A Light in the Dark
Candles are a winter essential and any room can be transformed by the simple addition of their magical light.
White, cream and silver are classic colours – a good place to start if you have not yet turned your home into a twinkling oasis. But don’t be afraid of bolder colours either, be it the deep reds and greens of the festive season or shades to complement your décor.
Going candle crazy is great, just don’t get caught short. Stock up on candles well ahead of the big day itself: pillar, taper, church, votive, tea-lights and all. The number you require clearly depends how many rooms you have to illuminate and holders to fill. Search out bulk bags of tea-lights with eight-hour burn times for convenience. If you envisage using several bags of tea-lights over the holiday season, along with maybe 10 pillar candles and a few boxes of tapers candles, that amounts to a heavy load worthy of delivery.
If you plan on becoming a Christmas candle connoisseur, you will want to have the lighting up process covered with a selection of small and long matches and a refillable butane candle lighter. At the high end of the range, amara.com offers the Boabab Collection candle lighter. Ronson has chic aluminium models for less than a quarter of that price, while the basic store-bought version will cost you less than a fiver. Always refill from a butane bottle in a well-ventilated area. Mrs C has been known to use her brûlée burner to light her candles. It doesn’t need refilling too often and allows her, as with candle lighters, to easily reach tea-lights and candles inside their holders. But don’t ignore the common match. Make sure you have some to hand, just in case the lighter fails or your butane fuel refill bottle runs dry.
We love the flicker of candlelight at Christmas. It transforms even the humblest corner into a magical place. However, candle safety is paramount, so keep an eye on the blighters. Always keep lit candles away from any furniture, fabric, and greenery, plus draughts. Apart from anything else, you’ll end up with blown wax on your furniture or woodwork, which is frustrating and tricky to remove. Don’t forget the fascination candles and flames hold for children, so keep them well out of reach of little hands. Plus, pets are no respecters of your beautiful displays, with their wagging tails a potential cause of fiery alarm. Choose suitable holders that retain candles in secure and upright positions. We recommend glass hurricane lamps and lanterns as they are enclosed. These are better for leaving in hallways, where draughts may blow wax onto surfaces.
Trimming & Snuffing
It is important to trim the wicks of candles after each use to ensure the flame will burn more evenly and not produce too much soot on the inside of the candle holder. If you want to be extra-elegant this Christmas, you could invest in candlewick trimmers like those offered by Dyptique. And why blow out your candles when you can snuff out the light? Candlesnuffers are widely available, some plain and practical, some beautifully ornate, some straight from Dickensian times. You will find others at John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Selfridges and local antique stores.
Don’t forget coloured sand and pebbles: not only helpful for stopping larger candles from wobbling over but also useful in adding pretty colours to your scheme, maybe even a hit of glitz if you choose gold or silver. And for outside use, consider a pointed metal base to a candle holder that can be stuck into the ground to line a driveway or illuminate a garden. These are not only for summer use – if the rain holds off, of course.
Scented Candles & Home Fragrances
A warm glow in the mid-winter darkness, an evocative scent of Christmases past – we are instantly transported to a festive wonderland by Christmas candles and fragrances. Most Christmas fragrances are essentially spice based, like frankincense, cloves and cinnamon, or from the fresh pine range. There are some expensive scented candles on the market and, although we love and recommend many of them, it need not be expensive to have a marvellously fragrant house.
Achieve a fragrant home with:
Fresh greenery & flowers
Cotton pads on radiators
Festive flavours on the hob
Scented candles are the popular choice. But beware the cheapies as their fragrance may only rest at the top of the candle and tends to fade away as it burns. When selecting a scented candle that’s not encased by glass or pottery, sniff the base of the candle to determine the strength of fragrance. Treat yourself to some scented candle luxury at this time of year above all others. We feel there is really no getting away from it: on the scented candle front, you get what you pay for. If you are not already into Diptyque and Jo Malone you may find the prices a tad off-putting. But trust us, one of these candles will fill a large room with amazing fragrance from start to finish. Visit diptyqueparis.co.uk and jomalone.co.uk. French brand Jardin d’Ecrivain is a house of fragrances inspired by the world of literature. Among the literary periods covered and captured in scent are the Baroque, the Romantic and the Beat Generation. Each creation interprets the work of an author. Check out jardinsdecrivains.com. Also from France, Cire Trudon is the oldest candle manufacturer in the world still making candles today (more details below). And there are the rustic and yet classy Astier de Villatte candles, each inspired by different places around the world. Shop the range online at libertylondon.com or astierdevillatte.com. Look out also for the Byredo range and Santa Maria Novella scented candles.
We Love: Diptyque (available at Selfridges), Jo Malone (available at Selfridges), Frederic Malle (available at Liberty), Cire Trudon (available at John Lewis), Kenneth Turner (available at Selfridges), Astier de Villatte (available at Liberty), Jardins d’Ecrivains (available at The Conran Shop)
Dickens Limited Edition Christmas Candle from Jardins d’Ecrivains: But then who wouldn’t want a Dickensian-scented candle of Christmas trees, mandarin and agarwood, evocative of an age when Christmas rediscovered its glory here in the UK? Check out jardinsdecrivains.com.
Byredo Saints Candles for Christmas: The set is inspired by the holy aromas of a Catholic church and offer aromas of winter spices and sophistication at libertylondon.com. Liberty explains: “Inspired by the olfactory delights he experienced on a trip to his mother’s hometown in India, Swedish artist Ben Gorham started Byredo in 2006 with a mind to make fragrances instead of paintings. Bringing simplicity and an understated approach to perfumery, he began making simple compositions from the highest quality materials. The perfumes are inspired by people, places and memories.”
Cire Trudon Candles in Festive Fragrances: Cire Trudon was founded in 1643 when a salesman, grocer and wax merchant Claude Trudon arrived in Paris and took ownership of a store in Rue Saint Honore. On the eve of Louis XIV’s reign, Trudon created a small family manufacturing business that was to carry his name forward and make his family’s fortune. Throughout the 17th century, his firm became the Royal Wax Manufacturer and official supplier to the French Court. In 1737, Hierosme Trudon purchased the most famous wax factories of the era from the official wax provider to King Louis XV. Cire Trudon grew and began supplying the French court and the most important churches. Cire Trudon supplied Versailles until the end of the monarchy, then produced candles for Napoleon Bonaparte. Cire Trudon continued its work throughout the centuries, without ever interrupting its activity, and is still renowned as one of the world’s greatest candlemakers. Look out also for Cire Trudon scented matches. For a selection of Cire Trudon products to purchase you can visit amara.com or johnlewis.com, among others.
Santa Maria Novella Melograno Scented Candles: These scented candles with the notes of Melograno Eau de Cologne have citrus and floral tones, harmoniously mixed with woody notes. All Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella’s candles are manufactured in the Via Reginaldo Giuliani facility in Florence with high quality raw materials. The SMN logo on each candle is hand painted with gold. Go to buy.smnovella.eu for more. Orders will likely incur costlier charges post Brexit.
There are numerous varieties of scented tea-lights on the market. They will give shorter bursts of basic fragrance, without the quality or lasting impact of the larger scented candles from Diptyque, Jo Malone and Frederic Malle. Consider using them in cloakrooms, bathrooms and WCs.
Spray’s the Way
Room sprays are great for that last minute spritz of the air, but be careful near fabrics as they may stain. We also found a Jo Malone spray we tried, although beautifully scented, left oily residue on painted walls when the spraying wasn’t perfectly directed to the open space alone (and let’s face it, most room spritzing tends to be quite random and frenetic). Room sprays can be effective to quickly override cooking smells, for creating a welcoming Christmas aroma for daytime visitors when you may not choose to light candles and for positioning prominently in bathrooms for guest use.
Combine fragrance with a decorative element by using pot pourri, which will allow you to showcase a gleaming vase or bowl. Bags of scented material in a selection of colours are widely available in stores, garden centres and online. The festive pot pourri combination is normally dried petals, dried leaves, fir cones, star anise, cloves and cinnamon sticks, with red, green, gold and silver colours to the fore. Pot pourri oil can be bought separately to reinvigorate your bowls or vases of the dried stuff. Pollyfields sells special Christmas pot pourri blends alongside their other splendid products, including candles. Find them at pollyfields.co.uk.
Striking Scent – Rich in Oil
Burner oils can be used with simple pottery burners that disperse fragrance once heated by a tea-light. The pottery burners have a small reservoir at the top for water. Put a few drops of oil in the water and light the candle in the hollow beneath. Be sure not to let the water/oil burn dry as the scent can turn from delightful to acrid rather quickly. You can also purchase metal ring oil burners to place on light bulbs. When the bulbs are on, scent flows through the room. The White Company’s ‘Winter’ oil fragrance is marvellous; so too Crabtree & Evelyn’s ‘Noel’ scent. Marks & Spencer produce their own excellent Christmas oils each year.
A Good Reed
Reed diffusers have become increasingly popular as a decorative method of adding fragrance to a room. If you buy these in conjunction with your candles, the two fragrances will complement each other. Dartington Crystal offers a selection of diffuser apothecaries in coloured glass, as does True Grace by Philippa and Roger Biles at truegrace.co.uk. They aim to capture an essence of England in their elegantly packaged products. Jo Malone’s luxury diffuser comes strongly recommended and will last for months.
Fresh greenery and flowers are covered in great detail within the Christmas Flowers section of the How to Christmas website. Suffice to say, don’t underestimate the power of simple greenery such as eucalyptus to add a subtle but elegant fragrance to the home or beautifully scented hyacinths, roses or lilies to deliver even more of a pleasing pungent punch.
Our Friends Electric
Scented plug-in fragrance dispensers are popular and many of the major companies launch a special range of fragrances just for Christmas. Always check directions for safe use on the package. As a general rule, keep the strength of the fragrance emitted at a subtle level: a level 2 or 3 on most control dials rather than a maximum 5 or 6. While scented plug-ins are highly effective, some believe natural blends of oils that are allowed to disperse gradually through pot pourri or reed diffusers are better for our well-being. It’s your call.
Cotton pads containing drops of fragrant burner oil can be positioned discretely behind radiators to emit a gentle background aroma when the heating is on. A simple cotton wool ball is equally effective. Use a small wire ornament hook to attach the cotton wool ball and then use the other end to hang it at the back of the radiator, just out of sight.
You can fill the house with Christmas aroma by putting a few ingredients in a pan of water on the hob. It’s basically the mulled wine scent without the wine. In half a pan of water place a slice of orange, a slice of lemon, three cinnamon sticks, four whole cloves, three bay leaves and half a cup of cranberries. Christmas fragrance guaranteed.
Maximising that subtle Christmas sparkle comes from collecting and displaying an array of candle holders. Group them together using a variety of different textures, heights and shapes.
Think uneven numbers for arrangements on tables and worktops. Three or five in a group is the way to go. Balance is key if you are putting holders on a mantelpiece. The same number of holders at either end of the mantel is most effective. Silver, grey and white holders will more willingly lend themselves to a winter feel. Vintage-style holders, perhaps with a mirrored finish or antique appliqué, work marvellously well. The warm amber glow from candlelight will balance wonderfully with stark winter grey or beautifully enhance the seasonal reds, greens and golds. Whatever the holder, whatever the size, whatever the style, the common denominator is the simple flickering flame itself.
The fact they are enclosed means hurricane lamps are better for leaving in hallways, where draughts may blow wax onto surfaces. The theory of never leaving a lit candle unattended is a sound one, but a pillar candle resting well below the rim of a hurricane lamp should happily burn away without constant attention. Just be certain not to have a tall pillar candle in a smaller lamp, so the wick protrudes from the top. That could be a fire hazard. Candle safety is paramount.
Safer even than hurricane lamps, lanterns have lids – and that makes them perfect for indoors and out, hallways and windowsills. See thewhitecompany.com and nordichouse.co.uk for a wide and splendid selections, perfect for rooms in transition from winter to Christmas. A large, floor lantern looks wonderful in a hallway. Groups of three lanterns of different heights are perfect for hallway tables and consoles. And having lanterns lit on windowsills is one of the best ways to proclaim your house has a warmth awaiting any who enter.
Buy a stash of tea-lights and fill holders galore to dot around the house. This is an inexpensive way of spreading the amber glow. Plus, tea-lights in holders that have higher sides than the flame are safer than leaving a taper candle burning in a candlestick. Tea-light holders can beautifully illuminate a dinner or buffet table. Clear and textured glass, silver and vintage holders work best for the winter room. Tea-lights are the tiny, treasured gems of the candle world.
Elf Helper: Check out Luna Lighting – Designer & creator Anna Perring has been developing her range of playful ivory-white porcelain tea-lights since 2006. Her aim is to create work that captures the purity of porcelain yet is uplifting and makes people smile. All are handmade in her Central London studio. See the collection at hiddenartshop.co.uk/collections/luna-lighting.
They can also fuel the swirling delights that are carousel holders (pictured right). As the candles burn the intricate decorations turn. Pols Potten make an exquisite silver Christmas tree, topped by a star, while Stylys produce delicate Filigree Carousels. The decorative attachments include angels, snowflakes and parcels. You will find a selection in store at John Lewis or across many stockists online.
For a final flourish, why not treat your pillar candles to a candle bracelet. Essentially decorative mixes of beaded cords and wire, they can be wrapped around a plain candle to twinkle and sparkle in the light. Choose non flammable embellishments for your bracelet. For a more natural look, small sprigs of Christmas greenery can be used to good effect. Just ensure that the decorative bracelet is towards the base of the candle and therefore away from the flame – and as always keep a close eye on lit candles.