• Chris

Why are we still using candles?

Lighting is an often missed, but essential element to a beautiful home It sets the mood, especially while entertaining. Even with all our innovation and advancements in technology, traditional wax candles are still around and they’re not just for emergencies!

There are a few electric options. Power hungry incandescent light bulbs (if you can get them) emit a warm light and are easily dimmed, but their modern day replacements, compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs often emit a cooler bright, white light that isn’t very relaxing.

Candles for dining by Chris Ely
Formal candelabra

However, for an intimate or romantic setting, especially for the dining room there isn’t an electric light bulb that can hold a candle to an “old fashioned” wax candle (please excuse the pun).

The late Stanley Kubrick (movie writer and director) knew this. His attention to detail is legendary. A great example of this can be seen in his stunningly filmed movie Barry Lyndon. In order to replicate the lighting of an 18th. century home, rather than using electric studio lighting, Kubrick opted to use natural sunlight for daytime and real candlelight for most of the interior shooting. To compensate for the candles low light, he designed his own camera equipment using a purpose built Zeiss camera lens specifically made so NASA could photograph the dark side of the moon. Oh, and Kubrick sent his chauffeur Emilio D'Alessandro to a candle maker to purchase five thousand candles!

To create a cozy and relaxed dinner party the table and guests need to be the focal point of the dinner. This effect is created by the candles on the dining table being the main source of light in the room. Any other lights, such as sconces and chandeliers need to be dimmed or even turned off. I aim for enough light on the table for all the guests to see each other (and the food they are eating), and a little light around the room for guests and servers to find their way. You’re on the right track if you are thinking of campers around a campfire!

Tableware surfaces reflect light, and they are properly cleaned and polished, your flatware, glassware and china sparkle. Another advantage of candles is irregular flame movement. Flickering brings the table alive as well as any and jewelry and shiny clothing decorations such as beads and buttons that guest may be wearing. Electric light bulb manufacturers have tried and largely failed to replicate the flicker, but their regular pattern simply doesn’t have the same effect and can be quite annoying after a few minutes.

Hurricane Lamp by L'Objet
Hurricane Lamp

The downside to candles is they can be very dangerous and can easily start a fire. Safety must come first as homes are full of combustible materials that can be ignited by a candle. Never leave a lit candle unattended, fires can start very quickly. The safest way to enjoy candlelight around the home and outdoors is to use a hurricane lamp or storm lantern.

Secure candles to a suitable holder and place on a sturdy surface away from away from children and pets to prevent them being knocked over, and that includes a dog’s wagging tail! Candles generate a lot of heat, especially above the flame, so don’t place them under anything such as a book shelf and keep them away from walls, fabrics, and floral arrangements.

Depending on the wax type, a ¾” diameter dinner candle usually burns down at one to two inches per hour so take this into consideration. When it’s first lit, the flame may be away from combustible material, but a few hours later it may not be, so keep your eye on it. And lastly, don’t burn a candle at both ends, they don’t work well horizontally :)

For candle care, you can read about it in my "How To" section here.

© 2018 Christopher Ely. All rights reserved.

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