I’m a big fan of tea lights and votive candles around the house, especially in the winter months when the light is gone so early. I’ve started lighting candles at the dinner table with the kids, even to make a mac n’ cheese dinner feel a little more special–and you know? It does. But there’s a fine line between creating ambience and creating a scene out of Carrie. So here are some tips for how to decorate with tea lights that can warm things up when you need it most.
And by the way, I totally cop to my personal dislike for votives floating in water unless it’s a wedding. No wedding tableaus here–save them for your actual wedding.
CLUSTER TEA LIGHTS ON A TRAY
I’m a fan of those humongo packs of IKEA unscented votive candles (GLIMMA) which cost nothing and last forever. You get 100 for $3.99 and they burn just fine. I like how they display them all on their own in a cluster on a tray–but be careful, especially if you have kids, because the metal casings get hot and can mar a good table underneath as I once learned the hard way. Instead, use basic tealight holders at minimum. At IKEA they are just $1.99 for 12.
LINE VOTIVES UP ON A WINDOWSILL
I am a big fan of the handmade, imperfect look of Glassy Baby candleholders–my white one is almost always on my dining room table but ooh, they look fantastic lined up on a windowsill in all different colors. Don’t alternate two colors; just go random, or if that stresses you out, opt for a single color.
LINE VOTIVES ALONG A WALL
Similarly I adore this look for tea lights found at Most Lovely Things, the same creative blogger who also featured that fabulous DIY photo giftwrap that we love. Not coincidentally, she’s also using Glassy Baby votive holders. They looks so fantastic in a single color, especially to bring a pop of brightness into a neutral space.
STAGGER VOTIVES WITH BUD VASES
If you have vaguely coordinated votive holders and bud vases, like these silvered ones on And She Cooks 2, they look great staggered somewhat haphazardly on a table. (Too formal and it looks like a wedding arrangement.)
Mercury glass candle holders–don’t worry, they’re not made with real mercury–can be found all like these at Pottery Barn or these mercury tealight holders at West Elm. (at very top). West Elm also carries Mercury glass vases, or hit thrift stores and garage sales and try to find some cool ones. The more weathered, the better.
USE A SINGLE VOTIVE HOLDER TO MAKE ITS OWN STATEMENT
Find a couple of cool holders that are decor in themselves. The Love House Ceramic Candle Holder ($36, Simone Ceramics) and Handmade Porcelain Candle Holder ($40, Wapa) both found on Etsy will look lovely on a simple table setting or end table, even when the candle is out.
GROUP TEA LIGHTS ON THE STAIRS
It’s really nice to group tealights up a staircase for ambient light–and also has the benefit of keeping guests from wandering upstairs. You can also just place one on each step along the wall, which can look really fantastic.
PLACE TEALIGHTS ON THE FLOOR IN LANTERNS
My parents always do this when they entertain and I think it looks so pretty, as an alternative to open glass votives. Lanterns are not always something you’d think to use indoors but it can work wonderfully. I love the look of Moroccan lanterns, especially these from Z Gallerie, though they are only available in gold and silver now. Great solution for otherwise dark corners.
LIGHT TEA LIGHTS IN THE BATHROOM
Let’s face it, there are few bathrooms with light as flattering as candles. When you’re entertaining, set a few around the bathroom and your guests will emerge feeling pretty. I like this candle arrangement in a bathroom at The Paper Mulberry which uses a few tea lights to offset some larger pillar candles.