In this installment of "Little Things," we're shining a light on candles, one of the small decorating accessories a designer can use to drastically alter the look and feel of interiors. In the last twenty years, candles have undergone major changes and have become ubiquitous in wonderfully lit homes around the world. Not too long ago people took their candles out of the cupboard only for events such as holidays, parties, and birthdays. Now every day is an occasion to light a candle. The many different sizes, shapes, smells, and colors that are now available have greatly expanded the ways that candles can be used.
In the last few years, scented candles have become a big trend in the world of wick dipping. Just visit your local mall, and you'll find something that would have been unthinkable years ago, - stores devoted solely to candles. Most of these stores specialize in scented or highly decorative candles, leaving the unscented, bland ones in the dark. The traditional scents, such as vanilla, lavender, and cinnamon are still there, but in addition there's a rainbow of different scents with more variety than a spice rack. From ginger papaya, frost bite, and love spell, the scent scientists of the world are introducing new and unusual smells to our noses everyday.
While it's not customary to design a room using scents, a blossomy smelling candle next to a withered, old couch can definitely lift the mood of the entire room. Similarly, you would not want to put a baby powder scented candle in the dining room or a banana one in the library. Smells can definitely change the mood of interiors, and even an individual's mood. Just imagine trying to have a serious discussion with someone who smells like bananas. Remember to never place scented candles on a dining table, to avoid the smells from the food mixing with that from the candles. (Leave the chemistry to the experts.)
With the dining room left out, the heavily scented candles that come in jars can be used in almost any room. Because the glass jars that they come in are often very informal, these candles look best in a kitchen or T.V. room. They last a long time, and their scents can fill entire floors for hours on end.
Tip: Many people may feel that formal candles, such as tapers, are commonplace necessities for a sophisticated dinner party. To make them more exciting, concentrate on their placement on the table. Combine tapers of a uniform color with totally different kinds of candleholders or alternate the style of the holders, one black, and one white. It's also a good idea to place different sized tapers in a line down the center of the table, with the tallest in the middle of the candles. This design can create a striking effect.
Recently mood candles have caused a lot of excitement. As herbal medicine has gotten increasingly popular so has the practice of using aromatherapy to cure common ailments like headaches and tension. Scents such as bergamot and mandarin help to relieve stress and relax the body. Though they do not generate the same results as the scented oils, in general they do produce wonderful, calming scents. These candles fit best in a bathroom or bedroom. A romantic mood can be created with unscented votive candles. The diminutive candles can look beautiful lining a mantle, a Jacuzzi, or a backyard garden.
The most recent additions to the candle family are the highly decorative ones made with multiple blocks of wax melted together. There are also candles that are made from gel and ones that do not drip. There are even glow-in-the-dark candles, in which the gel wax actually glows.
While candles can add warmth and a calming presence to any interior, we cannot close this column without adding a safety tip. In many cities, including New York, fires that are started by candles constitute a significant portion of alarms to which the Fire Department responds. Never leave a candle unattended. Using candles requires a responsible person to keep an eye on them at all times. Keep candles a safe distance from any flammable material. When in doubt, blow it out.
While candles serve a function and create a mood, most importantly they can help bring harmony to our lives, which is quite an achievement for such a little thing!