My Fragrant Old House

I’ll be posting a new series of articles on stained glass construction in a few weeks. I purchased some new (expensive!) stained glass design software from Dragonfly, Glass 2000 Professional, to help me complete the half-dozen stained glass projects I’ve got on my plate. So I’ll post a review of that as well.

I’m gonna change gears and show a bit of my metrosexual side. I like fragrant houses. I spent my early years living in a small town in Japan, where my mother became a passionate connoisseur of oriental incense. She often had a subtle fragrance burning in the house long after we moved back to the States.

For me, a fragrant house smells like home. Since I moved out on my own, I’ve usually had a cone of incense burning, mostly temple fragrances. It beats smelling the dogs’ microwaved breakfast all day. And the cats’ litter pans in the kitchen extension.

After moving to Brooklyn I found myself estranged from my Manhattan oriental incense supplier. I tried buying it online but the stuff I was getting smelled more like a brothel or a hippy crash pad than the earthier stuff I liked.

On an early trip to Nantucket, Karen and I visited a fragrance store where the owner turned me on to something called essential oils and a device called an oil burner. While I still prefer the smokier fragrance of Japanese incense, oil lasts a lot longer. After feeding the dogs in the morning, I pour a 1/4 ounce or so into the burner and it’s good for the whole day. Here’s a shot of the burner.

Another cool thing about essential and fragrant oils (there’s a difference: essential oils are extracted from natural sources; fragrant oils are made chemically) is that you can create your own blends. Some days I want a woodsy fragrance, other days I want a Christmasy smell. Here are a few of the scents I have stashed behind the kitchen sink:

Most of these are essential oils like pine, clove, cedar and other spices. But a few are fragrant, like Victorian Christmas.

But beware: I’ve read that essential oils can make pets sick and can even be lethal for some. So I stick with fragrance oils, which are usually cheaper anyway.

I usually pick up these oils wholesale from two online sources:

Buying oils online is a bit of a crap shoot. The names only give you a general indication. For instance, “cranberry” can have a light, fruity aroma or it can stink like cheap candy. It’s like going into a wine store without knowing the labels you like. Some stores offer one-ounce samplers where, chances are, you’ll find one or two you like.


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Welcome to Brooklyn Row House

This blog is about the challenges of renovating an old (1903) Brooklyn, New York row house.

My last major renovation project was the master bedroom, most of which is about finish carpentry. You’ll find other completed home improvement projects in the Projects submenu at the top of this page.

I’m not a professional builder and don’t pretend to be. I’m just an experienced amateur raised in a family of committed DIYers. I try to closely follow local and national building codes but don’t mistake anything on this site to be professional or even accurate advice! Your mileage may and definitely will vary.

This is the third iteration of, from scratch-built to Drupal and now Wordpress. I hope you enjoy your time here.