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Design experts share how to create a candle centerpiece

Light up the room and dazzle your guests

A variety of tall candles on a dining room table Credit: Christian Harder

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Whether your holiday brings raucous conversation or cooking disasters, let setting your holiday table be a moment of calm before the storm. Making sure the forks and knives are perfectly in line is just the beginning as you gear up to create a marvelous centerpiece with lively candles.

Choosing where to begin when creating your showstopper can feel totally overwhelming, but with some sage advice from design experts Joy Choi and Jenifer Green you’ll be able to put together a design with some serious wow-factor.

Choi, the founder and creative director of Oh Joy!, a lifestyle brand and design company, says, “A centerpiece, or any element of home décor, is really all about personal style and preference.” While the rest of your home is filled with traditional holiday décor, you can let your centerpiece cater to your distinct taste.

Green, the owner of Greentree Home, remarks that one must “start with a cohesive plan with consideration to color, size, and composition.” Before getting into the minutia of each carefully curated piece in your table setting, choose the right space for your centerpiece to leave enough room for place settings and dishes.

Once you’ve gained your spatial bearings get ready to dive into the details. Choi and Green offer tips to help you create a masterful candlelit centerpiece you’ll be proud to show off this holiday season.

1. Explore new heights

Credit: Left: Sujun / Right: Urban Outfitters

Candles of different heights can create wonderful dimension.

No matter how much space you have on the table, explore your vertical space as well. “I love using a variety of heights of candles and candlesticks,” says Green.

Candles of different heights can create wonderful dimension. The increased depths allow for more unique placement of any floral accompaniments you want to place throughout the table.

There are a few different options when it comes to incorporating different heights into your designs. Fun, innovative candles like the Lex Pott twist candle—a single candle twisted to look like two—are a playful way to bring in varying heights

If you’re more of a traditionalist, try purchasing a mix of tall tapered candles and pillar candles at different heights. For those with an excess of tapered candles around the house, create the illusion of different sizes with a set of candle holders that come at different heights.

2. Embrace different textures

Four multicolored candles against a white background
Credit: Areaware

The ridged and swirled exteriors of these candles can add depth that a smooth taper candle might not be able to.

Simple neutral tapered candles are always classy, but you can shake things up with reinvented taper candles. “I’m loving different textured candlesticks,” Choi remarks on the candles that have been shaped into twists and spirals.

The ridged and swirled exteriors can add depth that a smooth taper candle might not be able to. Paired with simple candle holders and even some basic holly branches and twigs is an easy way to add some outstanding personality to your centerpiece.

3. Bring on colors

A set of multicolored candles
Credit: Urban Outfitters

Buying a set of multicolored taper candles makes incorporating color easy.

With so much going into a centerpiece from candles to florals, don’t be afraid of color.

Choi says, “My golden rule is to not be afraid to add color, regardless of the season. People usually gravitate towards browns and warm tones—especially during fall and winter months—but unexpected pops of greens, oranges, hot or warm pinks, and yellows are always welcome, warm, seasonal touches.”

If you want to stay traditional with your floral choices, then expand your pops of color through candles. Buying a set of multicolored taper candles makes incorporating color easy. A set that includes a classic fall and winter color like a warm orange, but ranges into pinks and lilacs, can help expand your table’s color wheel while still keeping all colors complementary.

Get the Multi-color Taper Candles at Urban Outfitters for $16

4. Make it personal

Tealights on top of black candle holders
Credit: Amazon

“A personal touch is always extra special, like handwritten placeholder cards or an individual votive for each place setting,” Green notes.

When hosting family and friends, adding in thoughtful accents will make your guests feel welcomed. “A personal touch is always extra special, like handwritten placeholder cards or an individual votive for each place setting,” Green notes.

If you have those particular family pieces like classic silver trays or glass platters that everyone is in awe over, bring those into the centerpiece, too.

“It’s fun to personalize a holiday table by taking a vintage or family piece and breathing new life into it by doing something unexpected.” Green adds. Take that beautiful silver tray and use it as a holder for florals or to place candles on top of. Everyone will love having those meaningful heirlooms close by.

Get Amazon Basics Mega Tealight Candles at Amazon for $9.99

5. Go for unexpected natural elements

On the left, dried pampas leaves and on the right, faux artichokes on display.
Credit: Left: CRFNI / Right: GiftYou

Dried branches and faux artichokes are the unexpected detail your centerpiece needs.

The non-traditional route is sure to make a splash on your table. Green says, “I like to incorporate some sort of vegetation into the mix. I especially love using just-cut branches with fresh blossoms for a natural look.”

Taking fresh elements right from the backyard makes flower shopping easy. For the holiday season, you can prune off some evergreen branches or holly clippings. Prefer something easier? Go with dried or faux stems and branches that look just as natural, but will last from year to year.

You can also push the boundaries of vegetation. “Add natural items to tablescapes like artichokes, pine cones, and flat rough-sawn wood plank pieces,” Green suggests.

Artichokes, for example, have such a signature floral element to them that they can blend in among the green leaves you bring into the table. They offer a rustic yet elegant feel that will blend in nicely with warm colors and natural woods, too.

6. A candle holder is important

On the left, wooden candlestick holders with white candles. On the right, glass candlestick holders with multicolored candles.
Credit: Left: West Elm / Right: Urban Outfitters

No matter how neutral or bright you decide to go with your centerpiece, candle holders can be a little something extra to add some pops of style.

Last, but certainly not least, when building your centerpiece with candles you can’t forget about the actual holders.

Choi says, “In addition to the actual candle, incorporating pieces like gold ceramic bead candle holders, or green velvet candle holders will add to your centerpiece and give your table extra dimension.”

No matter how neutral or bright you decide to go with your centerpiece, candle holders can be a little something extra to add some pops of style.

Metal candle holders are traditional, but you can alternatively go for an unexpected element like wood or glass. These add varying textures and colors—which you already know are keys to a successful centerpiece.

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