Hi Guys! This week we are announcing something pretty minor but I’m still excited about – we’re naming the blog! So now that Northshire Living is now our business, and no longer a blog, it felt like the blog needed a new name. Did it actually? Probably not. But I thought it did and I’ve been agonizing over it for months, staring at the placeholder of “Niki’s Blog” on our website trying to come up with something better. Well, whilst re-working our about page, I had an epiphany! What I try to create, and what I try to teach others to do is how to craft a well curated home, one that feels personal & interesting, while never taking our eyes off of the big picture, making sure every detail feels purposeful and well thought out. A Curated Home. Concise, yet perfect for the spaces I aim to create, with a nod to how I got my start, in Art. I hope you like it!
For our first lesson in curation, I’d like to talk about something often overlooked by us visual people on all of our design blogs, that is vitally important to creating an inviting home – the way it smells! Smell is the possibly the most evocative of all of our senses, and of all the things we want to be able to smell just from a memory, isn’t it home? Can’t think of what your home smells like…? You’re not alone! With millions of options & products entering our home, unsavory smells that seem to linger forever, and busy lives it can seem impossible to get the kind of house that guests walk into an say “It smells amazing in here!” – But I am here to tell you it’s possible, and give you lots of tips to get you there.
It all starts with a good foundation.
So, this may seem obvious, but it is super easy to get used to your own “funk” (don’t be ashamed, everyone has a funk sometimes) and miss underlying odors you may not be noticing… But we promise your guests will. (And if they’re your mother in law they will tell you.) So what is a good foundation? A neutral base, free of odors! What does that look like? It’s a clean room, dusted regularly, with proper humidity, and doing your best to combat any unsavory smells everyday life tends to produce.
Here are our top 10 funk culprits & how to stop them:
- Damp – There’s no disguising this one, it hits you the second you enter the house. Number one gross, damp can take a perfectly fine room and make it feel like a disgusting dank cellar full of spiders and yucky stuff. Oh and it will take every single thing in the room with it and make it smell like it came from a musty hole somewhere. Get yourself a dehumidifier, run it, and empty it on the reg. You’re welcome. If you have a problem area like a basement, waterproofing like DryLok can help mitigate this.
- Trash – Ok this one seems like it should be really obvious but somehow there are still people out here in 2018 oblivious to their home smelling like garbage. Crazy right? All garbage should be kept in sealed containers (like these simple human ones we love) or built into a cabinet, an open trash can is just an invitation for bugs or your dog to snack. (Suzie!) Empty your trash regularly, if you open the can and get a wall of stank, take it out, even if it isn’t full. Only clean out the fridge if you are also taking out the trash. Wash your bins or liners anytime they seem a little stinky or there is a leak in the bag. This goes for compost especially!
- Pets – I could probably write a paragraph for each and every kind of animal but for simplicity sake I’m going to stick to what I know, Suzie Q Conte. Who if you have met you’d know her nickname is “Stinks.” Being vigilant about dog hair is key, vacuum regularly (or have an amazing husband who does) and/or buy a cute robotic vacuum (you will still need to actually vacuum with a real one though). You may want to add some baking soda to your vacuum bag to keep pet odors from coming out the exhaust of your vacuum, especially if you are a last minute vacuum-er! Also key is keeping your actual animal smelling nice, as they are the source of the stink. If you’ve got a rascal like we do that means checking them thoroughly for mud or poop when they come inside. It also means regular baths! These can be a struggle at first but the more you do them, use nice warm water, bring treats and use a dog shampoo bar (which feels like a good pet) – the more your dog will cooperate. And don’t forget about beds, collars, leashes, cushions, or anything else your pet has a fondness for, I try to wash those at the same time as I wash Suz so they don’t stink her up again and it makes a big difference. And one last note on animals, remember that wherever you have them use the bathroom is probably going to smell at least a little bit to your guests, even if you clean up regularly, so letting them go just outside your back door, under a window you often open, or anywhere you spend lots of time probably best avoided.
- Cooking Odors – We all know the scent of fresh cookies sells houses, but there are many meals that can leave lingering odors that aren’t exactly appealing. The number one way to avoid your kitchen smelling like last nights spaghetti is good ventilation above your range. A properly sized vent hood, with adequate CFMs for your ranges output, that vents to the outside will make a world of difference from a recirculating microwave hood combo. Big Cook? Size your hood up from your range by 3-6″ to get maximum efficiency. We spec’d this one on a job recently and love it so much! Don’t do draperies or curtains on windows near your range, not only is it a potential fire hazard but fabrics tend to hold onto odors. The same can be said for cabinets, we like to pull them away from the range hood a few inches for cleanliness (and it looks nicer!).
- Refrigerator Odors – It wasn’t until I ventured out into the world that I discovered – with horror – that some people just put stuff in the refrigerator willy nilly with no worries about covering it. Folks, If you don’t want refrigerator funk everything should be sealed, no matter how long it’s going to be in there. I love my pyrex sets with covers for that reason, things I’ve prepped ahead of time or leftovers can go in the fridge and be tightly sealed with zero effort. I am also a Press ‘n Seal addict. Beyond keeping odors on lock but wrapping your foods, remember to clean out your fridge once a month and use a fridge & freezer baking soda box in the back near the vents, switching it out each time you clean. These are my favorite for the freezer because I don’t think they need the power of a full box and it’s easy for boxes to get buried in the freezer where they won’t do any good.
- Drain & Disposal Odors – You wash a lot of things down there, so even the cleanest of homes can expect problems with this. For folks with disposals, we love these plink balls they work miracles but if you’re more into the natural route grinding any citrus peel works pretty well too. For actual drain odors, SaniSticks are a great solution for odors hiding deep in your drain. And if your drain is excessively
- Bathroom Odors – Ok so this is for sure the most uncomfortable one to discuss but perhaps the most offensive when they linger so we’re doing it for your sake! My first matter of importance is the EVERYONE should have a bathroom fan that vents OUT, and if you have a separate water closet or a powder room that should get one too. For me that’s a non-negotiable feature. It goes without saying to keep it clean in here, but beyond regular cleaning, adding an automatic cleaner to your toilet tank or placing a box of baking soda behind your tank will help keep things fresh for day to day. People often forget about their bathroom trash too, we recommend a nice sealed bin for that too, though we know the decorative ones are tempting! In any bathroom a guest uses it is only polite to have on hand 3 options for them to avoid any embarrassing odors. That includes a deodorizing spray, a candle, and matches. This citrus spray has been my go to forever. A candle is just a nice bit of ambiance and I like to leave one lit in the bathroom whenever people are over and will mask light smells without a guest having to think about it. But a match? Nothing I’ve ever used works better than striking a match and blowing it out to cover up a smell the old fashioned way. There are so many options for stylish matches now!
- Dirty Filters – When is the last time you cleaned your air conditioner filter? Or the filter screens on your heating system? Or your fan? Air is full of particulates and you’d be amazed by the filth that can build up on these – especially if you live in a city or on a busy road. Not only is it bad for your health, it’s often also hurting your heating or cooling systems efficiency, if not the unit itself. And, I swear to god, you can smell a nasty filter in the AIR! Ever checked into a bad hotel room and woken up feeling like you might have contracted Legionnaires? No? Lucky you, but seriously clean your filters so you don’t ever have to experience that feel. All your filters or even your entire system should be cleaned or replaced at least once a year, and check them periodically to make sure they don’t need a tune up. And like realize that everything air moves through has a filter or blades that should be cleaned at SOME point as part of proper home maintenance! That includes your bathroom fan, it will last longer and stay quieter if you give a good vent brushing
- Poor Storage – Friends, I’m here to tell you, moth balls are disgusting and should be treated as the enemy! Did you know cedar will do a much better job and smells amazing? You can buy all sorts of cedar storage balls & rings & hangers & boxes & panels & closets – guys there are literally zero excuses for moth balls! But also its not just keeping stuff from getting mothy – its keeping it from getting that storage funk. Basically you should try to create as much consistency in the environment of your storage space as possible, don’t let it change drastically in humidity or temperature if you can avoid it, and make sure the area gets some ventilation. This is especially important for soft items that soak up odors like paper & fabric.
- Porous Surfaces Everywhere! – So this is one where me, the interior designer has a real shot at teaching you something. Did you know that the more porous a surface is, the more prone it is to holding onto odors? Fabric and paper are probably the biggest culprits here… linens, drapery, upholstery, and wall to wall carpets are all notorious for holding onto odors and people tend to focus on cleaning those, but when was the last time you had your rugs professionally cleaned? or cleaned your lampshades? Anything that exists in your home and is softer than wood (except for silicone) is highly prone to holding onto odors! Books sometimes need to be aired out. Most soft furnishings & fabrics in your home will do best with a combination of regular vacuuming to remove dust (for delicate items try a handy vac with a brush attachment as they are less powerful) AND occasional steam cleaning! (this steam system is on my wishlist!) For stubborn odors, you can add a few drops of essential oil to your steamer tank, I like tea tree as it’s really purifying. I am really not a fan of Febreeze, I don’t believe that it’s not damaging and I don’t think it works. I would sooner burn incense under a set of drapes to try and give them a better smell than Febreeze them. And it doesn’t just stop at soft things, any item that isn’t non-porous can hold onto odors! But luckily, you have that steam cleaner now and you can use it on literally anything – wood floors, marble tile, wood furniture (but be careful with this!), your walls (just not ones with wallpaper… but it will help you strip that!). Countertops in Stainless Steel & NSF Certified Quartz like Cambria and Dekton are totally non-porous and will not hold odors at all – They are considered the most sanitary which is important to know if you are remodeling! No, I’m not saying you should build your entire home out of stainless steel & Dekton (unless you want to, call me, this could be really cool) but what I do mean to say is that be aware that surfaces make a difference and what you choose makes a difference beyond what it looks like. So go for some soft marble tile if you LOVE it but maybe balance it with easy to clean and not very porous high gloss paint and enameled porcelain. Or pick an upholstered chair with a steel wrapped back for that pair of chairs in your living room 4 feet from your kitchen. And remember, as much as we all love an open concept, if your living room is open to your kitchen, burning toast is a way bigger deal. Just something to think about!
Really Stubborn Stinks! Ok so not everyone is perfect and it’s easy to end up with a horrific stubborn smell on you hands whether you created it yourself, inherited a funk from a previous owner, or are just trying to help out a friend. Drastic times call for drastic odor sucking measures! Here are a few of our foolproof ways to get rid of even the stinkiest of stinks:
- Open all the windows. Get some fresh air in there, do it regularly & in combination with the next few ideas! In lieu of windows and in addition to them, fans, air purifiers, & possibly dehumidifiers if there is any kind of damp are all your friend here – forget about the rest of your house and put them all where the stink lives! (and if it’s your entire house, I’m sorry this is going to take a while.)
- Get yourself some of my favorite magic odor sucking powder. And put it EVERYWHERE! Yeah, I’m talking baking soda – it’s not just for your fridge! I’m here to tell you, if you didn’t know you can buy this in BULK, and you should because you’re going to be using tons of it in your life now. You can sprinkle this on soft surfaces, let it sit a few hours and vacuum it up, this it it’s most useful. I like to make little sachets with it super simply with a thin but tightly woven fabric like a hankie and place them wherever I want a little bit of freshness
- Put out a million gel odor eliminators, usually 1 per room is enough but when we moved into our house I had at least 6 of these working on the living, kitchen, & dining area and I think 3 more in our master, plus some spread out into every room.
- Replace what you can – Sometimes odors like mold or smoke or pet urine just can’t be rectified unless you take drastic measures. Before moving in to our house we took up all of the carpeting & laminate on the first floor, refinished some flooring and installed new carpets, removed the wallpaper and gave the entire first floor a fresh coat of paint on trims & walls. It was a lot of work, but once we were done our house smelled like a brand new house and all of the funk that was there when we bought it was nowhere in sight. If a furniture piece stinks, have it reupholstered by a professional who is going to also replace the stuffing & foam which is really where the gross stuff is hiding. Replace pillow inserts with new ones.
Beyond combating the funk, the other half of a good foundation is good old fashioned, clean air. Here are a few of my favorite ways to purify the air inside your home!
- Plants – I truly believe this is the most effective way to purify the air in your home, as well as a great way to bring happiness and routine into your life. I go through spurts of being good at taking care of plants but they are a great way to improve the feel of your home, especially in the winter. Some of my favorite stylish air purifying and low maintenance plants are spider plants, weeping fig ficus, snake plants, and aloe vera. Boston ferns require a little more care but do fabulously in bathrooms which I think is a great place to have some plants that often gets forgotten when it comes to homey touches.
- Himalayan Salt Lamp – It may seem kitsch but I have a big soft spot for these hippy dippy salt lamps, and maybe I’m imagining it but I feel like they work. Something about having one on just makes me feel happier & at ease, the air just feels a little cleaner!
- A Berger Lamp – Definitely the most stylish option and a fabulous story to go along with it! Berger lamps were invented in 1898 to purify the air in hospitals, this small catalytic lamp created by pharmacy dispenser Maurice Berger, quickly became a popular for the home because of its wonderful aroma. These come in a ton of different stylish varieties with a million different scents (and you can mix them) so it is super customizable! The cube is my favorite.
- A Stylish Electric Air Purifier – There are actually so many options for this now! Check out this customizable one, the dyson one (of course theirs is beautiful), or this black & white cutie.
- A humidifier – This is really a dead of winter tip but when the air is dry, it also seems stale. In the absence of fresh air, normalizing the humidity of your home with a cool mist humidifier will also infuse freshness into the air in that moisture. For an added boost you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. (Can you tell this is my solution to everything?)
- Fresh Air! – Ok even in the dead of winter, sometimes it’s necessary to open all the windows and let new air in – this is like a life changing revelation if you’ve never tried it before. Especially as winter sicknesses come through its best to just let some fresh mountain air in. Just after a fresh snow is the best smelling air in the world! If it were up to me I would do this all the time, but I’m pretty sure it would drive Chris insane with all the heat going right out the window, so I try to limit it to just when I feel like we really need it. You can always crack a window for a little taste of fresh air without the commitment of having the house temperature drop a full 10 degrees. If you live in a place where opening the windows would be gross & smelly, It sounds like you need a house in Vermont to come get some! 😉
So by now you probably think I’m some domestic goddess who’s home is always immaculate and smells like roses but you’d be 110% wrong. I’m full of these helpful tips but I barely have time to clean the toilet most days and if you ask Chris, he’ll definitely tell you there are quite a few areas of our home that could us a deep clean. In reality I do all of these things frantically before guests come and I usually am so behind I’m welcoming them as I’m still finishing up. So I don’t want you to read this post and feel like you are less than – these tips are here to help you and you can follow them – or not, and your home will still probably smell fine. These are just my methods for getting it to it’s absolute best – and I’m still dreaming of the day I can afford to hand this off to my cleaning lady!
This post turned out a LOT longer than I ever anticipated – but there is just so much to cover! But I promise, this is the actual hard part and the rest of it is fun! Stay tuned for part two next week when will talk about building a scent palette and introducing scented products into your home in a way that feels cohesive and smells amazing, from the soap you use to the candles you light for company!