When I moved to London in 2010, my first flat was great value, but the walls were damp and the gaps in the ancient sash windows let in the cold. In an effort to make it more homey, I hunted the high street on my intern’s salary, searching for something a little more ‘me’ than the Ikea tealights I had been using in a desperate bid to add ambience to my sterile, unloved bedroom. We didn’t have Muji where I grew up in North, so when I stumbled into the Carnaby Street store by chance, I was really into, well, all of it.
While it became clear that Muji furniture was out of my price range, I grabbed a couple of their tin candles, at £5 each, and, after giving all their selection a good sniff, was particularly drawn to the putty-hued bonfire scent. It made me think of our wood-burning stoves back home in Cumbria. Some of the Muji tin candles smell soapy and floral to the point that they remind me of toilet cleaners, but the rich, smoky notes in the bonfire candle are mellow and distinct. There’s almost a caramel, whiskyish note under the first hit of burnt-match smell. This was exactly what I needed; an instant hit of hygge that didn’t set me back 30 quid.
Even now, nine years later, I make sure to pick a couple of bonfire candles up when I’m shopping (and little else — I still can’t afford the homeware). I still like a fancier candle for special occasions (Mallin & Goetz’s rum candle is nice) but the beauty of a £5 candle is you don’t find yourself saving it for a special occasion. And even when you snuff it out, the smell of the scented oil lingers for a few hours. Some mornings, I come back into my living room and can still smell a charcoal aroma from the night before. Lighting it on a Sunday evening before watching a movie makes me feel like I’m living in a cosy log cabin, not near a busy railway station in South-East London.
Other Nice-Smelling, Strategist-Approved Products
This matte-black candle comes recommended by photographer Rankin. “I have tried every candle you can think of. Researched them. Smelled them. And this is by far the best.”
Writer Brennan Kilbane raved about the clean and fresh-smelling Home Spray from the Laundress “as a dry shampoo for upholstery, bedding, curtains, basically any fabric tainted by your filthy life — and wool and cashmere.” Formulated without chemicals like ammonia or eco-unfriendly sodium phosphate, “it’s safe to use around pets, too.”
A Rio favourite, the Boy Smells Ash candle offers a clean scent that isn’t overpowering. Rio promises it “will spruce up your apartment and create the illusion that it’s cleaner than it really is,” which any pet owner would appreciate.
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