This often-forgotten element of design is what will make your Christmas feel most magical, say these experts

Festive scentscaping is the next frontier for the home at Christmas. We speak to fragrance experts to find out how to do it

Festive scentscaping ideas
(Image credit: Lassen)

Festive scentscaping is a great tool to invite a feeling of hygge into the home this Christmas. Scent is a truly powerful sense, and has the power to conjure up nostalgia and create a feeling of warmth in the home. Did you know that smell is the sense most But it's an often overlooked element of interior design because it's not a tangible thing that you can see or touch - elements that interior design has traditionally relied upon to create aesthetic spaces.

Christmas is so strongly associated with aromas and smells. Fir pines, warming mulled wine, and the heady Christmas pudding mix are just some of the things that are so evocative this time of year. By harnessing the power of smell, you can add another layer to your interior design and make your Christmas decorating all the more immersive, comforting, and cozy. It's not just through the use of candles either. We speak to the fragrance experts to find out how best to create a scentscape perfect for Christmas day.  

Oonagh Turner
Oonagh Turner

Oonagh is a homes writer and editor. For this story, she spoke to the home fragrance experts to find out just how to layer scent throughout the home at Christmas, and how to use scentscaping as a tool for interior design.

What is scentscaping and why is it important in interior design?

Candles and a branch of fir tree

(Image credit: Fermliving)

Scentscaping is all about the way you arrange your home fragrance. From scented candles to diffusers, and essential oils to natural pieces that release smell throughout the home, it's about harnessing the power of scent, layering it throughout a room to forge a calming and immersive environment. 

'No sense is more connected to memory than your sense of smell because the scent processing pathway in the brain first goes through the parts of the brain that process emotions and memories,' explains Kate De Palma, the owner of Scented Designs (opens in new tab), a woman-run candle company in San Jose, California. 'For this reason, adding an element of smell - especially during this time of year when you're spending time with family and making special holiday memories - will enhance both your current experience and your scent memory years from now.'

'A home is at its best when it is feels comfortable, emotive and sensory,' says Chrissie Rucker, The White Company (opens in new tab) founder and OBE. 'I’m constantly amazed at the difference gently scenting a space can make. Diffusers and scented candles we love are a joy. I change the scent of ours depending on the time of year, or how we want to feel. Is it a calm moment or entertaining moment? Is it time to be cozy in winter, or fresh and uplifting in spring?'

Layering is a huge part of the process, how smells mix together to create a feeling. 'It's also about differentiation,' says Vicky from MIXMYSCENT (opens in new tab), a company that creates scented candle combinations for the home. 'Scent scaping sees home fragrance being used to differentiate different rooms in a home or different times of the day,' she says.

It can also be done for forging strong associations across the festive period. 'While many of us may have a favorite scent we like to bring out at Christmas time – orange peel and cinnamon anyone?! – scentscaping with different fragrances is a great way to transition through the festive period,' she says.

'Try burning a particular fragrance as you settle down for the festivities on Christmas Eve; and then a different fragrance to enhance the excitement of Christmas morning, and a different one still to welcome friends and family for the Christmas lunch gathering,' says Vicky.

Why size matters when it comes to layering home fragrance

A candle being lit

(Image credit: The White Company)

When scentscaping a space, first think about the size of the room and how this might be impacted by scent. Get the balance right with an experience that is evocative but not overpowering. In small rooms, burn one candle, 'preferably an all-natural, 'botanical candle', which is a beautiful option for coffee tables and sideboards,' says Chrissie. If you have a larger room you want to scentscape, dot candles and other scented pieces around.

'Scent really does have the power to change the feel of a room. I love to choose three, or four, scents for the season to use in different areas,' says Chrissie.  

If you're looking to fill up a large kitchen or open floor plan, you'll need a candle with a larger diameter. 'Ideally around three to four inches,' says Kate.

'The bigger the melt pool (the layer of melted wax at the top of the candle), the stronger the fragrance will be. A candle with multiple wicks is another great choice to fill up significant square footage with scent this holiday season,' she says.

What can you use to scentscape a room around Christmas?

Festive scentscaping

(Image credit: Fermliving)

When it comes to Christmas time, think candles, diffusers, essential oils, natural pine, and firs freshly cut and brought in from the garden. 'I believe it’s important to think about your base first. I love a real tree and that sets the tone of pine and then choose carefully your candles round this. Slowly adding one more element to the pine base is key so either smoke, ivy with a sprinkling of red berries or warm spices,' says Lyn Harris, perfumer and founder of Miller Harris (opens in new tab).

Candles are first on the list and a beginner in scentscaping and home fragrance. ' 'The warmth of a tiny flickering flame is always magical and makes a room so much more inviting,' says Chrissie. 'Try spice-scented candles and burn incense to make the experience special. Orange and cinnamon give off a beautiful scent,' says Cat Dal of Cat Dal Interiors (opens in new tab).

Essential oils are also a great choice for scenting your home. Many of these oils have natural calming and healing properties, making them a great option for aromatherapy. Create your own blend of different essential oils to use in your diffuser. 'Blending base note essential oils with top note essential oils will create a layered fragrance that lasts longer and captivates the senses. Winter spice blends might include cardamom, orange, cinnamon, and clove,' says Andy Knowles, founder of The Soapery (opens in new tab)

Natural pine and fir are also great options for bringing a fresh, woodsy scent into your home. They can be used in stoves and fireplaces, or as a decorative element in your home.  

You can also try electric methods with plug-in diffusers. 'These very special diffusers scent a room beautifully and instantly, just add one of our much-loved scented oils,' says Chrissie.

Sand + Fog Scented Candle - Cinnamon Vanilla from Amazon (opens in new tab)
What to buy

Sand + Fog Scented Candle - Cinnamon Vanilla from Amazon (opens in new tab)

This festive candle has notes of cinnamon and burns for around 25 hours, creating a sweet sensory experience in the home this Christmas.

How to build a festive scentscape

The White Company autumn scents

(Image credit: The White Company)

Layering is the most important part of the process, and working layer on layer you can build the festive scene to your liking. So how do you build a scent scheme from scratch?

When dealing with essential oils, start by selecting your base note, which will serve as the foundation of your fragrance. Consider a scent like vanilla, jasmine or sandalwood to add depth and complexity. Next, layer in your mid-notes, which will provide the body of your scent. This is where you can get creative and experiment to find your unique blend. Finally, to add a hint of complexity, layer in your top notes. These are the lightest and most volatile of the scents and will dissipate quickly. Consider adding citrus, mint, or other light floral notes to complete your fragrance. Or go more festive with cinnamon or orange.

Layering candles is also a tool for scentscaping. MIXMYSCENT is an innovative candle concept that aims to make scented candles work harder than most. In the same way primary colors combine with each other to create new colors, MIXMYSCENT primary candles combine with each other to create new fragrance combinations, keeping the home fragrance personalized.

Build your layers around the room, and as with how you light the home, go for varying sources of the aroma. Make sure the sources don't compete with each other, and go for one large candle, a smaller diffuser that complements the smell and finish it off with an incense stick in a nice holder - the final touch to the scheme.

Lotus leaf incense stick holder, Amazon (opens in new tab)
What to buy

Lotus leaf incense stick holder, Amazon (opens in new tab)

For an added decorative element, go for a cute incense holder in ceramic to hold your incense stick, like this one, made with a touch of brass and glazed polished surface

Oonagh Turner
Livingetc content editor and design expert

Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.