We’ve hit spring. So yay! But, that also means we’ve all been inside for a long time now. A year of quarantine has taught me this, at least: it’s time to update my home decor. A new rug or dining set may not be in my budget, but do you know what is? Tea lights. And I have definitely become a candle person this past year, as I’ve discussed on Spawned with multiple guests.
It’s amazing how a cheerful votive can create such a warm ambience to a spot in my home that feels overlooked. Plus, when you turn the lamps off and dine by candlelight — you know, at home — it’s much harder to see the dust bunnies hiding in the corners. Just saying.
So if you’re also feeling the itch to add some ambiance to your indoor or outdoor spaces this spring, where surely we’ll be entertaining a lot, you’ll want to use these tips for decorating with tea lights.
– This post has been updated for 2021 –
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Line votives on a window sill
With spring nearly here, these colorful votives on the window sill are giving me all the good vibes. These are beautiful blown-glass votives from glassybaby, one of my favorites, but even if you aren’t ready to splurge on an artisan-made, one-of-a-kind item like this, you can still line colorful votives on a window sill to catch the light — like these stunning Claire Desjardins votives at Anthropologie.
Don’t get too fussy with it! Avoid looking too matchy-matchy; don’t alternate two colors. Just go random, or if that stresses you out, opt for a group in a single color with one accent holder (like this photo) to really give it some pop.
Cluster tea lights on a tray
I’m a fan of those humongo packs of unscented soy tea lights that last forever. I love these clear holders, set out in a group on a tray. But be careful if you choose the aluminum ones, especially if you have kids, because the metal casings get hot and can mar a nice table underneath …s I once learned the hard way.
Instead, use basic glass tea light holders to protect your furniture. Affordable and practical.
Group tea lights on stairs
You can bring interest to an empty space by lining tea lights votives on the floor, either down a hallway, in a dark nook, or up a set of stairs like this display of votives at Pottery Barn. When we’re finally able to have a few people over again, spreading lights across the stairs is a great way to keep guests from heading to a part of your home you want to keep off limits. Or, if you stay outside, it can still make your house look pretty through a window.
That said, I would definitely recommend using battery-operated tea lights if you’re placing them low enough for children to touch, or to be knocked over.
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Stagger votives with bud vases
Vintage (or, ahem, vintage-looking) mercury glass is a finish that you can easily mix-and-match, and staggering votives with bud vases makes a warm and inviting centerpiece.
You can find great mercury glass votives at Pottery Barn or these mercury tealight holders at West Elm.
For a budget price, this 8-piece votive and bud vase set (shown) at Target is lovely. Then again, you can also hit thrift stores and garage sales and try to find some actual vintage ones. The more weathered, the better.
Use a single, stunning votive to make a statement
Splurge on several artisan-made, statement votive holders that are decor in themselves. You can rotate them, or just set them in different places throughout your home for a big impact in a small space.
This white pottery luminary at Fine Art Stoneware, this ultra-modern tea light holder by Paddywax at Nordstrom, or this mesmerizing ceramic candle holder at Clay by Dannah (which, ships free from Israel and also doubles as a succulent planter) will look lovely alone on end table, even when the candle is out.
Place tea lights in lanterns, indoors or out
My parents always set candles in lanterns on the ground when they entertain outside, and I always found that the beautiful light-play is a fun alternative to glass votives. Lanterns are not always something you’d think to use indoors but it can work wonderfully; and of course it’s also perfect for any outdoor entertaining you are able to do this spring and summer.
These antiqued zinc lanterns from World Market would be perfect outdoors, and you could even use solar-powered tea lights inside them. Then again, I also love the look of these modern white Moroccan lanterns at Target. They’re a great solution for otherwise dark corners.
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Make your bathroom an oasis with votive lights
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After getting through 2020, every parent deserves a long, luxurious bubble bath. And you need to treat yourself! Don’t just lock the doors to hide from your kids, make this your space. Set up soothing candles on a wooden bathtub board and some live plants near the window for a relaxing ambiance, like this covet-worthy bathroom by Sara Parsons on Instagram, above.
Last: Use votives to celebrate a holiday
This modern votive menorah arrangement I saw on glassybaby’s Instagram is such a stunning, minimalist way to light your candles at Hanukkah. So clever! It’s great idea that could be used for many holidays, from an Advent wreath to traditional Diwali lights to an unexpected Kwanzaa kinara. Or hey, the blue ones can double for a Fourth of July celebration, now that we know that may be a thing this year.
What a beautiful way to celebrate the light we hope to be in the world!