Stick It To Me – by Nava

So, has anyone else been schvitzing to beat the band one day and freezing the next? I thought I’d seen it all during my one roller coaster mid-Atlantic summer, but so far, this spring in Toronto has been one for the ages. Rain for days on end, then oppressive heat for a few hours, then crisp fall-like air, then more rain. It got so hot the other day, I practically kidnapped my building’s super and insisted he install my casement-window air conditioner at gunpoint (not really). Little did I know that it would be a 2 hour job, complete with him having to blowtorch the crank off the window frame. It was quite a scene.

I will never find shame in admitting that I refuse to get through a summer without air conditioning. I’ve been wondering lately how people can live, hermetically sealed in their homes or apartments, sans cool air. I’m also quite the scarf skeptic; especially when I see a woman in shorts and a tank top with a large, diaphanous scarf draped ’round her neck. It just doesn’t make sense to me. What’s this have to do with fragrance? Well, nothing really, just a few things I’ve been mulling over that I felt like sharing.

I’ve also been wondering about everyone’s home fragrance choices. I used to be a huge candle fan, but I’ve grown quite weary of them. They’ve become so ubiquitous that they’ve lost much of their personality. Mind you, I’m not maligning all the online candle-ers and soapers out there. I think they’re perfectly fine, just no longer my cup of tea. What I’ve really gotten into lately have been those ambient fragrance reed diffuser sticks. I don’t know what it is about a grouping of sticks in a large – it has to be large – a 500 ml or more, bottle of scented liquid. The look just screams fabulous to me and I have no idea why. Maybe it’s the scattering of sticks that attracts me, like the scattering of my thoughts, or the scattering of certain parts of my life over the course of these past few years. Maybe there’s a lesson there about a moth being drawn to a flame; the moth can have it. Staring into a flame has never been captivating for me. But staring at a grouping of sticks captivates me to no end. Here, take a look:

I wish I could be more articulate in explaining it, but that to me is just so much more fabulous than a candle. And, I particularly love the Alora Ambiance line of diffusers. Their scents are amazing and the look of their product just about beats the pants off any other brand – with the exception of Antica Farmacista.

You can’t see the entire length of the sticks in the image at right, but you’ll have to trust me that it’s just something about the shapes of the bottles, along with these long sticks poking out the tops that does it for me. And the scents purveyed by these two companies are amazing. I’m smitten with Agrume from Alora Ambiance, which is a blend of grapefruit, orange and eucalyptus, Arancia – citrus and gardenia, Fico – ripe figs and green notes, and Vaniglia – vanilla.

From Antica Farmacista, their Vanilla Bourbon and Mandarin is luscious, along with Green Fig, Sandalwood Amber, Pomegranate & Currant and Santorini – citrus, green notes, spices and woods. All of these are swoon worthy in their bottles, but I don’t think I would ever wear any of them on my skin. Isn’t that funny? What I love to smell in the air isn’t necessarily what I would want to smell on myself. I guess I could equate that to a pot of homemade tomato sauce bubbling away on the stove or a roasting chicken. Notice I didn’t make the warm cake, cookies, and pie comparison, because I get into my foodie moods and would so walk out of the house smelling like a freshly baked pumpkin pie if the mood strikes me.

I realize these reed diffusers are like the Rolls Royces of home fragrance. You could probably buy a case of Glade scented candles for one of these; both Alora Ambiance and Antica Farmacista sell their 500 ml sizes for over $90.00. There are just some things that warrant the “go big or go home” approach. In this case, I think these are well worth it.

Fess Up Time: How do you all like to scent your surroundings?


  • Olfacta says:

    House, usually not much, sometimes Diptyque’s Opoponax room spray. In the studio, I use an oil diffuser and mix up the experiment of the day — sometimes keep adding new things to it. Incense hasn’t had a good rep with me because I remember the stinky/synthetic strawberry (ick) and other “fruity” incenses from back in the day. But I’m in Memphis this weekend, and a friend told me about a shop here, Maggie’s Pharmacy, that has a lot of interesting scented stuff. I found oakmoss incense there! It really does smell like oakmoss. I may have to get me some more of that.

  • Darryl says:

    I used to feel the exact same about air conditioning – that, in this day and age, when entire catalogues of music can be carried around on a dime-sized microchip and man has not only walked on the moon but is offering up travel packages, a thing as simple, elemental and wonderful as air conditioning should be a given part of our daily lives, like running water or lightbulbs, no matter where we live. Then I got through a summer in an apartment without AC and realized, ehhh, it’s not that bad. At a certain point I simply surrender to the sweat and own the fact that I’ll be a walking puddle from high noon till sundown ever day for a good two month stretch, and I feel oddly liberated. A fan blasting at me while I sleep is about all I insist on these days (a ground-floor unit in a house that gets plenty of shade doesn’t hurt, either).

    Re: home scenting. My roommate is in love with those Wallflower plugins from B&BW, which I must sheepishly admit to enjoying the waft of whenever I walk into the house. (I’ve also seriously considered buying every product in their Dancing Waters line – I find the scent gobsmackingly good.) I keep a reed diffuser in my bedroom, just enough scent to keep it smelling fresh without overwhelming. I also love a good candle, but can’t be arsed to keep an eye on it while it’s burning. My last one was a Febreze vanilla that actually smelled delicious in a very un-Febreze way. I’m all for a cheap thrill.

  • Tulip says:


  • AnnieA says:

    I use candles during the winter and a Lampe Berger during the warmer, or perhaps I mean lighter, months. There isn’t a huge temperature range in Vancouver, and an electric fan is enough to do the job during the so-called sultry weeks.

  • tammy says:

    Complete Candle Ho, reporting for duty.

    I have two chests filled with ivory (and mostly unscented) tapers, pillars and clear-cup tealights, and a kitchen drawer for each as well. We go through dozens a week, living solely on candlelight at night. My passion for candle (and all the accoutrements… candlesticks, trays, candelabra, sconces, etc!) is probably even stronger than my love of perfume.

    After two decades of using probably almost every brand of scented candles, I am now down to a few favorites…I like Pacifica and Votivo on the less expensive scale, and DL & Company on the higher end. ( Opium Den and Dia de Los Muerots are Too Die For)

    The Thymes Frazier Fir mentioned above is also a huge favorite, but they discontinued the one I liked was called Blossom and was especially lovely. Bond No 9 candles are very nice, too, at least the ones I have tried are. (Chelsea Flowers and Park Ave.)

    We also love incense, and I’d love to know more about the Japanese varieties; one was burned at a Japanese memorial service I attended a few years ago and it was amazing.

    I like the reed diffusers as well, but they rend to come off as chemical and artificial to me for some reason. I enjoy the aesthetics of them, though; DL & Company have a gorgeous set; I haven’t opened it yet to test the scent, but they are beautiful!

    Also love the Agraria diffusers, especially the sets named after places. They are gorgeous.

    Anyway, sorry for the novel! Just something I love talking about! Thanks for putting up with me. :o)

  • Julie says:

    My house is unscented, as I am married to the man who gets migraines from scents (lucky me!). I was never big on candles and plug-ins and such anyway – I would burn them in the wintertime for cozy pine or spicy scents but not no mo!

    And AC is an absolute must in many locations. I grew up in MD, and couldn’t fathom not having it there. I remember the one summer ours broke and we all had to sleep in the basement. But here in San Diego, most people don’t have AC and don’t really need it, except for a few days a year. We have a window unit in the bedroom only and it doesn’t get much use but I am sure glad we have it.

    • Nava says:

      Most everyone I know here in Toronto has central air conditioning (and uses it), but my building is older and I am really surprised at how few tenants have air conditioners. It gets pretty hot here, contrary to what people may think about Canada.

  • turquoisewater says:

    Nava, so funny about the summer scarves! I don’t get it, either. Here, typically, flip-flops are added to your described outfit and it’s just beyond comprehension. Annoying, actually, but I’m a crabby one.
    I only use incense to scent my apartment because it’s a pretty cheap option. Usually Nag Champa or some Japanese sticks – forgot the brand – in Patchouli. Love Madea’s idea of spritzing the sheets with Forida Water.

    • Nava says:

      I’m generally crabby when it comes to accessories. I just can’t be bothered with most of them. 🙂

    • jenh says:

      The scarves and the flip flops with winter clothing. Wierd.

  • Dante's Bra says:

    Shoyeido incense– simple, clean, elegant Japanese incense. Fred Soll’s Copal incense: resiny beauty, reminds me of the Aztec dancers in Mexico City. Esteban room spray on the linens and carpets– Teck and Tonka, and Santal, and they’re only 20 bucks. Essenza in Seattle has ’em.

    Candles give me a headache, but I want one of those Papier d’Armenie candles if I can figure out how to keep the cat from setting himself on fire with it.

    How I envy your summer weather! It’s been so cloudy/moody/drizzly in Seattle…

  • Francesca says:

    I like random incense sticks. I’m also a fan of the Cire Trudon candles. I love having something good-smelling going on all the time. For the NYC apt, it’s a big bowl of Santa Maria Novella potpourri. In my CT house, the above named candles, plus the reed things by a company called Khall Designs. Fig in the living room, sandalwood in the bathroom. And Cire Trudon Che in the TV room downstairs. I really like my air to be perfumed, and I wish I could get away with it at work. Can I get up early enough to waft some papiers d’armenie through my space without being busted for it?

    • Nava says:

      Be careful at work; the perfume police will eventually get you!

      I don’t know why I am willing to fork over the cash for reed diffusers, but not for candles like those from Cire Trudon. They are wonderful.

      See my response to WaftByCarol above about SMN potpourri.

  • jenh says:

    We have five unhousebroken puppies so our house smells, please God, of pinesol. I also buy blowers when nothing is blooming in the yard, cos its too hot for candles. In the winter there’s a Thymes pine candle I love.

    • jenh says:

      Make that flowers.

    • Ann says:

      Oooh, JenH, that reminds me of a Thymes fraser fir reed diffuser I used to have — Christmas tree in a bottle!

      • Nava says:

        When I was staying with my cousin over the winter, he brought home a big huge jug of lavender Pine Sol from Costco. I looked at him and said, “What – you couldn’t find a bigger one?” We debated the scent of Pine Sol a couple of times; he said it was the “smell of clean” for him. I kept saying how it reminded me of my grade school cafeteria. With a background note of hot lunch and puke.

        • jenh says:

          So you can only imagine how inviting our house is. We live outside as much as possible!

  • March says:



    Me, yes. My environment, not usually. Occasionally I burn a stick of really nice Japanese incense I got in a mystery swap awhile ago. And I scent my linens with a cedar spray that reminds me of New Mexico. Theoretically it repels the moths, but I’m all about the smell.

    • Nava says:

      I love the smell of a cedar chest! Just please don’t break out the mothballs.

  • Musette says:

    Like Ann and Carol, I use Agraria as well – but mine is the ever-fabulous Bitter Orange. I use the diffuser in the spring and summer in our front room, which doubles as an office/livingroom catchall-pass through/dog hangout (I 8-x this room, alas and am working hard to figure out how to make it less icky)….anyway, the BitOrange reed diffuser makes it way less horrid. I use the soaps to scent the linen closet. The throw isn’t huge but it does civilize the room a bit.

    Candles are a rough one for my sinuses – the only ones I have been able to enjoy without pain are the Malles and their price point is beyond me at this time – hopefully I will be able to afford them soon, then it’s :@) Wild, baby, starting with 1er Mai and Jurassic Flower.

    xoxo >-)

    • Nava says:

      I’ve never been a fan of Agraria Bitter Orange. Just another one of my many quirks. 😮

  • Aubrey says:

    I love the Antica Farmacista scents (their orange blossom, ala moana and santorini) but haven’t spent the cash yet to buy one.

    • Nava says:

      I’ve had to scale back my addiction as well. The good thing about them, though is that they last for months.

  • waftbycarol says:

    I recieved the terra cotta pomegranite scented with SMN Melograno when I was in Italy with Sniffa ( 2008 ) and I keep it on the hall table . When entering our home , it smells fantastic !
    I also keep Santa Maria Novella potpourri in my clothing drawers – ADDICTING . We got to see how it is made when we were at their factory . Gathered in the Appenine hills , and all natural , it is sealed in crocks for a year , then the plaster seals are broken off and it is packaged by hand by adorable Italian ladies…

    • Ann says:

      That SMN Melograno sounds fabulous! BTW, has anyone else tried Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s incense papers (his version of papiers d’Armenie)? I have a box of the APOM (orange-blossom based) ones and they are really lovely.

    • Nava says:

      I have SMN potpourri sachets that I bought in Rome 10 years ago that STILL smell. That stuff is amazing.

    • Tom says:

      that’s the potpourri I keep in the car!

  • Ann says:

    Hi Nava! Great post! I’m a huge fan of the diffuser sticks and always keep a little one in my small downstairs powder room.
    I change mine out according to the season: for fall and late winter, I, too, love the Antica Farmacista Vanilla, Bourbon and Mandarin; it’s just so cozy and comforting.
    For the winter holidays, I use Agraria’s Balsam for its lovely Christmas tree smell. Their heavy, rounded-square bottle sitting atop a square mirrored tray is quite pretty. Then in the spring and summer, I pull out either Agraria’s Lemon Verbena or AF’s Aqua Verbena. AF also makes a lovely champagne diffuser, which I like to give as part of bridal shower or wedding gifts.
    As usual, too much information — sorry. Happy Friday everyone!!

    • waftbycarol says:

      I really love Agraria Balsam too . The wicker covered bottle sits on the back of the toilet in my bathroom to use as room freshener . Le Cherche Midi candles in CT01 smell similarly balsam-y and sit there too . I don’t light them , I just smell them unlit !!

    • Nava says:

      Not at all, Ann! I love hearing about the scents others love! I know many of us will even use room sprays as fragrances!

      I’ve never smelled AF’s champagne scent, but I’m sure it’s wonderful. I love scents that have that effervescent, fizzy quality.

      Have a great weekend!

  • Sherri M. says:

    Hi Nava, Great post! I haven’t tried any of the stick thingies, but you’ve piqued my curiosity!

    How I would ideally like to scent my home and reality are at odds alot at our house. For example, I’m not a huge fan of Yankee candle plug in scents; however they are the best solution I’ve been able come up with (please feel free to offer suggestions) for a cute but smelly bunny in my teenage daughter’s room. I feel like if I moved the bunny outside or even downstairs to the exercise room in the basement it would get neglected. As it is now, the bunny is loved and cuddled everyday, so I exercise that seldom heard but necessary word “forbearance” and be glad at least her room smells like a sugar cookie (maybe mixed with a bit of Dzing…lol). I try to avoid the kids’ rooms for the most part anyway; keeps my blood pressure down!

    What I do love is Diptyque’s tubereuse candle. Very expensive but capable of scenting even very large open areas. Also, I have found one candle by Delirium called Suede and Smoke which is an excellent masculine leather and tobacco scent. My husband actually loved it and he tolerates at best my obsession with smells and need to spray’n’burn. He smokes one good cigar a night in his “man cave” and burns his candle. No migraines from it, either.

    Oh, and I love and spend the extra money for Williams Sonoma floor cleaner. We have mostly hardwood floors and that is effective in giving the house a scent that lingers for days.

    Thanks for a great post! Hope all is going well for you! :-)

    • Aubrey says:

      If you like the plug in kind from Yankee Candle (for the bunny room), you should check out the plug ins at Bath and Bodyworks– they have a couple very good scents, and the throw is great.

      I actually found one plug in at someone’s apartment that I loved and she gave it to me. It was a super cheapo one, with a purple-ish liquid that is slightly floral vanillic. No idea what it is, but some of those plug ins are actually pretty good…

    • Francesca says:

      Oh, that’s interesting that you say the bunny is smelly. I love them, but I have what I would say an anaphylactic response to them. Also guinea pigs. Also cats. But I love all of them anyway and wish I could have them living with me.

      • Nava says:

        My best friend has a guinea pig and she’s always complaining about the smell. I’d love to keep one of the reed diffusers near where I have Lily’s litter box, but I live in fear of her knocking it over. as long as you stay on top of the cleaning, the stink is manageable.

        I’m glad you mentioned the scent of floor cleaner, Sherri. I adore the scent of Swiffer WetJet cleaners!

  • Jillie says:

    I don’t know what sort of light bulbs you have in the USA, but until the introduction of energy-saving lighting, we here in the UK used to have those traditional pear-shaped bulbs, which were perfect for supporting a ring into which you pour a few drops of perfumed oil; as the oil heats, the fragrance permeates the air. The new type of bulb that we have to use now because of European legislation either doesn’t heat up enough, or is a strange tangle of tubes which means that you can’t place a ring on top. I miss the old method, as it was quick and easy. Now I use candle diffusers (with the little bowl of water on top, and which are usually for aromatherapy with essential oils), but the throw isn’t as good. Parfums de Nicolai have some excellent oils, and Crabtree & Evelyn sometimes have interesting scents. I guess I should be more environmentally aware – and of course it was wasteful turning on lights when the sun was shining!

    Favourite stick diffuser at the moment – the most beautiful rose from a small British company called Verve; it smells like fresh, dark red roses and is made with natural oils. It is truly the nicest I have ever smelt (and I have smelt a lot!). And I don’t have any connections with the company!

    • Ann says:

      Hi Jillie, here in the U.S. we use both types of bulbs. Thanks for the reminder — I’d forgotten about those lovely rings. I have one somewhere I need to dig out and use.

      • Jillie says:

        Happy sniffing, Ann!

        • Nava says:

          Here in Canada, Jillie, conventional light bulbs will no longer be available next year, I believe. There will only be compact florescent ones on the market. I must admit, I’ve never used those light bulb rings, either!

          • Tom says:

            It’s the same thing here in the US. No more incandescent ones very soon.

            What su@ks is that those twirly, long-lasting ones have to go with your batteries and other hazardous stuff to special pick-up places. They can’t just be tossed: too toxic.

          • Nava says:

            Yes, I had to replace one a couple of months ago, and it was a whole “to do” to get rid of it.

  • Madea says:

    Incense, mainly. I buy the cheap stuff at an Indian grocery store, and burn a couple of sticks a night. I also spritz my sheets with Florida Water.

    I wish I had something more interesting to tell you, but I’m pretty dull in regards to scenting my living area:)

    • Nava says:

      No worries! I think it’s funny that I love the way incense smells, yet I never think to burn any!

  • tmp00 says:

    Oddly enough, no I don’t. I’ve been gifted with home scent stuff that I like, but don’t have the need to replace. Maybe I feel I am my own living home scent? But I do keep potpurri in my car ashtray..

    I don’t have AC at home. We only have a week or so in my part of LA that warrants it and I am just too GD cheap. My office, the mall and the bus are usually arctic so I can cope with having fans at home, but we don’t have humidity. If I was still in NYC and didn’t have AC I think I’d get stabby pretty fast..

    • Nava says:

      I think we’re all our own living home scents, but it’s nice to supplement that, don’t you think? After all, you are keeping potpourri in your car’s ashtray.

      So, are you saying your world is essentially perfect, save for the occasional earthquake? :d