- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Colette Hurley is never in the dark. Not only does she own Candles in the Park, a shop in Georgetown with hundreds of luminaries for sale, she also displays the wax creations in her home.

In the evening, she strikes a match to illuminate the candles across the fireplace mantel in her living room.

“Candles are so pleasant and peaceful,” Ms. Hurley says. “It’s a great atmosphere.”

Anyone looking for a little extra light during the cold winter months can use candles to add flair to the home, keeping in mind safety precautions.

In her store, Ms. Hurley sells a multitude of beeswax, beeswax blend and soy wax candles, including tealight, votive, taper, pillar, aromatherapy and scented jars. She also carries candles with a wooden wick.

During the holidays, many customers purchase candles for hostess and housewarming gifts, she says.

“We try to buy candles that burn well,” Ms. Hurley says. “As opposed to a candle that burns inside itself, where the wick burns, and you end up with a hunk of wax.”

Once candles are chosen, candleholders can add spark to the presentation, she says.

Sconces and candelabras of all styles are popular, including candle trees, she says. Aside from the standard brass sticks, chandeliers and lanterns are other methods of displaying candles, along with hurricanes and glass bowls. Ceramic holders by Tracy Porter are favorites of many customers, she says. Votive holders, including gift sets, also are options.

Larger holders can be used to take the place of burning wood in a fireplace, says Gloria Capron, owner of Gloria Capron Interior Design in Kensington.

For special occasions, Ms. Capron fills the mantel in her living room with candles of staggered heights. Although the mantel doesn’t surround a fireplace, she likes it for its aesthetic qualities.

The decorating tip is perfect for a room where a fireplace doesn’t work or can’t be built, she says.

As New Year’s Eve approaches, Ms. Capron suggests lighting the pathway to a home on the sidewalk. She also suggests filling a table with candles, for group or private events. Candles can be floated in a pond with flowers.

The scents — vanilla, cranberry and pine — can add flavor to the air, she says.

“People look more beautiful and ageless in candlelight,” Ms. Capron says. “It accentuates the skin tones.”

Unique candelabra can be created by bundling different types of candles with ribbon, she says. Placing votive candles around a stone in a box with greenery is eye-catching, she says. Juice glasses are also wonderful for displaying votives.

Wine bottle candlesticks are often a romantic decoration, she says. Otherwise, antique pickets or newel posts can be used.

Apart from decorating, candles can create a meditative space in a home, Ms. Capron says. Pillar candles can be calming on the deck of a bathtub.

“If you’re looking for a little retreat and can’t get away from town, find your favorite spot to sit and meditate,” Ms. Capron says. “Set up a few different candles. It’s almost hypnotic. It’s a very soothing, healing space.”

While enjoying the beauty of candles, people should realize that they are probably enjoying handmade products, says Jerome Spector, co-owner of Big Dipper Candles in Chester, N.Y. He has been hand-dipping candles for 36 years.

“For a very reasonable amount of money, people can have something made by hand of integrity,” Mr. Spector says. “It’s something most people can afford, which makes me feel good.”

Big Dipper Candles (www.bigdippercandles.com) offers many types of candles, including Judaica candles and novelty candles, such as a candle shaped like a piece of sushi.

“If you’re dipping a candle, successive dipping of a wick into molten wax, it collects and accumulates on the wick,” Mr. Spector says. “We dip them either in the same color wax, or we put layers of different colors on them at different heights.”

While taper candles can take more than 30 dips to complete, unusually shaped candles are made in molds, Mr. Spector says. He works with a variety of waxes, such as blends of paraffin and beeswax. He also has a line of environmentally appropriate candles that are made from beeswax, palm wax and soy wax.

Paraffin wax and palm wax offer a fine burn quality, says James Evans, owner of Waxen Candles in Mifflinville, Pa. (www.waxen.net). He has made candles since 1968. He tests many potential candles by burning them in his home.

The hand-dipped creations including tapers, shapes, Judaica candles, mini-tapers and lumigraphs have variegated designs.

“I started making them as gifts in art school,” Mr. Evans says. “They became popular really fast.”

Although candles are lovely, safety should be of the utmost concern when burning them, says Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council, a nonprofit organization in Northwest.

With an open flame comes responsibility. Candles can burn unevenly, and holders aren’t always secure, she says.

“Make sure the candles you use are in good sturdy bases,” Ms. Appy says. “There should be a nice amount of space for candle wax to drip.”

There should be a foot between a candle and anything that could catch fire, such as drapes or greenery, she says.

Avoid lighting candles in a bedroom, where people often fall asleep without extinguishing the flame. Adults also should control access to matches and lighters. Homeowners with children or pets might even want to purchase electric candles or candle warmers instead.

“If you are going to light a candle this holiday season, or anytime, make sure there is an adult in the room, paying attention,” Ms. Appy says. “Candles are very beautiful, but they are untrustworthy.”

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