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Photo Courtesy of Candle Delirium

Our Glowing Guide to Decorating with Candles

How to light up your life, from tapers to tea lights.
Roxanne Robinson Jul 27, 2021
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The song “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles was the first video to air on MTV, the then-revolutionary cable T.V. music channel that launched in 1981. One can imagine that the advent of electric light caused a similar stir: What would become of the candle? Used in households, offices, shops, and even streetlights, candles were produced en masse daily to keep the world alight. These types of candles have proven their endurance in the age of electricity and continue to be popular today. Below, Nest Casa answers all your burning questions about these wax-and-wick wonders.

TYPES OF CANDLES

To best understand which candles fit which need, here is a rundown of the most common types of candles (in descending order).

  1. The Pillar Candle
  2. The Taper Candle
  3. The Votive Candle
  4. The Tea-Light Candle
  5. The Scented Candle
  6. The Outdoor Candle

More To Know: 

  • Types of Wax
  • Different Wick Styles On Candles
  • Decorating With Candles
  • Safety Tips for Burning Candles

The Pillar Candle:

These iconic, column-shaped candles usually come in a variety of heights and circumferences. While they can be easily placed on a candle stand (either tabletop or on the floor), these candles can hold their own without being placed in a holder. (That said, you should be cautious about the surface that they are placed on so they don’t leave a burn mark or worse.) The appeal of these candles is that the variety of colors and sizes allows for interesting groupings—and also making great centerpieces to anchor foliage and other types of festive décor.

Trudon

Mimosa Pillar Candle
$25.00 BUY NOW

Salter House

Beverly Bees Pure Beeswax Candles
$28.00 BUY NOW

Areaware

Beverly Bees Pure Beeswax Candles
$48.00 BUY NOW

The Marble House

Marble Candle Holder
$1120.00 Buy Now

The Taper Candle:

 In the past, this type of candle was the workhorse of the bunch, considering that they were used to light homes and lanterns in colonial times before the invention of electricity. These days, though, dinner candles are a more familiar moniker. Tall and elegant, they do not obstruct the view of the other diners at the table. A typical eight-inch candle usually lasts up to seven hours, thus flickering through even the most extravagant meal.

Lulu & Georgia

Taper Candles 12in, Greige (Set of 8 Pairs)
$59.00 BUY NOW

The Floral Society

Lovely Taper Candles
$84.00 BUY NOW

Salter House

Rope Candles
$29.00 BUY NOW

L'Objet

Haas Large Mojave Palm Candlestick
$550.00 BUY NOW

The Votive Candle:

This humble candle is rooted in religious ceremonies—especially, Christian ones. (It is also commonly seen in Hinduism and Buddhism.) Small and stout, these candles are used in Christianity for prayer offerings: the light it emits symbolizes the presence of God. Beyond this, the votive’s presence has become widespread in restaurant dining, where a bevy of pillar or taper candles isn’t practical. Because votives must be placed in a glass holder (typically they are about two inches in circumference and two inches in height), the sturdy wick is able to remain lit. When placed in colored glass holders, the effect can be stunning.

Boy Smells

Hypernature Quintet Set
$98.00 BUY NOW

Diptyque Paris

Pomander Mini Candle
$38.00 BUY NOW

Jonathan Adler

Pick Your Poison Votive Candle Set
$68.00 BUY NOW

Malin & Goetz

Dark Rum Votive Candle
$20.00 BUY NOW

Venus ET Fleur

Nue Tuberose
$39.00 BUY NOW

The Tea-Light Candle:

Like a votive but minimized to be about an inch tall, tea lights are ensconced in metal or plastic containers that wrap neatly around the wax for safety reasons. Because they are petite, they only burn for about two hours.  But, they are ideal for decorative holders that dictate the shape and color of the glow. They were initially used to warm teapots and are still used for food warming, like beneath a fondue pot.

Crate And Barrel

White Clear-Cupped 8-Hour Tealights, Set of 50
$26.95 BUY NOW

Julie And Home

White Bulk Unscented Tea Light Candles
$14.99 BUY NOW

Saint-Louis Crystal

En Cage 2-Candle Holder
$1650.00 Buy Now

The Scented Candle:

Prevalent today is the scented candle. Mainly housed in jars of varying sizes, scented candles have come to feature heady, intoxicating fragrances that waft throughout rooms, even large ones, due to their potency. Scented candles in larger sizes are referred to as hearth candles with three wicks; they are often placed in fireplaces as alternatives to a log fire.

Cire Trudon

Les Albâtres Abd El Kader Candle
$260.00 BUY NOW

Le Labo

Encens 9 Classic Candle
$76.00 BUY NOW

Baobab Collection

Grand Palais Candle
$129 - $390 Buy Now

Diptyque Paris

Oval Lid for 190g Candle
$90.00 BUY NOW

Boy Smells

Slow Burn
$39.00 BUY NOW

The Decorative Candle:

Aside from producing a warm glow and some serious mood lighting, candles can serve as décor even when unlit. Because candles are made when liquid wax is poured into a mold, the shape can become anything that the mold maker can imagine. Whether petite (like for decorating a cake) or large enough to stand alone on the floor, these candles add color and flair and can be further embellished with paint or other details.

West Elm

Indoor/Outdoor Flickering Flameless Pillar Candles
$15.00 BUY NOW

Pottery Barn

Premium Flickering Flameless Wax Pillar Candle, White - 3" x 6"
$64.00 BUY NOW

Pottery Barn

Lava Stone Citronella Candle
$89.00 BUY NOW

Crate And Barrel

Indoor/Outdoor 6"x12" Pillar Candle with Timer
$32.95 BUY NOW

Outdoor

West Elm

Citronella Pillar Candles
$12.00 BUY NOW

Diptyque Paris

Baies / Berries Candle Indoor & Outdoor
$345.00 BUY NOW

Nest Casa Decor

Shanghai Lantern White
$54.00 Buy Now

Diptyque Paris

Baies 5 Wick XL Indoor & Outdoor Candle
$345.00 BUY NOW

TYPES OF WAX

One aspect of candles that differentiates them from each other is the type of wax used. Historically, they have been made from paraffin wax. Paraffin is a petroleum byproduct. Recently, it has been realized that candles made from paraffin wax are a risk for exposure to harmful chemicals, including various toxins, carcinogens, and air pollutants. This has led to an increase in organic or natural candles made from soy wax or beeswax. Even coconut oil is proving to be a practical, safe, and multitasking substance of which to make candles from. In addition to the wax, It’s also necessary to pay attention to the types of oils used in fragranced candles. While both scents made from essential oils and fragrances are considered safe, the latter produces a more robust, long-lasting (and, sometimes, synthetic) scent.

DIFFERENT WICK STYLES ON CANDLES

A significant improvement in the world of candles was eradicating lead wicks in 2003. (This is why you will still see the words “lead-free” on some candle packaging.) Most reputable candle makers in the United States voluntarily stopped using it in the 1970s. Wicks are now typically made from cotton, cellulose, paper, and even zinc. They are often braided and dipped in wax for even burning. Especially popular today with soy or beeswax candles are flat wooden wicks that provide intense yet safe flames.

DECORATING WITH CANDLES

The primary purpose of candles is to exude a warm, cozy and intimate atmosphere in one’s space. Whether tapers placed in a candelabra on a table, pillars grouped on a floor or in front of a fireplace, or tea lights placed throughout a room, the ambiance is hard to match.

Due to their varied shapes, colors, and decorative holders, candles are an easy way to add fresh interest to a room without heavy investment. This can be especially interesting from season to season. Live flora like cut flowers, dried leaves, pinecones, branches, and more easily combine with candles for a seasonal display. Pairing with other objets d’art and books is also another way to style candles seamlessly in the home.

SAFETY TIPS FOR BURNING CANDLES

When electric light was first introduced, it was hailed as being a safer alternative to live flame candles. That was until they discovered the possibility of electrical fires. Still, many aspects of these lights are safer than burning wax. There are a few essential tips to keep in mind for safe candle burning.

– First, keep the wicks trimmed to 1/8 inch to avoid an out-of-control wick.
– Use long matches or a long-handled lighter so that the flame is always about four to five inches from your fingers.
– Keep in mind that a typical burn time should only be four hours, so setting a timer can be a good reminder to remember to extinguish it.
– Using a snuffer to put out the flame is recommended (it’s safer than blowing).
– Try to light candles in well-ventilated but not super drafty locations.
– Be sure that, when lit, the candle is not too close to flammable items such as curtains, furniture, or books.
– If you have small children or are a pet owner, be sure to keep burning candles out of reach (or an accidental bump).

Roxanne Robinson
Roxanne Robinson is an award-winning Paris-based American journalist covering luxury and fashion industries with over 25 years of experience. I spent over 18 years at WWD, covering sportswear, accessories and fine jewelry. My career witnessed the shift from print media to the digital age. I gained expert knowledge of the design world, wholesale and retail markets as well as the marketing that supports them. I met endless creatives and business people who create luxury from inception to POS with the consumer. My work has appeared in Forbes.com, BoF, The Hollywood Reporter, CRFashionbook.com, The Jewelry Journal as well in-house publications and websites at Bally, Pomellato, Au Depart and Editorialist.com among others.
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