Thursday, May 04, 2006

Decorating with Candles, without a Grandma result.

I admit that I do have a very small bias against candle-related decor. Just too many of those Yankee candles floating about, I'm afraid. But as the unseasonably warm weather continues with the requisite al fresco dinners, the lure of a well-placed votive candle is hard to resist.

Beeswax vs. Paraffin vs. Soy vs. Everything Else: As the candle market grows exponentially (really, it seems like everyone has a different sort of candle to peddle), manufacturers will surely find a way to make a candle out of dryer lint. Some say that soy candles last longer, while beeswax is more environmentally friendly and then there's that rumor about paraffin generating more soot than in Dickens-era London...well, I say just stick to a basic paraffin candle for an outdoor area. Some people can be quite sensitive to the scent of citronella, and I'm sure that bugs are evolving to be resistant to the smell of it anyway.

How expensive to go: Draw the line between dollar store and Alarmingly Expensive. While a $5 bag of 100 votives seems like a good idea, they are probably filled with air pockets and use a lower-quality wax, leaving you to endless candle replacement duty. A good votive candle should be a bit heavier than you expected, with a slight sheen to the surface (indicating a better quality wax).

Scented or not?: Relegate the scented candles to the bathroom or bedroom. Around food, they tend to numb the palate and might attract bees and mosquitoes.

Make it special: One option is to buy a shaped candle. Personally, I've always felt a bit sad burning these-it's a bit like watching a snowman melt. But if you aren't so sensitive, try a starfish shaped candle, such as this one from Bath & Body Works (17th and Walnut). Place on top of a protective surface, such as a tiny platter (such as the small wood square from West Elm)filled with sea glass, small seashells, sand or smooth pebbles, all of which can be bought at a crafts store.

A charming votive holder is a re-usable option, and keep the breeze from putting out the flame. This starfish tealight holder is similar to the aforementioned candle, and comes from Anthropologie (18th and Walnut). Carrying the oceanic theme are the sea urchin tealights, also from Anthropologie. Buy a few of each size and cluster for an interesting display.

Varying candle height adds dimension to a tablescape. These tulip holders from the Philadelphia Museum of Art come in differing heights and colors. The 24" is a dramatic statement, but might obscure the view of others around the table- keep that particular height to a buffet.