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Fan of the flames

People have been fascinated with fire since the days of the cavemen. In their first incarnations, the dancing flames were used for light, heat and cooking.

But since electricity and gas replaced fire to fuel lights and appliances, the flickering flames have been relegated to secondary roles, chief among them atop candles to add ambiance and make celebrations more special.

Today’s candles are jumping off birthday cakes and dinner tables into all areas of the home.

“I love using candles, especially when entertaining,” said Phil Tracey, home expert for HomeGoods.

Tracey said candles are inexpensive and can easily be accessorized, especially pillar candles.

“It’s not just about the candle. It’s about the accessory you put the candle into,” agreed Meghan Gallagher, design director for Root Candles of Medina, Ohio. “You can be so creative. You can use a votive holder to hold a dinner candle. People are showing us lots of new ideas for dinner candles and votives.”

One reason it’s easy to decorate a home with candles is that they come in so many colors, sizes and shapes. Candles come in a range of styles and colors, so there’s bound to be one to fit your décor, Gallagher said.

“You can easily pick up on them (colors) in your decorations so you can match what you have and make it sophisticated.

“Pillars and votives and smaller filled candles are great for adding little areas of twinkle around the room without making it overly formal,” she said. “For a festive centerpiece, pair a grouping of glass ornaments with some votives sporadically strewn throughout.”

Gallagher said her company follows popular trends in the home décor and fashion industries to help design their candles, as well as in gourmet foods to determine fragrances.

“Personalization has become an incredibly popular theme in today’s marketplace. With candles, one can personalize their space with signature scents that are both pleasing to them and welcoming to guests. Additionally, the wide variety of candle designs available allow individuals to utilize candles as stylish décor accents,” said Jon Haveman, owner of Lakeshore Candle Co. of Zeeland, Mich.

Lakeshore’s unique fragrances include lemongrass, Michigan cherry, sweet bay magnolia and lavender eucalyptus.

According to Haveman, the company makes the candles in a two-step process, which eliminates air bubbles so that they burn cleanly and evenly as well as distributes fragrance through the entire candle and burn time

Gallagher said candles definitely set a mood, and they are really an affordable way to add the ambiance to a room.

“Candles are elegant,” said Michelle Gurschke, an interior designer and manager of the French Heritage showroom at the Las Vegas Design Center. Just adding them to your table transforms your everyday, basic dishes into elegant dinnerware, she added.

But, she cautions, when using candles around food be sure they are unscented so the aromas don’t compete.

Gallagher agrees.

“Unscented candles, including dinner candles, are best to use whenever food is involved,” she said.

This holiday season, candles are a great alternative to add warmth to any setting without adding heat, Tracey said.

“Put some candleholders with lit candles in the fireplace. You get the same effect but without the excessive heat,” he added.

For those who appreciate the ambiance candles add but who don’t want the risk or mess of a traditional candle there are options such as battery-operated candles.

The flameless candles, which can be made of wax or resin and look just like traditional candles, feature LED lights that flicker just like flames. Some of them, such as those offered by Enjoy Lighting, even have timers.

Tracey said he often puts flameless pillar candles in his fireplace. “You usually can’t tell and you will sleep better at night — you don’t have to worry if you blew them all out. A lot of them also have a scent.”

Another option are the decorative Scentsy ceramic warmers that add ambiance and fragrance through melting wax. Instead of a flame, the wax is melted by the heat of an incandescent light bulb in the base of the warmer, said John Curtis, vice president of communications for Scentsy.

The warmers plug into an outlet and offer a great range of decorative options, he said.

Not only do the warmers offer a safe and clean alternative to candles, Curtis said it’s easy to change fragrances – just pour the liquid wax back into the container, where it will harden; wipe out the top portion and put in a new scent.

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