Smells Like Home

We all notice how other people's homes smell, and judge them accordingly. Liz Caraffi talks about the smells that mean home to her.

I’ve always had a good nose, but you never really know what home smells like ’til you go on holiday for a week or two. The moment you walk through the door into your temporary abode, you’re immediately greeted by a smell, lingering, telling the story of a life. A different detergent, whiffs of incense, and stained walls from where candles were lit and left to burn too close to them.

You judge the family immediately. Are they partial to garlic? So are we. Ooo they like lilies, how depressing. By the second hour you don’t notice it anymore. Their smell becomes your smell. Only when you return home; striding through the door, dropping your bags and running to the bathroom desperate for a wee, do you realise your house has a smell too. An odour.

I have two.

The first was given to me by my parents – I’ve only ever had one family home. They moved in when I was just a lump and I lived there ’til I moved out at 25. So that house is a part of me. I can’t put my finger on its smells but I can tell you they make me feel tempered and fractured, and confident and anxious. Getting under duvet covers at home-home feels like a warm hug from Mum and a telling off from Dad, all at once.

Photo credit: Sam Canvin

The second I’ve curated with my two friends, for our flat – a limited edition scent. Musky, sometimes with stale smoky aromas from overenthusiastic guests at parties and dinners; ‘Oh yeah, smoke inside. Make sure the bedroom doors are shut first, please.’* Undertones of cooking, and fancy shampoo (not mine).

Perhaps one day, I’ll pass on a smell made with someone new, to someone small. Half of them. Half of me. Smell number three.


*I have learnt that the only smell you can individually preserve is the smell of your own room – this is sacred, no one is allowed to undo your hard work. Drying clothes near the radiator and lighting fig candles, airing your room in the evening and spraying lavender on your pillow to help you sleep.

Liz Caraffi | @LizCaraffi