Home scents that make you happy – the new sniff test for a better mood today

The fragrance experts' guide to scenting your happy home

blue living room with white shutters
(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Is there a high street store you make a point of visiting because it always smells amazing? (Kudos if you stock up on its home fragrances while you're there) Maybe you've found a signature scent for your interior, or you're all about fragrance zoning to give each space in your home its own mood? 

A beautifully scented home can lift our spirits, whether it's a waft of fragrance from a diffuser as we open the front door or the candle we light as we sink back into the bath. But it's more than pretty perfume vs nasty niff. 

'The olfactory nerve is directly linked to the part of the brain that monitors memories and emotions. As such, scent affects mood, concentration, memory recall and our feelings. In fact, 75% of all emotions generated every day are due to smell,' state the experts at Mood:Media.

Research shows that fragrance can create emotional changes including irritation, stress, depression, apathy, sensuality, relaxation, stimulation and happiness. That's heady stuff! We spoke to scent experts to find out which smells can give us a mood boost, one sniff at a time.

Can a home scent really make me feel happier?

mantlepiece with candle and ornaments

(Image credit: Future PLC)

The short answer is 'yes', according to Glenda Taylor, an aromatherapist and creator of home fragrance, skincare and wellbeing products for her company, Angelico.

'Citrus oils such as sweet orange, mandarin, lime, lemon and grapefruit can definitely make you feel happier,' she says. 'But memory association is one of the most powerful reasons scents can work so well. Any fragrance – a loved perfume, candle, flower, even the aroma of a meal – can have a profound effect on your mood and wellbeing. Beware, though, that some fragrances can trigger memories of fear and even loathing but these are all personal.'

Glenda Taylor aromatherapist and founder Angelico
Glenda Taylor

Glenda has been an aromatherapist for more than 30 years. For her brand Angelico, she has created a range of home and personal products, including essential oil blends used to fragrance and change the mood in the home.

Michael Parker, a fragrance education and development expert, agrees. 'Scent associations are very personal; what one person might connect to "happiness" could make someone else feel sad,' he says. 'However, studies have shown that, in general, sparkling citrus scents such as bergamot, lime and grapefruit increase feelings of confidence and are energy boosting.'

Happy and zesty scents: orange, lime, lemon, grapefruit.

Identify your signature happy scent

Orphic Living Black Tea, Patchouli, Peppercorn Scented Reed Diffuser

(Image credit: Orphic Living)

This could be as easy as picking an uplifting citrus fragrance, but if you don't love zesty smells, then it's time to get more personal. 'I adore the smell of petrichor – it's the aroma you get when it has just rained, and you can smell the earth and wet concrete! It makes me think of new beginnings,' says Michael Parker.

A study into the power of smell on emotions and memories found that cinnamon was associated with feelings of warmth, cosiness, happiness, and relaxation. With peppermint, participants expressed a general feeling of relaxation and calm with signals of positivity, happiness, and refreshing sensations. Lemon scents were linked to feelings of positivity, energy, and lightness.  

'Scents have the ability to spark vivid autobiographical memories, and after a scent has been associated with an experience, it is able to evoke the associated emotions when later encountered,' say the report's authors. 

Spicy and cosy scents: cinnamon, nutmeg, frankincense, sandalwood.

Zone your home with happy scents

hallway with tiled floor

(Image credit: Future PLC/Darren Chung)

'Happy' can mean different things, depending on which part of your home you are in, which is why scent zoning can make a difference to your mood throughout the day. For example, 'happy' in a living room might mean relaxed and cosy, in the bedroom it can feel balanced and fresh, or it could be focused and calm in a home office.

'I’m a great zoner,' says Glenda Taylor. 'I actually feel that certain scents shouldn’t be used in certain areas. Peppermint, never in the bedroom (too stimulating); sandalwood, never in the workplace (too calming ); vetiver should never scent the kitchen (too tenacious).

'On the flip side, sandalwood, frankincense and vetiver are fantastic in the bedroom. Peppermint, spearmint and lime are perfect workmates. And all citrus oils are great in the kitchen as they don’t interfere with cooking and are bright and sparkly.'

Glenda also recommends putting a happy scent in an area of your home that you enter frequently, such as to scent a hallway. 'A reed diffuser is great for this,' she says. 'You can regulate the fragrance by turning just one or two reeds whenever you want a mood and scent boost.'

'If you are using an electric or candle diffuser, rather than one of the best reed diffusers, then you can tweak the fragrance by adding a different essential oil to your mix. This will prevent you from becoming "fragrance-blind" to your blend.'

Calming and uplifting scents: may chang, basil and lemon verbena.

Andrea Childs

Andrea began her journalism career at Ideal Home and is currently Editor of our sister title, Country Homes & Interiors, which celebrates modern country style. Andrea is passionate about colour and how it can transform both our homes and our sense of wellbeing, and has completed The Power of Colour course with the prestigious KLC School of Design. Andrea's career spans interiors magazines, women's lifestyle titles and newspapers. After her first job at Ideal Home, she moved on to women's magazines, Options and Frank. From there it was on to the launch of Red magazine, where she stayed for 10 years and became Assistant Editor. She then shifted into freelancing, and spent 14 years writing for everyone from The Telegraph to The Sunday Times, Livingetc, Stylist and Woman & Home. She was then offered the job as Editor of Country Homes & Interiors, and now combines that role with writing for idealhome.co.uk.