Why Are Quirky Candles Having Such a Moment Right Now?

published Mar 11, 2021
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Credit: Melanie Gnau

As someone who accidentally devoted an entire cabinet shelf to candles (sorry, not sorry!), I’m a big believer in the power of a great flame. The right candle can help you unwind after a long day, create some much-needed mood lighting, and, of course, release a really good scent into your space if you’re into fragrance. Did you know that candles can also make a design statement, too, though?

Historically, most candles have looked pretty much the same: a bunch of wax poured into a glass or ceramic container, topped with a flammable wick. Sure, tapers, pillars, and votives are other age-old options, too. However, as of late, a handful of brands have reimagined candles into legit art: twisted sticks, totem-like designs that negate the need for actual candlesticks, and amorphous wax blobs that are like little mini sculptures for your shelves and tabletops.

Though this trend might feel new, candle maker Andrej Urem, the man behind those chic beaded cube candles that have been popping up in homes and all over Instagram lately, argues artful candles have been a long time coming. “When I started my candle line in 2009, it was hard to find any similar brand focused on architectural and sculptural design,” he says.

Urem’s first collection consisted of three shapes — Milk, Core, and Lace — all of which can be best defined as intricately carved wax cubes. Back then, he was looking for a new way to express the Hellenistic principles of form and beauty that he was raised with. Little did he know, however, that he was paving the way for a cool trend that would rise to the fore of the design world now over a decade later.

Credit: Andrej Urem

So… the million-dollar question: Why are unconventionally-shaped candles so big now? Urem chalks it up to many people spending a lot more time at home and looking for something familiar and ritualistic but also, at the same time, fresh and new. “People are certainly using more candles to connect to the cultural archetypes,” he explains. “In all crises, we need to find something timeless as a reference point.” Nostalgia of any sort truly can be a helpful coping mechanism.

It makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? The past year has been an extended version of “Groundhog’s Day.” Instead of burning what looks like the same candle day in and day out, trying a quirky, sculptural style brings people some variety for these functional objects, all while leveling up their home’s style. Lighting one of these pieces is almost like a mystery, too. Since the shapes are so different, you can’t totally be sure how they’re going to burn exactly, so there’s some excitement in the process. That being said, some might argue that sculptural candles are almost too beautiful to burn. If you fall into this camp, don’t worry; Urem says he specifically designs his candles to look good as they burn.

Credit: Andrej Urem

“All [of] my styles burn so that a cavity is formed in the middle, leaving the outside structure intact,” he shares. “Some customers use that opening to place a tea light inside and use it as a candle holder once the candle is done.”

Contrary to popular belief then, these artful candles actually have a lot more to offer than just good looks and may even have a leg up on longevity than other more conventional candles. Most of these styles are unscented, too, so there’s a lot of versatility to these pieces, and you won’t be deterred by any unfavorable notes if you want to burn one of these babies during a meal. If, on the other hand, you’re craving a really good fragrance, you can always level up your glow from one of these guys by lighting a scented candle alongside it. In the case of Urem’s eponymous line, his vegan candles use hand-poured soy wax and cotton wicks to keep pesky smoke at bay, too, so you get a clean burn.

Eccentric candles might be having a moment but will they stay on trend? Urem offers a resounding yes. “[They] fall into the category of essential merchandise,” he shares. “When we talk about the current trend of ‘unconventional’ design candles, it will stay alive as long as designers honestly pursue their vision of what they intend to share with us.”

Picking out candles may not be as big of a decision as, say, buying a sofa. If you’re looking for the perfect finishing touch though, a quirky candle might be just the thing your home needs most.