Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Candle Lights for Summer Nights

I, for one, have certainly made the most of the few warm and lighter evenings that we have been enjoying recently. It always seems a shame that any summer event in the UK seems to have to be a last minute event.

There really is something magical about an evening under the stars with the company of good friends, a good bottle of wine (and in all probability a light jersey!). We keep a couple of old Kilims and some faded, but plump cushions in our Summer house and drag them out into the garden as it begins to darken to create an impromptu lounging and dining area – the perfect reminder of a terrific holiday in Marrakesh.

If you want to create that Moorish feel the trick is all in the type of lighting you use. Without a doubt, the soft glow of candle light is the perfect mood creator – and it also means that you do not have to go to the expense of installing electric cabling through out the garden or relying on solar powered products which can sometimes be a little disappointing.

I love the look of lights suspended from branches in the trees and one of the simplest effects can easily be obtained by placing a tea light in a jam jar and creating a handle with thin wire. These not only look great (particularly if you are using a more decorative jar such as Rose’s Lime Marmalade), but they are also wind resistant.

If you are looking for the same effect, but with the added allure of different colours then head to the Contemporary Home (www.tch.net; 02392 469400) who sell a set of four coloured jar tea light holders in pink, green, blue and red for £12.99.

Alternatively, you can create a hanging tree sculpture that looks great in the day and transforms at night using the ceramic Round Garden Hanging Tea Lights from Stylish Life Ltd (£16.68 - www.stylishlife.co.uk; 01269 822288). Available in 5 different inner colours and 2 shapes (round or teardrop); these also make great bird feeders.

When it comes to creating a party atmosphere I feel that Chinese Lanterns win hands down. I am delighted to see that they seem to be available everywhere this year with Tesco leading the way offering a set of 2 in Pink and Orange at £7 (www.tesco.com; 0800 505555).

Low level lighting also creates an intimate atmosphere and a product that I find terrific for this is a Candle Bag (or Luminaria to use its proper name). These are simply open paper bags lit from within by a tea-light, great as a one off or really effect when used en masse around a patio or up a drive to guide you to a party. Personally, I would only use them outside and always purchase a candle bag product rather than making my own, just to be on the safe side.

Visit www.skylanternsonline.co.uk (01205 317520) for a good selection of bags featuring star and heart designs for extra atmosphere – from £7.99 for 10 including delivery.

For a really contemporary look, more reminiscent of an electric garden light, but powered by a canister of standard “blow torch” gas giving up to 15 hours light a glow I would opt for the Hotspot Gas Garden Light (a finalist in the British Design awards) - £29.99 (www.drinkstuff.com; 0845 313 33 52). The units are made in rust proof aluminium and are totally portable. The Hotspot is reputed to be one of the best selling British designs abroad and Europe knows a thing or two about al fresco living.

Jamie Hempsall is a member of the British Institute of Interior Design. To contact Jamie with any queries call him free on 0800 0321 180 or visit his website www.jamiehempsall.com

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