Long read: The rise of the scented object

Scented ceramic objects at Avery Perfume Gallery at Selfridge, London, UK.

I first became aware of the power of ceramic as a scent diffuser at a Chanel beauty launch. We were given tiny ceramic tiles in the shape of a camellia that were scented with Chanel no 5. The porous surface lets the scent linger for ages on a ceramic tile, making it both pretty and useful – who doesn’t love that? A year later, I was given an Hermès scented ceramic tile in the store when testing some fragrances. So much nicer than a paper blotter, no? And keepable too.

I remembered the ceramic tiles more recently, while thinking about scented home objects, which definitely seem to be on the rise. Of course, scented objects in the form of fragranced candles have been around for decades, ever since the cult of the Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin candles that launched a thousand imitations. These days, it seems like there’s a new brand of scented candles every day, in the same serene glass holders adorned with minimalist white paper labels. Lovely as they are, they can be a little predictable with their identical calming scents of lavender/rose/orange blossom.

Much more exciting are the candles that have an afterlife as wonderful decorative vessels. Buy a Fornasetti or Astier de Villatte, and once the fragranced wax has melted, you’re left with an interesting and arresting ceramic object in itself. Hermès joined the fray in 2014, with its “art of living” home-fragrance collection. Featuring a scented pebble and a Limoges porcelain candle ‘cup’ designed by artist Guillaume Bardet with Hermès’ home fragrance perfumer Céline Ellena, their sculptural, faceted surface is suitably zen-like for today’s mindful modernist.

Hermes art of living candles

And then there’s the re-emergence of incense as luxury item. Forget the old notions of sickly joss sticks; modern incense is finely crafted; in Fornasetti’s case by Japanese artisans using the ancient ritual of Kodo. The latest, ‘Flora di Fornasetti’ is a rare floral-scented incense, a blend of ivy, lily of the valley, iris, jasmine and tuberose notes. The ritual of incense burning is something of a luxury in itself, a quiet moment in the day that’s reserved just for you. And so what you place your scented incense sticks in should be as stylishly considered as your Skandium-outfitted apartment. Fornasetti has catered for this shift with its signature illustrated ceramic-lidded incense boxes, which have a strategically positioned hole  to hold the incense. And at Astier de Villatte, the incense burners are imbued with wit and whimsy. I was at the Paris store last week and had to tear myself away from the assorted ceramic birds, animals and reclining figures.

Fornasetti Flora Di Fornasetti Incense

Astier de Villatte incense burners

Meanwhile, at Kilian, the niche fragrance house recently acquired by Estee Lauder, fragrance is never just something that comes in a bottle. For founder Kilian Hennessy, the tagline, ‘fragrance as an art’ means it’s something multi-sensorial that transcends smell and encompasses jewellery, fashion accessories and everything that surrounds you. His jewellery contains a tiny ceramic blotter. You spray the block with a spritz of your perfume of choice and the scent lasts about three weeks. It’s a novel way to wear perfume, not to mention a practical solution for those with allergies who can’t wear scent on their skin. (Added bonus: it’s also proved to be a clever way to get Kilian’s fragrance worn and mentioned on the red carpet!)

To accompany the new Kilian fragrance Moonlight In Heaven that arrives on April 1st, the Moonlight collection of jewellery will include deco-inspired scented rings, chain necklaces, bracelets and even cufflinks. Aside from those are the cult minaudieres that the perfumes come presented in. Leave the bottle on your vanity and the ‘case’ becomes an eyecatching evening clutch. (So popular are these that Kilian has branched into uber-luxe versions that are sold on their own. Think limited edition deco-style clutches handcrafted with seventeen coats of lacquer.)

At the new Kilian flagship store in Burlington Arcade (where sweet-smelling neighbours include Chanel and Frederic Malle) you can also stock up on other scented objects. As well as mother-of-pearl inlaid ceramic candle holders (£150, with refills at £50); I love the accompanying matchbox and scented paperweight.

The rise of the scented ceramic object includes scented jewellery, like this Kilian scented bracelet ss16
Kilian scented earrings SS16

Fragrance retail specialist The Avery Perfume Gallery (top and below) is taking the trend for scented objects to a whole new experiential level. Venture into its stores in London, Milan, Doha and Florence, and you can enjoy all manner of retail theatre, from its exclusive mouth-blown glass ‘olfactory boules’, to the charming ceramic animals and birds (from £28, buy them here). Like the other ceramic objects I’ve mentioned, these animals have a dual purpose. They make a visual statement, but they have a practical use too; spray your perfume into a hole in the base, and your space will be gently scented throughout the day.

scent boules, scented ceramic objects and experiential retail at avery perfume gallery, Selfridges
Scented ceramic objects - panda and Jackrussell by avery Perfume Gallery
Avery Perfume Gallery at Selfridges featuring scented ceramic object in the shape of animals and birds

Free from generic celebrity fragrances, at Avery Perfume Gallery you’re encouraged to take your time to explore new and niche names including Roads from Ireland, Santa Eulalia from Italy, and the Andrée Putman line, created by the daughter of the late interior designer. Its latest outpost is situated on the fourth floor of Selfridges Oxford Street (above), far from the bustling perfume halls below. Use any of your newly discovered fragrances to scent a ceramic owl or monkey and you have a ready-made visual-meets-olfactory talking point of ‘where did you get that’, to amuse and delight any discerning house guest.