floral Oriental is a hybrid of both floral and oriental scents, and can therefore be included in both categories. The same goes for aromatic and fruity scents, as they can be fresh/woody and fresh/floral respectively. Recognising these crossover scents gives a clear view of how different fragrances can work and combine together, creating complex and sophisticated variations.

So, the next time you’re on the lookout for a new scented candle or reed diffuser, why not stray beyond your usual favourites and try a fragrance that’s related to your preferred scent? Using the Fragrance Wheel lets you see what’s similar to your personal favourite smells, so you can rest assured you’ll likely enjoy the end result.

Fragrances in Interior Design

While light, space and complementary furnishings may be the pillars of contemporary interior design, introducing fragrance is crucial in tying a room together and creating the perfect ambience. Of all our senses, scent is the one most closely linked to our memories, emotions and feelings, so it makes sense to imbue our homes with the smells we cherish.
  
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When decorating and designing your interiors, scents may come way down your list of priorities. But, many experienced interior designers would tell you that deciding on fragrances early on can help you achieve the right atmosphere in your space, and use this to influence other elements of the room.
  

Victoria Jackson

Alice Collyer

 
 
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Victoria Jackson, interior stylist and editor of Apartment Number 4, agrees that scent can often take a backseat in interior design, saying: “Scent within interior design can often become an afterthought, coming last to our other senses as we focus on colour palettes, silhouettes, and textures throughout our home. However, it is often one of the most important elements to consider as we look to create the perfect abode.

“Scent, whether through candles, incense, diffusers or flowers, for example, can create a certain ambience or mood within a space – and as scent is so subjective, layering scents within your home is down to preference. Nevertheless, there are elements you should consider when choosing scents for your living, eating and sleeping space.

“The key is to harmonise with your surroundings - lavender, for example, is the perfect addition to the bedroom as it evokes restful and relaxing thoughts and aids your sleep. Similarly, citrus scents work incredibly well in the bathroom, laundry room and kitchen. However, you may find deep musky scents do not sit well within a light and airy living space, or fresh cotton scents within your dark blue study with walnut furniture. The most important point to note is that you’re looking to complement the mood of the room, with nothing designed to overpower.”

Alice Collyer, interior design expert and author of home-style blog Alice in Scandiland, has also come to understand the power of scent in design, and suggests that the right assortment of candles and home fragrances can truly bring a space to life.

She says: “There are many ways to approach designing a space, but for me it’s about a feeling. Whether it’s a piece of furniture that excites me, setting me onto a path, a colour or certain accessory, scent is as vital as all these other elements. A room should be an experience that goes far beyond the eyes.

“Creating pools of light throughout a home, allowing you to choose just the right amount for your mood, can easily be achieved through the addition of candles and I like to set the mood for each space with varying scents. For example, the kitchen is usually fresh and zingy, with a citrus tone, whereas the living room would have a cinnamon and wood smoke undertone.

“When I’m at home and wanting to destress, I create a little ritual of green tea from a special teapot, my favourite mug, set out in one of my favourite spots, comfortable and clutter free, with a beautifully-scented candle nearby, enriching the air. This is a routine I mimic with my children also, when we’re all feeling a little out of sorts and on top of each other, I turn the lights down low, light a candle and bring the focus into the now, rather than the thing causing the angst.”

So, the next time you’re considering making adjustments to your interior space, pay close attention to the scents you choose for each room, opting for fragrances which complement the design and feel of your home.

Choosing the Right Gift

Candles, reed diffusers and other home fragrance products make truly special gifts, and we think a person can never have too many signature scents in their life. The great thing about giving a scented candle or luxury reed diffuser as a gift is that the fragrance will forever more remind the recipient of you and the occasion – giving them happy memories to treasure.

But, with so many different scents available and everyone having their own favourite fragrances, how do you go about choosing the right gift to buy for that special someone? To help you choose the right home fragrance gift for a partner, friend or family member, we’ve put together a selection of gift guides which offer suggestions and tips on making the right choice.

Browse and access our featured gift guides below.

Scents and Seasons

As we move through the seasons, your home should reflect the outside world and provide a comfortable and inspiring environment for life’s comings and goings. From the height of summer to the depths of winter, there are many things you can do to prepare your home for seasonal changes – and setting the mood with scent ought to be at the top of your list.

Think back to your childhood and recall the scents which remind you of each passing season. Perhaps you remember the scent of spring blooms and April showers, or freshly-cut grass as summer comes around. Autumn is always reminiscent of bonfires and crushed leaves, while winter’s chill stirs memories of roaring hearths, winter berries and seasonal mulled wine.

The power of scent is such that each season is captured by a handful of special fragrances, each lingering long in the memory. And, by embracing these scents and bringing them into our homes, we can prepare for a new season and all the promise it brings.

Discover which seasonal scents we recommend below.

Spring

Summer

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Cast aside winter’s gloom by filling your home with the fresh and energising scents of spring. From seasonal blooms to the first signs of summer fruits, discover 12 invigorating fragrances that will fill your space with the scent of spring.

Read here

Hazy days and endless sun; summer is the happiest of seasons, and you can keep the good vibes coming with seasonal scents that capture the warmth and vitality of the period. From Grapefruit to jasmine to patchouli – summer starts right here.

Read here

Autumn

Winter

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As evenings draw in and temperatures dip, we seek comfort indoors as the leaves start to fall. But there’s magic in the air that only autumn can bring, and the scents of cinnamon, bonfires, berries and cinder toffee will remind you of just how special this season can be.

Read here

With the festive season approaching and the cold creeping in, now’s the time to cosy up against the gathering gloom and fill our homes with the warmth and pleasure that only a winter’s candle can bring. From frosted berries to festive pine, get winter-ready right here.

Coming soon