On the Best Home Fragrances: Antica Farmacista Founders Susanne Pruitt & Shelley Callaghan

A three-part miniseries in which we ask the founders of beloved home fragrance brands to share their favorite aromas and their secrets to creating a home’s signature scent. First up, the business partners, best friends and fragrance fanatics behind Antica Farmacista: cofounders Shelley Callaghan and Susanne Pruitt.


Nordstrom Beauty Blog: Of all in the world, what are your top three favorite smells?
Susanne Pruitt: One of my all-time favorite scents is freshly cut grass. I grew up playing golf with my dad, and the smell of the crisp, green grass in the morning is reminiscent of those days. I also love the spicy notes of coriander (found in our coriander, lotus & cucumber scent) and the soothing notes of sandalwood.

Shelley Callaghan: The smell of the cigars my father smoked when I was a child is definitely one of my most cherished scents. Even today, I can smell a burning cigar as I’m walking down the street and be instantly transported to those great memories of my dad. Another favorite is fresh Daphne odora, in bloom throughout Seattle in early spring. Intoxicating! (By the way, we are working to re-create this fragrance.) The scent of sautéed chopped garlic would be another; it’s a staple in my kitchen, and a meal just doesn’t seem complete to me without it!

What’s the most unexpected combination of scents you’ve loved?
Pruitt: One of the most surprising combinations that I have grown to love is the sweetness of vanilla and the spicy notes of bourbon in our vanilla, bourbon & mandarin fragrance. I keep a diffuser in my closet year-round!

Callaghan: I adore the combination of deep, heady florals with sensual musk and rich, woodsy scents. Our Hawaiian-inspired Ala Moana fragrance, built on notes of tuberose, plumeria, pikake and gardenia, is the perfect complement to our sandalwood amber scent. The deep musk, amber and sandalwood notes really accentuate the sensual warmth of the heady white florals. It’s a combination that is a bit unexpected. (I discovered this combo when I had a sandalwood amber diffuser in my closet and spritzed Ala Moana on my body. I now tend to keep a diffuser of each side by side in my bedroom.)

What is the story behind the name Antica Farmacista?
Both: Antica Farmacista means “ancient chemist” in Italian. Our company was created 12 years ago and was inspired by an Italian fragrance brand, which introduced us to the concept of home fragrance diffusers. We were the first brand in the U.S. to launch the reed diffuser.

What’s something you’d like everyone to know about your brand?
Pruitt: Our hotel amenity business has been a growth area for Antica over the past six years. We are now providing shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer and wash in over 500 hotels around the world. This exposure has had a significant impact on our overall bath and body business.

Callaghan: We are proud to say that we are a women-owned and women-run business (and we love to throw parties in our office; we have a killer bar cart!).

It all seems pretty straightforward, but what tips have you discovered for mastering home fragrance?
Pruitt: I love the fact that when I come home from a long day or find myself entertaining in the evening, there is always a signature scent that can be detected. It’s comforting and above all effortless! You insert the sticks in the bottle and flip them about once a week. I also love a room spray in conjunction with a diffuser in a powder room. Two complementary scents positioned together is my favorite go-to tactic. Right now I have bergamot & ocean aria and orange blossom, lilac & jasmine!

Callaghan: During the summer months, I’ve discovered the impact of a diffuser outside! I’ve placed a prosecco diffuser in my outdoor seating area and it adds a gorgeous sparkle to these sunny, long evenings. During the winter months (once my diffuser bottles are empty) I gather my reeds and place them in my firewood pile. The reeds add a great crackle and hint of fragrance to a rustling fire. As far as hosting duties go, right before guests arrive, I move around the house and flip the sticks in my diffuser bottles. It immediately adds a nice, but never overwhelming scent to my home.

 What scents are currently filling your own home?
Callaghan: My new current favorite is damascena rose, orris and oud. I am also loving our classic orange blossom, lilac & jasmine. And in my car, I’m never without my prosecco room spray!

Pruitt: I am all about our damascena rose, orris and oud as well (I have it everywhere!) combined with lemon, verbena & cedar in the kitchen. Everyone always asks me about damascena rose right when they walk in the door—it’s definitely a unique floral that guests love!

Shop: Antica Farmacista Anniversary Sale Exclusives | All Antica Farmacista


{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Robin Wright August 12, 2015, 1:45 pm

    Great article! So nice to know this is a women-owned, women-run business. It makes me like the company even more:)

    My favorite Antica Farmacista scent has always been the orange blossom, lilac and jasmine; I remember a number of years ago I was having difficulty finding the eau de parfum here in LA; I contacted the company and after speaking with someone and letting her know I had really been hunting for the various eau de parfums by Antica, I ordered the orange blossom, lilac and jasmine. and they enclosed a beautifully presented sample box of all their fragrances! I’ve never forgotten that lovely person’s kindness . It was such a beautiful gift and completely unexpected. Needless to say it really, really made me like the company! 😉

  • Norma Jaffe August 12, 2015, 11:09 am

    Love love love them all. I am not a hoarder except for your products because that is the gift I give when visiting each of our married daughters, my friends and of course I use your diffusers, soap, moisturizer and spray fragrance all thru our condo on the Elizabeth River. .
    While visiting my daughter in her new Potomac home ( I brought her a 3 pack variety in your muslin bag, )I noticed the spray in her guest bathroom which the previous owner left. It was not yours!! Horrors. It was Thymes Gold Leaf. The previous owner who sold the estate to our daughter is one of the Kennedy’s and I thought- is this the fragrance that JackieO also used?
    I just thought you’d get a laugh. I told my daughter to send some of your fragrance to her new abode in Palm Beach. My favorite two are Vanilla Bourban and Proseco.

  • Lauren August 5, 2015, 9:23 am

    Loved reading this! I’ve tried various diffusers but Antica Farmacista’s products surpass all in unique fragrance combinations and unparalleled quality. Awesome article!

    • Jeff Powell, Blogs Editor August 5, 2015, 10:36 am

      Thanks you, Lauren!

  • Inez Swanson July 29, 2015, 4:14 pm

    Your products are the best! This coming from a person with many allergies – I have never been affected by any of your scents! Love both of you. Inez

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