The Little Things: Light Up the Darkness

By Sarah Van Arsdale on December 24th, 2008
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.

Once again, we have a happy collision of several winter festivals at once this year: as always, Winter Solstice falls on December 21, and Hanukkah is December 21-29; Christmas, of course, is December 25, and Kwanza December 26-January 1.

Even though Hanukkah is the only one officially known as the “Fesitval of Lights” it’s worth noting that just about every culture has a celebration involving light at the darkest time of the year.

And with good reason. With the days shorter, and often colder, and the darkness creeping in around the edges, it’s easy to let the worries of the world press in. But by brightening up your home with the soft glow of candle light, you’ll get through even winter’s darkest days — and nights — feelling warm and bright.

We’ve found a few sources of brilliant light for you.

We love the apple and pear candles from Artwax. Each one is handmade, and they just sing with a happy, fruitful glow. Try using an odd number (an odd number often looks more natural) as a centerpiece for a big family dinner, or scatter a few throughout the house for an evening party. The colors are remarkably natural-looking.

For a specifically Christmasy look, Artwax offers floating candles in holly or poinsettia shapes, which would be perfect for a Christmas dinner table, floating in a shallow bowl as a centerpiece. They also have gold and silver pine cones and flowers to match your most celebratory design.

The Little Things: Light Up the Darkness
The Little Things: Light Up the Darkness

For a more traditional Christmas look, we like the angel and cherub candles from These delicately designed candles glow from the inside out with a delicate golden light, illuminating the image. creates this look by using a hard wax shell with the design on it, behind which sits a vote candle in a holder. The hard wax with the design is made to last, while the votive candle can be replaced countless times.

The Little Things: Light Up the Darkness
The Little Things: Light Up the Darkness

Of course, candles can add not only light, but scent to a room. Many of the candles from are scented, with a varitey of scents designed to improve one’s mood. You can choose from “relaxing,” “uplifting,” “sensuality” and more.

Most of these candles are simple in design, in plain pillars. The people at Bluecorn Naturals, which makes these candles, explain that many candles are made from petroleum-based parraffin, which has “almost identical emissions to diesel fuel.” Their candles, on the other hand, are made of beeswax and soy wax, and so burn cleaner. sells beeswax Hannukah candles in boxes of 45, a wholesome way of keeping the menorah going for those eight dark nights.

The tealights offered by make a perfect table arrangement, with boughs or berries scattered around (moistened to prevent them catching fire, of course)

The Little Things: Light Up the Darkness
The Little Things: Light Up the Darkness

Lighting a room with candles is a sure way to add atmosphere to any gathering, but it’s especially effective on a cold winter’s night. Remember that candlelight is more effective the more you can dim the lights; the point is to actually use the soft, pretty glow of the candlelight.

At a cocktail party, try to scatter the candles around the room, in groupings of uneven numbers, for the best effect. Put a few candles in each corner where you want people to gather, and a few extras in the central gathering places.

The warmth of the candlelight will warm you and your guests, like the candles themselves, from the inside out.