Nasty Niffs and Nice Whiffs

Those of you that have sold a house will have been told about baking bread or making coffee in the space before an open. Good homely smells can evoke a connection and really help sell a house. Smell is the sense that is most strongly linked to our memory, our mood and emotions and therefore has the strongest connection with, and contributes to, the essence of home. The smell of your home can both invite or repel people. 

So what happens when your home doesn't smell so great?  In my last blog, I talked about how a good smell can be bad for you.  And although these nasty niffs might not be actually bad for you, they're really dreadful on the nose. The fried onions, the stinky compost bin, the wet dog. We all have them. Time to time.

Goggles at the ready. Image Source -

Goggles at the ready. Image Source -

Our busy modern lifestyles can mean that we tend have a “cover up” and “clean up” approach.  But you should never mask a nasty smell by introducing a nice one because you run the risk of conjuring up a new, more objectionable, aroma.  The best way to deal with a nasty smell is eliminate it and then change the air in the space. The physical source needs to be removed completely where possible. There are natural products out there that remove nasty smells and deodorise your space. Try baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil. Even exposure to sunlight can remove some odours.  Once the source of the smell is gone, you need to remove the old air and introduce new.  Simply opening windows and doors allows this exchange.  Once the nasty niffs are gone and you've neutralised the space, you can introduce new natural scents, should you choose.


We recently opened our home up for Sustainable House Day. All day I chatted with people about how the double glazing had changed the acoustics of the house, they touched the recycled timber benchtop and the grasscloth wall paper, feasted their eyes on lush green vegetables in the garden and bold colour and pattern choices around our home.  But I was keen to introduce the nose topic to those that attended. On hearing the answer that my house smelt of "nothing", clearly I was relieved, but it made me wonder what smell I would like to have in my home. 

Smells or scents play a role in allowing us to enjoy our homes, but they also really make a space come together.  The trend to just eliminate scents is changing as we move beyond thinking of a smell as either good or bad. We are moving towards introducing or accentuating scents both indirectly or deliberately.


Natural scents introduced indirectly are those that come from material choices such as the smell of timber, stone, wool and other organic materials and finishes, as touched on in my previous blog. Deliberate scent introduction that effects how we experience and feel in buildings is known as 'scent architecture'. Yes that actually exists. Relatively new in interior design, using the olfactory sense to create scent palettes is increasingly being used.

Clearly there are bountiful smells to be found, especially if you consider the manufactured ones. But there are still plenty of natural aromas to play with in your home. Essential oils, natural scented soy candles, dried or fresh herbs, spices and flowers can all be used to deliberately introduced to awaken that fifth sense. Woody, cinnamon smells are associated with warmth and cosiness. Fresh and light scents are associated with airy and crisp spaces for example

But the importance of the olfactory sense as a design element makes me wonder if certain types of scents would suit certain residential design styles.  Hamptons. Retro. Industrial. Boho. There are many styles. There are many scents. Which goes with which? And should they? I'm interested in researching the potential links, so if you see me sniffing randomly, you know why.