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Candle decor

image: Amancay Maahs

Candles are one of the most beautiful ways to stave off the night — and the cold. Simply looking at a candle can provide a warmth of heart that few other sights can match. Make the most of that lovely flicker by using candles in unexpected ways or places, or grouping them together in ways that surprise and soothe.

Candle centerpieces

Nothing speaks to elegance like a centerpiece of candles. You can go the traditional route with a large candle in the middle of greenery, or the other traditional route, with long tapers in thick, opulent candleholders. But if you want a little spark to your elegance, consider candles tucked into wine glasses, or cork candles in the wine bottles themselves, scattered around the table for an even glow. Look for unique candleholders, especially those that are handmade, for another eclectic option.

A fireplace of candles

If you don’t want to worry with the fire, let candles do the trick. Clean out the fireplace and set candles of different heights and sizes in the fireplace. You can set some on the grate and some on the space in front of it — just be sure the candles are well away from the floor, just as you would take care while burning a true fire. Light them up and dim the lights, letting the glow shine while you simply enjoy it. No worries about ashes tonight!

The wonder of simple glass candleholders

You can move the beauty of candles to anywhere in the house with small, simple glass candleholders. Make sure they are roomy and sturdy, taller than the candle inside, so that the flame (and any flammables!) are better protected from the risk of fire. Use them to adorn a spiral staircase, scatter them along end tables or group them in various areas around the room to give a more concentrated glow.

For even more security along with that gorgeous glow, consider grouping the candles in a unique way, such as within an old birdcage or on a mirrored tray. Feeling a little rustic? Tuck candles into mason jars, and hold them in place with simple pebbles in the bottom of the jar.

Mason jar candle

Image: Laura Gilchrist

Scents and colors matter too

The way the candles smell makes a big difference in the kind of ambiance you want to create. During the holidays, spicy scents like cinnamon or bayberry are popular. Sandalwood is always sophisticated. Summertime dinner parties call for fruit-scented candles or those with a light, airy fragrance. Planning a birthday party? Go with a festive scent that will put you in the mood for fun. Sensual times call for candles with something a little more intimate, like jasmine or woody scents.

The colors you choose can make a big impression. Look for candles with dark colors, such as burgundy or deep hunter green or midnight blue, to create a backdrop that is elegant and stately. Simple white candles are great with equally simple linens. Choose bright colors for the more festive look, and always try to choose the favorite color of the birthday girl or boy when you are celebrating the milestone of another year.

Make it your own

Candles do many things in your home — they provide light and ambiance, offer a scent that sets the mood, create a touch of intimacy in a large area and give you something peaceful and soothing to enjoy, no matter what time of day you light them up. If you want to make things even more “you,” decorate the candles themselves with small charms, etched drawings, or any other unique touch that comes to mind — as long as it is nonflammable, of course!

Any creative touch or grouping that looks good to you is what matters, because this is your space — your enjoyment is paramount. And if you enjoy what you see, you can rest assured that your guests will enjoy it, too.

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.