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The Little Things - Designing with Candles

By Sarah Van Arsdale on November 04, 2009

Designer Monthly's Little Things column places a spotlight on those home accessories that are often overlooked, and we'll show how they can be improved to make a world of a difference. Our pursuit is to enhance the decor through economical yet aesthetically superior measures.

Designing with Candles

It isn't surprising that the mid-winter holidays all feature light as a theme; in the Northern Hemisphere, natural daylight is in pretty short supply this time of year, and with days growing darker we all feel a need to bring light into the home.

It's true whether you're planning a holiday party, having a small dinner party, or just enjoying a cozy evening at home; lighting in any room can make all the difference. We've all attended dinner parties where everything is perfectly put together except there's a flourscent light overhead, which really kills the atmosphere.

There is nothing about candles in themselves that's romantic or elegant; if you're going to use candles, you need to consider the entire lighting plan, and not just add candles along with the harsh overhead light. This may require having more than two tall tapers on the table, so you may need to think of more inventive ways to bring candlelight to the room.

One place to start is with pillars. We liked these pillars we found at the Handmade Candle Co., because they're made from soy wax, which, according to the company's website, doesn't smoke or release harmful carcinogens into the atmosphere. The company's owner, Brigitte Crawford, seems to place a premium on selling candles that are good to the environment and the people in it, and on keeping her prices down.


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These pillars come in a variety of colors and scents, including this squared model.

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A collection of pillars, or of votives, lined up or in a group, will provide a great deal of light as well as lots of atmosphere.

At Raw Candles, we found candles that have an antiqued look to them, which would work with several different kinds of décor. This company also makes raw reed diffusers in scents blended to enhance the scents of the candles.

We think these “Shadow Moss” candles in deep green, scented with the scents of forests, would be perfect for a Christmas holiday room.

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For something with a fresh, contemporary look, try the candles at Echobana. The two-tone pillars remind us of refreshing ices on a hot summer day, and they are certain to refresh a home's look as well.

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The pillar and dinner candles come in frosted and cracked finishes.

For a special event, the company will use an event label on each candle, custom-made for that particular event.

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But using candles isn't the only way to light a home with elegance and romance; much also depends on the lampshades you use. These shades made from mica in a tradition dating back to the first electric lamps, and are made by hand in Oregon. The use of mica softens the light, which is further softened with a translucent finish.

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While these shades work perfectly with a Mission or Arts & Crafts style, the company can also work with the customer to create just about any look— including something special for the holidays.

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