Air fresheners? Yeuch... But what about a rather more classy - and pricey - 'room cologne'?
IN THIS business you really do learn something new every day. Room cologne, for instance. Heard of the stuff? Use it, even? Congratulations. You are at the cutting edge of what interior designers call sensual living. Room cologne is, of course, a vastly more sophisticated version of air freshener. Some of us have felt in the past that a can of Glade in the downstairs loo did nothing that a good healthy breeze wouldn't achieve just as effectively, especially when the freshener in question leaves behind that artificial, chemical smell (useful tip from Xenia the workie: light a match in your loo and all odours will magically disappear). Room cologne, however, isn't intended to mask, but to add. If you've chosen cool blues for your living room, why not add a relaxing scent to enhance the atmosphere (etc, etc).

The question is, would you pay pounds 9.95 for this elegant Kenneth Turner atomiser of Original Room Cologne (or, grander still, Parfum d'ambience)? The supermarkets are catching up fast with the fashion for smelly living. For 99p at Tesco, you can get an (aerosol) can of Fine Air Fragrance (again, quite, quite different from a lowly air freshener). Their range of four scents includes Tranquility, which is intended to fill the room with roses, freesia, mandarin blossom, fruity notes and sandalwood. And it really isn't half bad. Glen Miller of producers Nicole Beauty Products explains. "The natural raw materials for fragrance are extremely expensive - extract of rose petals, for instance, costs pounds 1000s per kilo. Our ingredients are synthetic alternatives to the real thing. We are inspired by the scents made by the great perfume houses for personal use. And of course we produce in bulk, which cuts costs."

Kenneth Turner the man is a horticulturalist and floral designer. Kenneth Turner the company produces scented candles and dried flowers as well as posh atomisers. And a layperson can tell the difference between Tesco and Turner. Tesco, according to a tester, is "pretty, but cloying"; Turner's mixture of poplar, honeysuckle, lemon and orange oils, cloves and cinnamon smells more dense, complex, and, I guess, natural. In fact it's composed of a mixture of real essential oils and chemical fakes (not unreasonable if you think that the same quantity of all-natural personal scent costs more like pounds xxxx), the most expensive ingredient being the sweet poplar oil. It's not unknown, says the company, for customers to wear the scents themselves.

I turned to Michelle Ogundehin of Elle Deco for her thoughts on the advisablity of room fragrance of any sort. "Scent is grossly overlooked when homes are planned. Why come into a house which smells of last night's dinner when you could sprinkle a few drops of oil into a burner and get lavender (relaxing) or rosemary (invigorating)? But a room scent should no more be overpowering than a personal scent, and you should spend just as much time choosing it. My worry about floral fragrances is that they can be the scent equivalent of white noise. A single note is simpler and more calming. Cheap scent, though, is a categorical no no."

In other words, with Kenneth Turner, you're getting all the benefit of your hedgerows and your cake ingredients. But for a cheap and chic alternative, sprinkle a single essential oil on a ring of cardboard, place it on top of a table lamp and breathe deeply.