If a candle is burning in a dark room, we don't see the darkness, we see the light. Perhaps that's why candles have become such a popular decor element over the course of the pandemic.
Little lights you can place anywhere, candles can make a room feel cozy and welcoming.
Decorating with candles. New York designer Glenn Gissler says candles have been in his personal and professional styling wheelhouse for years. He's got dozens of votive holders and a stockpile of candle refills, and sets out the diminutive flames for quiet evenings at home these days, and larger gatherings in non-pandemic times.
“I've used candles on every stair tread in my duplex apartment, and in windows to provide illumination where we don't normally see it,” he says. “I set the candles as singles, triples and long lines across a fireplace mantle. And for a wedding party some years ago, I ran 300 votives to direct party-goers to where the party was, setting an immediate festive tone.”
Gissler has a home in rural Connecticut where he spent the holidays. “I used no lights, only candles,” he says. He set them up along the top of mullioned windows, where their reflection added seasonal sparkle.
A little trick he shares: “I love using hurricanes to surround tapered candles on a tabletop; they help keep circulating air from disrupting the calm burning of the candle.”
If you've only got a few candles but want to make a statement, Laura Bohn, a Manhattan-based interior designer, has this tip:
“Group what you have in one spot using interesting containers or candlesticks. They'll be a real focal point and instantly add mood.”
Candle holders: Sticks, pillars and vessels. The size and shape of your candle usually determines where you put it. A chunky pillar candle needs a sturdy broad base. Karen Konzuk of Garden Bay, British Columbia, crafts charcoal-hued concrete vessels that look like stone eggs or planetary shards. CB2's new spring line has chunky aluminum and travertine holders, also in earthy hues.
Slender holders showcase a taper's silhouette. Brooklyn's FS Object's brass Spindle holders, for instance, are a lofty 18 inches tall; set with slim ebony candles, they'd bring drama to any surface.
Designer Jonathan Adler pays homage to Paris' Pompidou Center with a playful holder that evokes the center's iconic curvy tubes in clear or multicolored Lucite. Lucite is also the material for his Monte Carlo collection of block holders that look like candy cubes. And as part of his Muse collection, Adler's done a candelabra he calls Eve; a ringlet of white porcelain hands stands ready to grip tapers, like a circle of dancers.
Virginia Valentini and Francesco Breganze of the Italian studio LatoxLato have designed a clever candelabrum; they use a water jet to precisely cut small slabs of marble. Closed, the pieces look like a solid slab. But with a few light pushes, a series of candleholders accordions outward, creating an objet d'art.
You can get creative by using just about any heat-resistant holder – glasses, jelly jars, wine bottles, “even muffin tins,” says Gissler.
Consider making the candle too by filling one of these vessels with liquid wax. The studio Sibling sells an eco-friendly pouch that can be microwaved or stove-heated, and then poured into a heat-safe container; wicks are included.
Color play. Mineral hues like marine blue, rust and black are trending this spring for candles; CB2 has a deep mauve taper, too.
Toma Clark Haines, who lives in Venice, Italy, and runs an international antiques-sourcing business, sets her Gustavian-style table with white candlesticks and black candles. “What I like about black candles is that they feel modern. And with all my antiques, they kind of shake things up a bit.”
Shape shifters. “Sculptural and uniquely shaped candles are increasingly popular,” says Etsy's trend expert Dayna Isom Johnson. “Over the past several months, we've noticed torso-shaped and goddess candles – as well as the molds to make them yourself – emerging as a new trend.”
Etsy reports that shell, bubble and geometric shapes are also selling well.
At the Museum of Modern Art's design store, you can find HAY's neat squiggle-shaped candles in several soothing hues. Ester & Erik's colorful cone-shaped candles don't need holders; when they get down to about an inch, they just snuff out.
Scents set the scene. Not everyone likes or can tolerate a candle with fragrance, but for those who enjoy them, there are loads of options. Vanilla, citrus, pine, sage and rose are on the leader board of popular scents, say Etsy's trend experts.
Aerangis' signature collection is anchored by a candle that founder Alicia Tsai calls “In the Beginning,” which was inspired by her grandfather.
“As I child, I spent every afternoon in his greenhouse as he tended his orchids,” she says. “He presented me one to tend as my very own – an aerangis orchid, a delicate, star-shaped flower known to emit its soft and comforting scent in the evenings.”
Seattle-based Good & Well Supply helps support the National Parks Foundation with a collection of vegan candles in reusable tin pots. The candles evoke the scents found in the parks: Grand Canyon, for instance, evinces charred pine, while Acadia evokes sea salt and driftwood.