Scents of Wanderlust: 11 Best Candles, Diffusers, and Incense to Transform Your Home
Each one of us can probably pinpoint a myriad of scents that immediately remind us of a particular place. Whether it’s the waft of fresh bread and potent coffee grinds reminiscent of a boulangerie in France to a trace of frangipani that takes you on a summer evening walk in Mexico, scents have the innate ability to transport us to regions far and wide. In fact, it’s the first of the five senses to activate when we are born, and it filters into our consciousness in both subtle and profound ways.
A firm believer in the power of olfactory receptors is lifestyle maven Athena Calderone, the powerhouse behind EyeSwoon. Whether in a space, in her envy-worthy kitchen, or through her interactions with people, Calderone seamlessly fuses authenticity, playfulness, and a highly-curatorial eye to create immense beauty in a relentlessly messy world. Here, she shares her favorite picks of candles and diffusers that take her everywhere from the flourishing city of Copenhagen to the quaint, coastal hamlet of Amagansett.
Calderone muses: “I have always used scent to set the mood and tone in my home at different times of the day, and as a ceremonial practice for myself in the morning for meditation and alone time. In our particular global situation, we are all exploring ways to feel transported and inspired to another time and place. Scent can carry you elsewhere — it is a powerful tool steeped in ritual.”
Though the opportunity to travel and experience scents firsthand from around the world might always be our first option, some of our favorite brands are eliminating the distance between us and our favorite destinations with their range of fragrant options. Keep reading for our additional top edit of must-have candles and incense to own now!
Athena's Top Picks
Le Labo Santal: This scent is what I burn in my Brooklyn townhouse in the evenings after dinner; it really sets the tone as a transition for the day to unwind.
Burning Palo Santo: Each morning, I burn Palo Santo from the moment I wake when the home is still quiet, and I use its healing properties to set an intention for the day.
Cinnamon Projects: I tend to use my apparatus incense burner with cinnamon projects incense in Amagansett on the weekends. It’s become a Sunday ritual.
Diptyque Baies: I have burned this candle for over 20 years, and was just reacquainted with the scent. I love how scent can trigger memories — this one brings me back to my first home in Dumbo.
Oliver Gustav Lalibela: I first discovered this scent when I was shooting Olive Gustov’s studio for my design book Live Beautiful in Copenhagen, and he sent me home with this candle. Now, it immediately takes me back to everything I love about the breathtaking nordic city each time I light it. The city holds a special place in my heart (for mine and it’s overlapping passion for food and design) and the scent seems to trigger creativity for me.
A Few More of Our Forever Favorites
Nest Casa Miami Limited Edition Candle: The culmination of distinct artisans and the serendipitous collaboration between the creator of Nest Casa and Baobab Collection, this Nest Casa Miami Limited Edition Candle offers hints of ylang, musk, and sandalwood guaranteed to spread throughout your interior with a sense of freshness and seduction. This scent is harmoniously complemented by artful decor on the glass that represents the mythical architecture of Miami.
Beach Club South Beach Candle: Similar to the baobabs that overlook the African savannah, Baobab Collection’s candles and incense diffusers are known for their impressive scale and storied designs. Their range is extraordinary and provides a dimensional olfactory and aesthetic experience. The brand’s Beach Club South Beach Candle is reminiscent of comforting, fresh wind, and the coastal scents of the beach. Lemon, citron, and galbanum perfume are expertly combined to sensorily transport you to the beaches of Florida no matter where you are.
Cities Ocean Drive Candle: Baobab Collection’s candle creations are “tales waiting to be discovered,” and are the result of exquisite perfumes and designs. Their Cities Ocean Drive Candle courtesy of Nest Casa is anchored by a delectable perfume made from a fruity and woody blend of mandarin and cedar. Indeed, the fresh scents of Miami’s ever-bustling, perennially vibrant Ocean Drive are perfectly encapsulated in this scent.
L’Ape Candle: Witty, masterfully-crafted pieces perfect for daily use are essential elements of any Fornasetti piece. Comic motifs and surrealist inspirations provide a lighthearted frame for these dynamic styles. This L’Ape Candle has fragrance notes of thyme and lavender, and is expertly poured in a Bacio collection ceramic vessel, which possesses exaggerated embellishments that evoke the spirit of Miami.
Rosetti Candle: Nostalgic, artistic inspirations with a dash of the unexpected embody the ethos of legendary Italian brand Fornasetti. This Rosetti Candle possesses fragrant notes of lily, orange blossom, and sandalwood. Poured in an iconic Rossetti collection ceramic vessel decorated with a colorful contemporary lip motif and a standout lid, consider this the ultimate addition to any home that can visually and olfactorily transport you to Miami’s vibrant Wynwood art district.
Eden Forest Candle: Each and every Baobab candle is crafted by specialized craftsmen with rare know-how. Encased in hand-blown glass containers and decorated with unique patterns, these candles are as aesthetically pleasing as they are sublimely scented. This Eden Forest Candle is no exception. Anchored by a colorful design that transports you to an intense universe of colors and scents inherent to Africa, it’s characterized by rich notes of grapefruit, vetiver, and green tea.
Elements Air Diffuser: Tom Dixon is a restless design innovator who works mainly in lighting, accessories and furniture. In 2002, he left corporate life to launch his own eponymous brand as a platform for a series of new adventures in the design of products and interiors. This Elements Air Diffuser is a hallmark of the brand’s unique design ethos. A light and crisp diffuser with notes of white tea accord, pink pepper, orange flower abs, and white musks all take center stage in this incense diffuser, which is rendered in a chicly-minimalist, small, white container and branded with Dixon’s signature.
Aurum Totem Diffuser: Baobab Collection’s Aurum Totem Diffuser invites the elegant floral and soft scents of precious jasmine and divine musk. This enchanting incense conjures up a world “where all is feminine and delicate” vis-à-vis its smells and design, which are underscored by an intricate motif and hints of black and gold hues.
Black Pearls Diffuser: Inspired by the fascinating pearls of Tahiti, whose shimmer can range from a silvery grey to anthracite, the Black Pearls Diffuser is rendered in a similarly sleek, dark finish. The scent it emanates is both strong and subtle, a unique blend of ginger and black rose. Expertly crafted in Belgium, a country internationally renowned for its directional contributions to the world of home interiors, this diffuser is an apropos hallmark of excellence and mastery.
Ambra Diffuser: German perfume house Linari has mastered the delicate symbiosis between seductive fragrance and genius design. The brand offers a range of studied and exceptional fragrances created in collaboration with fine perfumers, including this Ambra Diffuser. A mysterious composition with a distinctive amber note, spicy hesperidic accords, and a gentle ode to the floral heart note of rose, heliotrope, and jasmine, this incense diffuser conjures the mood of an untouched, faraway island.
Materialism Alloy Candle: From his departure point in the early eighties welding salvaged steel into radical furniture, celebrated designer Tom Dixon successfully reinvented himself through a series of salient design lives. This Materialism Alloy Candle is a hallmark of his consistent interest in contemporary novel designs and silhouettes. A clean-cut candle that features a woody fragrance anchored by cool metallic facets rests in a minimalist aluminum vessel that has a lacquered interior for use after the candle is finished as a home staple that remains ever-functional and forever chic.