Which Decorative Candles Still Look Good When Melted? An Investigation

Photo by Sadhbh O'Sullivan.
Candles are no longer candle-shaped. As we've written about a few times since the pandemic began, candles are now front and centre in the world of home decor. Independent makers and high street brands alike are making sculptural wax figures with wicks emerging from the centre to bring colour, scent and flickering light to your home. They are balls or bubbles or flowers or bodies or hands or anything in between. Basically anything that can be made eye-catching and ideally pastel has the potential to be candle inspiration.
But the fact is that these candles rarely seem to bring the flickering light – they are aesthetic objects more than anything. The wick is almost incidental to a lot of shapes. Instead they are dotted around as accents in living spaces or in the background of IG stories.
Which of course begs the question (at least as far as I'm concerned): How do they function as candles instead of aesthetic objects? Do they retain their aesthetic appeal once lit? Where on earth does candle wax go? The answers to at least two of these questions will be answered here today.
I sourced candles from different makers and retailers in a variety of popular shapes, styles and scents to investigate whether the candle is still as fun once its otherwise neglected wick is lit.
The Flower Power Candle by summer morning studios
Made from soy wax and beautifully scented, there is a lot to love about the candles from summer morning studio. The Flower Power Candle, however, is not built to burn well.
They do note on site that these are "designed to be ogled and admired as opposed to burned, [but] if you do take a match to these bad boys, the smell is divine." So I can't say I wasn't warned.
The speed at which the candle burned is impressive or disconcerting, depending on your perspective. It had been lit for barely a couple of minutes before wax started tunnelling down the back. The grooves and the curve of the design make the candle a launching pad for its own wax to pool down and onto the table.
The front of the flower held its shape for a while. By the time I blew it out it was slightly eaten away and the overall shape was trailing several pink pastel spills of wax.
I can confirm that the smell is indeed divine – the pink one is scented with pomegranate and patchouli. The look post-burning is quite surreal, which works with the groovy vibe. However it is messy – wax quickly spilled off my protective mat.
The Butter Candle by Nata Concept Store
Nata Concept Store started as a vintage reseller before becoming part of the wave of independent candle makers and sellers in recent years. They have many lovely pastel sculptural candles but it was one of the latest releases – 'Butter' – that I was most interested in.
Scented with neroli, jasmine and orange blossom, it smells honestly delicious and nothing like butter which, much like burn time, is a positive or a negative depending on how you see it. It arrived packaged in gingham greaseproof paper, which is a nice touch.
The most pleasing thing for me is the way the wax melts and pools just like butter. This is a slow-burning candle and thanks to its size and shape there was no wax pooling after an hour. The effect of slowly melting butter genuinely works at any stage. This is a strong contender for favourite cos it is indeed...Smooth Like Butter.
This is the most dramatic candle ever to be burned. I was intrigued by the OK Hand Gesture Candle, a product that is not to my taste aesthetically but had a curious proposition. What would it be like to burn a hand from the fingers down?
The answer, unsurprisingly, is messy. There was a satisfying weight to the design in its untouched form, clearly modelled on a large hand. Holding it was somewhat comforting (though getting into why is the reason I go to therapy).
The wax is scentless and comes in a range of colours. I had white, which fit quite neatly with the set. The melting didn't start as dramatically as the Flower Power Candle but it wasn't long before the spilling began. This was to be expected. As noted on the Beyond Living site, which stocks the CandleHand: "❗Spills while burning. Please burn on a non-burning surface, ideally on a plate.❗"
After about half an hour the wick on the ring finger went out as it was uneven. The effect was quite morbid and dramatic. After an hour we were down three fingers and well into the palm, with a huge pool of wax edging menacingly towards the edge of my coffee table.
I now have a wax hand stump gesturing OK. Which honestly is the kind of beleaguered optimism I'm bringing to 2022 so I can't fault it. But I wouldn't display it anywhere prominently.
Squiggle Candle by summer morning studios
I was lucky enough to be sent not one but two candles from summer morning studios. The lilac Squiggle Candle (which smelled beautifully of wild lavender and lemon) was very pleasing to look at pre-burning but quickly followed in the flower's footsteps. Which is to say, it collapsed in on itself like a delicious-smelling star. The flame tunnelled down over the course of an hour, leaving a circumference of the squiggle to fall away. It reminded me, weirdly, of a lizard shedding its skin, though that's a compliment from me. I think lizards are wonderful.
While the process is fun to watch, the result after 50 minutes looks 1) hard to relight and 2) pretty dramatic. The overspill is honestly quite compelling from the front but the little chunks that fell off the sides dampen the dramatic effect. Tidy the fallen remains and the effect is dynamite – though it wouldn't last you longer than a couple of hours, tops.
And finally, the RE-OR candle is arguably the most robust. It’s certainly the most structurally sound. Designed to have a slim core of a tapered candle around which you can stack and restack four different shapes, an hour of burning barely made a dent.
I really like the statement of this as a structure both before and after burning, though I admit I was hoping for a more dramatic colour reveal as the pink core melted into the sphere. As it happened there was nothing of the sort. It will take a long stretch of burning time to make the pink visible at eye level. The effect therefore is the same before and after, which is more than I can say for the other candles.
Photo by Sadhbh O'Sullivan.
This has been a revealing experiment. The summer morning studio candles did not stand up to the burning particularly well but the effect of their wax melting, both in scent and shape, was genuinely appealing. The pooling lilac against the squiggle felt charming.
The RE-OR candle will definitely be making a reappearance, as will Nata's butter candle. For me personally, the butter slightly pips the stack in terms of appeal.
And the hand. Well, that hand. It certainly makes its presence known.

More from Home

R29 Original Series