Heard On The Street

[Photo by Stephen Karlisch]I ran into Napa Home owner Julia Elam last evening while she was walking her two beyond-cute French bulldogs (L'il Bean and Napoleon, above) along Turtle Creek. She was so excited about a new candle line they're carrying called Saint Parfum. I don't know about you, but I have a hard time getting excited about candles. I listened anyway, because Julia knows her stuff.

After she told me about them, I was excited, too, and called up Saint Parfum in Seattle where they are based. I talked to co-owner Spencer Krenke.

Here's the scoop:
Saint Parfum is a new home fragrance company that just launched in August. Co-owned by long time perfumer Spencer Krenke, this energetic luxury startup employs 2 1/2 perfumers ("two full time and an apprentice," he says) who hand blend candles from 100 percent pure essential oils, some of them hard to find and expensive, such as neroli or bitter orange blossom, and frankincense and myrrh. "Most candles use only 10-20 percent of essential oils," he explains.

For custom candles or diffusers, Saint Parfum's perfumers will custom blend scents for an additional $175, on top of the cost of individual scents. Basic candles/diffusers start at $65 but run as much as $1,000 depending on which essential oils you choose.

The boxes are hand made.

Spencer tells me that while candles are still popular, room diffusers (which I admit I am prejudiced against) outsell them a whopping 5 to one in the home fragrance industry. He's putting his money in the future of diffusers, he says. "People who are romantics will always buy candles, but the industry is trending away from them and towards diffusers. I mean, when a candle lasts 65 hours and a room diffuser lasts 4 or 5 months, which would you buy?"

I'm going to have to reconsider my bias.

There's also an environmental issue to consider, naturally, this being a California company. Spencer says the California legislature is, within the next 6-12 months, poised to ban all home fragrances containing alcohol, which emit harmful VOCs into the environment. Most room sprays contain alcohol because the pump device won't work without it, he says. Dang. There goes my L'Occitane room spray, and might also explain why my favorite Restoration Hardware Fresh room spray bit the dust. Saint Parfum diffusers are alcohol-free.

What happens in California doesn't just stay in California as we all know. Soon, the rest of the country will follow suit. The future of all room sprays hangs in the balance. "I'm a big Dyptique fan," Spencer told me. "I won't be able to buy the room spray any more. I wouldn't wish this on my biggest competitor (which Dipytque just might be). It's an awful situation for these home fragrance companies to be in."

Spencer, who's a nice guy, is crying all the way to the bank. His home fragrance line is already the top seller at Barney's New York and Barney's Beverly Hills, he says. Houston socialite Lynn Wyatt, who professes to spend $5,000 - $10,000 a year on candles alone, has recently ordered a dozen white tea and ginger candles (#12) from Houston boutique Sloan Hall.