Best home fragrance: 15 impressive scents by season

Luxury but on a budget

Annie's white coffee table with round seagrass matt in the middle and Real Homes magazine on top, with a black reed diffuser and two white candles beside a vase filled with colorful tulips
(Image credit: Future/Annie Collyer)

Let me start by saying, I am obsessed with my home smelling nice. That's why my apartment (and me) are both Real Homes' guinea pigs when it comes to reed diffuser testing and scented candle lighting. So, yes: My place always smells divine.

With so many different brands to choose from and an abundance of scents to suit each season, I'm here to help you cut through the noise and prove you don't always have to purchase fragrances in person. I believe that scent brings together a space, and whether your home looks just like something you'd find on Pinterest or that's what you're aiming for, the way a space smells controls how we (and friends and fam) see it. If you've ever cooked fish for dinner and found that the next day your kitchen still smells, you'll know what I mean. 

So, I've done the dirty work here and made sure that all of the home fragrances below have been tested. Mostly by me, but I've also listed a couple of our editor's favorites. I've separated them by season and I've listed three fragrances that will impress you year-round. Get shopping.

Our 15 favorite home fragrances to buy in 2023

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Year-round home fragrances

Spring home fragrances

Summer home fragrances

Floral home fragrances

Fall home fragrances

Real Homes review process — How did we test these home fragrances?

Home fragrance testing image with reed diffusers, candles and room sprays on coffee table

A collection of home fragrances on Annie's coffee table

(Image credit: Future/Annie Collyer)
Annie Collyer illustration
Annie Collyer

Hi! I'm Annie, Real Homes' head ecommerce editor, and I've been testing home fragrances since 2018. I live in a two-bedroom apartment with my husband and my pug, and I've reviewed 100+ candles and reed diffusers. Only my favorites, and the fragrances I would repurchase made it to this list. I tend to know whether I like a fragrance before it's half empty, and I'll move fragrances around my home as I use them, to see which room(s) they work best inside.

Types of home fragrance

Using a candle to scent your space offers an explosion of fragrance over time. Be sure to consider the wax of your candle, with soy being the best and most clean option in our opinion, and also consider the candle's size in comparison to your room size, and how many hours it can burn for. Another thing to think about is the safety of lighting a candle at home. If you have small children or wandering pets, then you might be better off with a much less risky reed diffuser.

Reed diffusers
You can't really go wrong with a reed diffuser. They are sensational if you want more control over how strong the scent will be or have concerns about the safety of burning candles. Keep in mind that you'll need to flip the sticks to change which end is in the oil every couple of weeks (some reed diffusers require this every other day) for a fragrance boost. Add reeds or remove reeds to control fragrance depending on the size of your space. Though they're not necessarily dangerous, you will still want to place them out of the way of children or pets to avoid spills on your furniture. I would avoid putting them in bedrooms, but if you do, take it out while you sleep because pets shouldn't inhale them all day long.

How to choose a scent

Fragrance is very subjective. Put simply — just choose what you love the smell of. if you're unsure, there are a few general rules that can help you make the right choice.

Living rooms: The living room is usually the largest room in the house and can take a strong fragrance. Bold florals, rich amber-based or woody-smoky fragrances, and sweet scents can all travel beautifully across a living room. We'd avoid anything herbal or overly subtle, as you probably won't be able to smell it much.

Bedrooms: Choosing a scent for a bedroom is all about making sure you won't disrupt your sleep with an overly strong or stimulating fragrance. Avoid citruses or cloyingly sweet scents. We recommend subtly blended white florals, minimalist scents with tea notes, or herbal fragrances with lavender or chamomile.

Kitchens: The best fragrance for a kitchen will need to blend perfectly with the smells of food being prepared, so it's always a good idea to pick something that harmonizes with those smells. Notes of tomato, passion fruit, basil, citrus, or mint all work really well in kitchens. While a reed diffuser works well in any other room, we avoid putting them in kitchens where they might take on cooking smells, or heat could impact their oils.

Bathrooms: This is your wild card of a room that can accommodate almost any fragrance, strong or subtle — it's all about preference. We prefer to stick to herbal or fresh fragrances in a bathroom and wouldn't opt for anything too heavy, especially if your bathroom is windowless.

Entryways: An entryway announces what your home is like to guests, so why not go for a blast of scent? Opulent white florals, rose scents, or complex woody fragrances will make a strong first impression.

Home office: A home office fragrance (or a room in which you work) needs to support productivity without being too distracting. Bright citruses will help you stay awake and concentrate, while a grounded fragrance with notes of amber or tobacco will conjure up a calm and controlled atmosphere. An essential oil diffuser can work well in a home office, too, for a calming scent that's not too soothing.

Things to think about when choosing a home fragrance

We've listed a range of specs above, along with each product we recommend. Specifications differ from reed diffusers to candles, but when it comes to both of these home fragrances, we've made sure to list both size and scent. Go for a larger candle if you are considering this for a big space. If it's a reed diffuser, then be sure to use all of the reeds if your space is large. Consider each fragrance's notes and think about the scents you usually pick up, or ones you already own (and like) at home.

When it comes to candles we've also been sure to list the burn time of each fragrance. Consider this and compare it to the candle's price. The last specification for candles that we listed is wax. This is mostly down to personal preference, but we have found that soy wax burns cleaner than others — and it does tend to be a better option for breathing in.

Reed diffusers
When listing reed diffusers, we've made sure to check if each reed diffuser has to be fully replaced once finished or if refills are available. Refilling your reed diffuser isn't only an eco-friendly option, but it's also more affordable than buying the entire diffuser vessel and fragrance again and again. Some vessels are recyclable, too.

Up next: ICYMI, these are the best air fresheners for a fragranced home, always

Annie Collyer
Head Ecommerce Editor

Hi! I'm Annie, and I'm the Head Ecommerce Editor at Real Homes. Along with my team, I'm here to review all of the products you might be considering buying for your home. As someone who lives in a flat with a small amount of storage space to work with, and with two indoor pets to clean up after, I am forever searching for stylish yet functional appliances that won't blemish my decor if I can't fit them in a cupboard. I love decorating my living room for each season, while my other hobbies include drinking a decent cup of coffee, going on park walks with my dog and enjoying an Instagrammable brunch with my husband.