By Sandra Bazzarelli
We have been seduced by their warm glow. Think of your favorite romantic movie scene and it either has a crackling fire in the background, or flickering candles strewn about. We love candles! We love to fall in love ensconced in the ambience burning candles create.
We also love to blow them out. If you think about the tradition of birthday candles, it really is astounding how we can be so determined to teach children to keep away from fire and not play with it only to set frosted cakes ablaze and slide them under their noses with the promise of a song and a wish.
Clearly, there is something inherently magical about candles that rivals their functionality. They light the way while the scented ones can make your room smell gorgeously fragrant, but the mysticism that is often associated with them is also in the room at the same time. We include them in our lives, but do we ever stop to think if there any rules associated with candles beyond the safety ones? Can we ever get it wrong? The answer is yes. We can make a hot mess of our candles.
I don’t know how, or where, or why it started, but the decorating tendency to group candles together into little Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Baby Bear families of three needs to be addressed and then obliterated. Candle clusters are unexciting when the candles are unlit, and absolutely frightening when they are. Light needs to be spread out. Unless you have a fireplace, keep your fires small. A fireplace can house a fire that is big enough to radiate light that touches every corner of your space to some degree. Candle clusters just look like you want light in one spot.
If the idea is to enhance your space with a butterscotch glow, break those families of three up and give those candles different areas of the room to light. That said, you really don’t want to have too many candles in any given room. I call this candle clutter. If you do, you will run the risk of giving your space a creepy gothic vibe. However, if that’s the vibe you are going for and you want your living room to all but chant “Gothic church/gargoyle meeting place…”, go the sparse route.
It was the holiday season and I was feeling holiday seasoned. Thus, when I spotted a white candle with a golden lid that touted the scent “Spritz Cookie” on its front sticker in red and green, I could not resist cracking open the top to get a whiff. It smelled like Christmas! Christmas baking, to be precise! I immediately bought two. I took them home and lit one in my bedroom and one in my living room. I wanted everything to smell like Christmas! And it did. Only, the nightmare version of Christmas. Within minutes, the most nauseating, stomach-churning smell wafted through every room. I could not escape the saccharine stench. Soon, while I dry-heaved, the candles were extinguished, every window was open, and every fan was turned on high. Is it possible to have too much Christmas in the air? Sweet Jesus, yes.
Well into the next day, the scent still lingered. I lit another candle, an “Evergreen” one, to mask the “Spritz Cookie”. This was another mistake. My olfactory system was completely overloaded by the incongruous odors that were assaulting it all at once. The most revolting smell permeated the air. Again, candle extinguished, windows open, fans on.
This time I learned my lesson, one I am imparting on you: mind the scents you are inviting into your home. If it is a strong scented candle before you light it, chances are it will overpower your environment once it’s lit. Also, some scents need to stay single. Unless you are a perfumer, your compositions will be way off and you will suffer for it. Granted, many people light candles to disguise food odors. This can work, for sure, but it can also make the newly crafted odor intolerable. My advice for that fishy smell? Open the windows, turn on the fan, and boil water with lemon juice or vinegar in it. You can also boil cinnamon, ginger, and clove, or just keep a bowl of coffee grounds out while you cook. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, burn a “Spritz Cookie” candle. You’ve been warned.
Still, some candles are not meant for burning at all, are they? You have decorative candles here and there that are solely intended for show. If this is true, then you need to remember to clean the candles regularly. The dust that can accumulate on a candle and its wick is extraordinary. If you clean everything else but neglect dusting off your candles routinely, your room will still have a sort of deserted feel to it. A kind of, "I displayed those candles when Clinton was president and forgot about them" impression will be left. So, clean your show candles. A used dryer sheet works very well here. And replace them when they become dull or dated. Be sure to choose the right size candles for the appropriate candleholders too. Do not jam giant red candles into your delicate candelabras or sconces just because those are the candles you have and so those are the candles you will use. Size, fit, and color are important. You wouldn’t wear a pair of sweat socks with a pair of Louboutin heels, would you?
Now that you have the burning desire to tastefully adorn your space with candles, remember that you must also do so responsibly. You are, in fact, playing with fire. Since it is more than possible to burn down your whole house with a single wayward candle flame, make sure you keep an eye out. Burning your house down to the ground isn’t romantic. People don’t generally fall in love in the movies with that going on in the background.
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