Scent Style: Hazlitt and Strange Light Editor Haley Cullingham

Words by Sara Harowitz

Photography by Sal Patel

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Where do I begin with Haley Cullingham? I’ve admired her since the day I met her, basically—which was back in journalism school at Ryerson University. She was the editor of the Ryerson Review of Journalism right before me, and then we worked on a feminist blog called She Does The City together. Back when we were budding baby journalists just trying to make a difference, somewhere, to someone.

She has had an incredibly enviable career so far, including as editor-in-chief of Montreal’s acclaimed Maisonneuve; she currently works as senior editor for the exceptional online literary magazine Hazlitt and as an editor for Penguin Random House’s book imprint Strange Light.

She’s talented, she’s smart, she’s funny, she’s gorgeous. Okay, I’m done friendship swooning now—here’s how she scents her Toronto home.

Scent is so personal. What does it mean to you?

For me, scent is connected to paying attention. It’s something that can knock you into the present and back into your body when you’re drifting off to an anxious place—if you’re on a walk, worrying about work, or family, or whatever, then suddenly you catch the scent of wood burning, or dry leaves, or frost, it kind of brings you out of your own head, back to where you are. It is also, of course, an incredible trigger of memory, but I find lately that it’s that rooting in the now that scent does for me more often. A therapist once told me, when I was recovering from a back injury and in a lot of pain, to “orient towards pleasure” as much as I could, and I think things like scent are a really big part of that. Just remembering you have a body.

Describe your personality in three to five words.

You’re going to hate me for this one but it’s my favorite thing of the year, so I’m using it: I’m a new aunt! [Editor’s note: I don’t hate this at all, it’s adorable.]

With those words in mind, tell us about the diffuser blend that you’ve created to represent your scent style.

So, I decided to try to blend something that would be a good workday smell. I hate mornings and I’m always looking for ways to make them pleasant, and I thought this might be a good way to do that. I mixed Grapefruit, which is a scent I never would have tried if you hadn’t sent it to me, with Eucalyptus and Spruce, and got this really great, sharp-in-a-good-way smell.

I also started using Dusk in my bedroom before bed, sometimes adding some Peppermint or Eucalyptus to cut it a little, if I have a headache.

Why did you choose each of these oils and how do they work together? What does the final aroma smell like or remind you of?

My boss Jared and I were joking that everything we do scent-wise is just to try to make our apartments smell like the insides of trees. [Editor’s note: respect.]

What room do you diffuse this scent in and when do you diffuse it?

I read a thing, early in the pandemic, that talked about using different smells to create definition in space and time—kind of making rituals to help with the weird lack of routine. We have a one-bedroom apartment, and the living area is all one big space where we do everything now (except sleep): it’s where we cook, read, eat, watch TV, exercise, work, do video calls with our friends. I like using scent and light to define the context of all the different purposes that the space serves.

I usually do three different scents throughout the day. So, after I have breakfast and coffee, I’ll do something like that Eucalyptus, Grapefruit, and Spruce blend to wake up my brain, or sometimes Boost—something energizing that will help me focus, that wakes me up. Then, when I’m done work, I’ll do something like Pacific, just trying to change the context of the space a bit. Then, as it gets later, before bed, I’ll put Dusk in the Move Diffuser and carry it around with me like a mad-candle-woman from place to place, and then put it beside my bed while I read and eventually go to sleep.

Aside from scent, what else makes you feel truly at home in your space?

Obviously it’s my partner, Sal. Sorry but he is the fucking best. [Editor’s note: this is too adorable, STOP IT.]

What’s your favorite thing about your home?

I’m so grateful to it right now—to have a safe, warm, comfortable space during this, what a lucky thing. I get very attached to spaces and imbue them with a lot of meaning, and this apartment has been a real place of healing and growth and finding-of-comfort for me.


10 drops Grapefruit Essential Oil

15 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil

5 drops Spruce Essential Oil