Q&A with Jim Gentry – President & CEO, Home Fragrance Connoisseur, California Dreamer

Q&A with Jim Gentry – President & CEO, Home Fragrance Connoisseur, California Dreamer

May 19, 2022


By Taira Anderson


Our new friends at Agraria believe “no great home is ever completely decorated until it has its most important accessory – home fragrance.” We couldn’t agree more, which is why we’ve partnered with Agraria to bring you a collection of luxe fragrances that will bring beauty, light, and elegance to your home.

Over the past several months as we’ve worked to develop the gorgeous fragrances with Agraria, we’ve become infatuated with the sparkling of Lemon Verbena, the earthiness of Balsam, the romance of Mediterranean Jasmine, and the warmth of Bitter Orange. Of course, it’s the people behind these obsession-worthy scents and this beloved brand that make it all possible.

With that in mind, we took some time to chat with Jim Gentry, President, and CEO of Agraria (and home fragrance enthusiast).  


  1. To start things off, we have to know, what caught your eye when it came to Aera and the Aera Diffuser – what inspired you to reach out to strike up the conversation that led to this magical partnership?

Jim Gentry: Let me start by saying I’ve always been struck by this concept: Everybody wants to fill their house with beautiful fragrance. For decades Agraria has been filling homes with luxury fragrance through our candles, reed diffusers and room sprays, but we knew the home fragrance industry had an electronic component and we had to get involved somehow. We spent two years looking for the perfect electronic diffuser and there were a few different companies on our radar, but most devices were water-based—nothing more than humidifiers, really--and that’s not what we wanted.

In the summer of 2021, I saw a press release announcing the partnership between Aera and The Laundress. I had met The Laundress founders about 16 years ago, back when they were just starting out. I thought “If The Laundress is involved with Aera, I’d like to get connected!” so I reached out right then and there. A few months later, here we are – Agraria’s most loved fragrances have been adapted to the Aera Diffuser, the best machine in the world. We’re just thrilled!


Agraria Founders Stanford Stevenson and Maurice Gibson, 1970.


  1. We’re thrilled, too! Now, let’s return to the quote mentioned earlier as it does express an ideal that Aera and Agraria share – “No great home is ever completely decorated until it has its most important accessory – home fragrance.” Can you talk a little about this idea, this design philosophy, and how fragrance fits in to a home’s design?

JG: This philosophy is so important in large part because the founders, Stanford Stevenson and Maurice Gibson, were interior decorators and their focus from the very beginning was to make something for the home. They always said, “…when someone opens the door to their home, before you see the beautiful paintings, the glittering chandelier, or anything else, you smell the scent of the home and that tells you what it’s going to be.”

At the time they started back in the early 1970’s there wasn’t much happening in the world of home fragrance—the candles in the marketplace weren’t even using perfume grade oils at the time, only flavors and artificial scent. Maurice and Stanford made the first perfumed candle in the United States, and in conjunction made the first attempt at layering fragrances—one on top of another to complement each other.

Bitter Orange and Balsam were the first fragrances they developed, and they were meant to build off each other in the home. The Bitter Orange potpourri with its spiciness from clove, and romantic notes of incense and rose, was counterbalanced by the Balsam candle with its notes of redwood, sage, and white flowers. This was the beginning of incorporating luxury home fragrance into interior design, and the product line has been expanding ever since with this theory infused in each Agraria product.  

Home fragrance is a fine art – we believe the product must be as beautiful as any object you’d put on display.


  1. What about you personally—do you believe that home fragrance is a big part of making a house feel like a home for you and how do you use fragrance to complete your own home design?

JG: Yes—I think it’s really important! I use fragrance all around my house. I like to scatter Agraria Lavender & Rosemary potpourri on my rugs before I vacuum, and I have a morning ritual of burning a candle and reading the mail while the sun rises.

For me it’s all these different scented spaces, this mixing and matching of different products and fragrances in rooms and in moments, which make fragrance part of creating a home. The only time I use single scents in my home is during Christmas time -- Bitter Orange and Balsam are the traditional holiday fragrances of Agraria, though they are best sellers all year round.

Often, when people come over, they ask “what is this fragrance? I love it!” and I always answer “It’s Agraria” because it’s all the different products and fragrance elements together that create the beautiful home environment. Now I’ll have to get more than one Aera Diffuser so I can keep mixing and matching and decorating my home with the most wonderful scents.


  1. Sticking to this topic of fragrance in the home, do you have a specific scent or fragrance (Agraria’s or otherwise) that you associate with your childhood home, or just the feeling of home?

JG: Lime & Orange is my favorite Agraria fragrance and definitely smells like home to me now because I use it so often.

I grew up in the 1950’s and I don’t remember home fragrance as home fragrance the way we now know it. Our house smelled like life and food. At Christmas time our house smelled like the Christmas tree—fresh branches and pine needles. Our mother kept red and green taper candles on the dining room table, but the candles didn’t have a scent, I just remember the smell of smoke when we blew them out after dinner.

The sense of smell is closely connected to our memories – it can remind us of moments, people, and places. Our Agraria customers have homes in so many different places -- in Aspen, in the Islands, and many of them have more than one home. One thing that’s so wonderful about our partnering with Aera is that our Agraria customers can now have their Aera Diffusers and Agraria x Aera fragrances set up in each home and program them so they’re ready to play fragrance whenever they’re there, filling their homes with fragrance and memories.



  1. No doubt, Agraria’s fragrances will bring a lot of delight and beauty to the homes of our Aera fans, and we’re sure Agraria fans will soon become fans of Aera, too. Can you talk a little about why your customers love your brand so much? What keeps them coming back generation after generation?

JG: Our customers love us because we’ve always been the best – we use high quality, expensive ingredients that a lot of brands just won’t go to the trouble of sourcing. We also created scents that were contemporary at the time of inception and have now become beloved classics.

You’re probably wondering “which fragrance is the most popular?” – it’s the one that’s 52 years old – Bitter Orange. Lemon Verbena, Balsam, and Lavender & Rosemary are close runners-up. Bitter Orange has been around helping to scent family memories for over five decades now, especially during Christmas time, and is a fragrance shared generation to generation from grandparents to parents to grandkids. 

Balsam is another Agraria fragrance that’s passed down through the generations. The owners once shared a story about Maria Shriver and her love for our Balsam fragrance with me. She came to know and love the fragrance because her aunt, Lee Radziwill, loved the fragrance (her other aunt, Jackie Kennedy, was a Bitter Orange Fan). So you can see how these Agraria fragrances can become part of rich family traditions.


  1. It’s easy to see Agraria has wide appeal – some notable celebrities make up part of your loyal fan base! On your website you even name drop Cher who is quoted as saying “Thank you Agraria, for making my life smell so sweet.” How did all these celebrity quotes come to be – are there any stories there you can share? We’re all ears!

JG: Everyone from Beyonce to the Obamas loves Agraria! Cher, of course, was one of the first major celebrity fans. Her go-to Agraria scent has always been Balsam. Maurice and Stanford, the founders, often joked that they wished she’d keep buying more houses so they could fill them with cases of Balsam.

Georgio Armani adores Bitter Orange. At one point during an interview, he mentioned that whenever he lands in New York the first thing he does is buy Agraria Bitter Orange burning sticks because the smell reminds him of home. He’s been known to use Bitter Orange at the entrance to his fashion shows, too, so during New York Fashion Week you can always smell the citrusy spicy scent of Agraria Bitter Orange accompanying his runway. Maybe we’ll soon find out how much better the scent experience is when he uses the Area Diffuser to scent his runways!


  1. It’s not just the devoted fans that make Agraria unique, but it’s also the commitment to beauty and wholesome ingredients. Your fragrances bloom with gorgeous notes that are true-to-nature. Can you talk little about the collection of fragrances and how nature and natural ingredients act as inspiration?

JG: Of course – let’s start with the word “Agraria.” “Agraria” is the Italian word for “agriculture” which is a reference to agrarian society and gestured toward the way our ingredients are from the earth. The founders, Maurice and Stanford, would grow and dry their own roses, pick oranges and lemons for their fragrant peels from their own trees, and harvest herbs from their own garden. They were informed by the belief that you had to have pure ingredients to make the best fragrance, just as you need the purest ingredients for the finest cooking--the better the ingredients, the better the outcome.

50 years ago, when Maurice and Stanford started Agraria, people weren’t talking about “natural” and “organic” ingredients. Agraria was way ahead of its time in that respect. Our fragrances have always used the best ingredients and our products have always been vegan and cruelty free – not because it’s trendy, but because it’s what we believe in.



Taira Anderson is a fragrance storyteller for Aera with a master’s degree in writing and a passion for olfaction. She knows the power of fragrance and the power of language woven together can transport us to our fondest memories, most mesmerizing places, and even to imaginary worlds.