How to: Creating Ambience

This Saturday’s special is all about creating ambience in your living quarters. The holiday season is fast approaching, and this means that every blogger must absolutely share a list of their favourite scented candles for achieving the perfectly hygge Christmas ambience.

You had the right inkling, dear reader – this year I have decided to take the scenting game to the next level. There’s a reason for this: I do not have enough pens, pencils, cotton buds, makeup brushes, paperclips, staples (!) and useless small knickknacks to store in the millions of empty Diptyque candle jars that keep accumulating in my apartment. Their physical appearance in front of me every night as I brush my teeth and do the quiet calculus on how many loft apartments in downtown Manhattan I could have purchased I lieu of smelly wax got me thinking whether there might be a way to make my money literally evaporate in the air without leaving physical remnants. And dear reader – there is.


During one particularly exciting meeting some time ago I watched (on mute, mind you, I do have manners) an instagram video by Gwyneth Paltrow (this should have been the first warning) in which she showcased I’m not exactly sure what, but it took place in her office. And she did this scenting ritual in the beginning of the video, holding a stick of smelly wood in her hand from which lovely perfumed smoke wafted to scent her office just so.

I obviously needed to have such smelly wood in my life. I released this wish to the universe, and what do you know, it delivered for fucking once as I came across Palo Santo Scented Wood on the instagram account of Officine Universelle Buly 1803 (@officine_universelle_buly).

As I was in Paris anyway, I visited their terrifyingly chic, tiny shop on Rive Gauche (I don’t generally do Rive Droite unless I’m absolutely forced or need to get coffee at Cafe Kitsuné). It’s basically your Victorian apothecary deal with very stylish people inside.

Anyway, I made my purchase of Palo Santo sticks of wood (100grams, to be very precise), which were ever so carefully weighed on antique scales (salesperson was wearing cotton gloves and painstakingly approached each stick with antique tongs). You ask yourself what the fuck is this now. See, burning holy wood (Palo Santo literally is Spanish for holy wood) was not invented by Goop, but has been burned in South America since apparently forever as, ahem, insect repellent, among many other things.

The wood smells extremely pleasant, with hints of pine, mint and lemon. Many brands do candles and other products with Palo Santo smell (Le Labo, for example). It is debatable how sustainable the business of chopping down wood in the Yukatan Peninsula and then selling it on outrageous profit margin to Western yuppie hipsters to cleanse their chakras is. Because it’s 2019, the question of cultural appropriation (because Incas) cannot be entirely avoided, either.

So, what’s the verdict? After a Palo Santo-ritual, my place basically smells of a mixture of barbecue, fire place and Diptyque’s Feu de Bois, which I do not have a problem with as such. However the cosy ambience is somewhat ruined by the fact that I absolutely must keep my windows open throughout the chakra-cleansing ceremony lest my smoke detector freaks out, which in turn makes the apartment freezing cold. Gwyneth’s offices clearly are located in warmer climes.


Incense is basically the same thing than burning sticks of wood, but less hassle. I like Astier de Villatte incense stick collection the best. Good quality incense sticks have nothing to do with the migraine-inducing joss-sticks everybody burned at university, by the way. I would still advice to open a window for 10 minutes after burning an incense stick (usually burns for about 25 minutes).

For those who travel to interesting places, there are many Japanese brands that do extremely pleasant incenses.


Now, you don’t go to Officine Universelle Buly just to buy a couple of bits of wood in a paper bag, do you? No, you don’t. You also buy a L’Alabaster, small porcelain container that houses a piece of exceptionally porous sedimentary stone. You add a couple of drops of perfume concentrate (mine is Venus de Milo because obviously) on the stone and let the smell linger while the porcelain box is open. No playing with burning things, smoke, fire or anything like that, and the thing lasts of course for as long as you are happy with the perfume you chose.

If you prefer to scent your home with a scented candle, you obviously will not go wrong with Diptyque, ever. The pine-deal from this year’s collection is my favourite, and you will do great with their cult classic Feu de Bois as well.


4 thoughts on “How to: Creating Ambience

  1. You have gorgeous porcelain ornaments, so classy. Also the glittery animals, so kitsch! I bought a tiny packet of papiers d’Armenie (I think) in Catbird in Brooklyn last summer. It was the cheapest thing in the shop. It looks like a tiny book of blotting paper, which you burn for the important ambience. But I haven’t used it yet, because who burns their souvenirs? (well, me, because I have also brought back frankincense from another trip, but I need to keep the blotting papers to admire for a while longer before I use them…)


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