These Super Cozy Candle-Lit Fireplaces Basically Demand a Cup of Hot Cocoa

published Dec 4, 2023
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Colorful taper candles inside marble fireplace.
Credit: Erin Derby

Firelight instantly ignites a romantic atmosphere in any room, but just because you have a fireplace doesn’t mean you want to spark up a roaring fire (especially if you’re not even sure it works or when it was last cleaned). Fortunately, you can create the same cozy vibes by using candles in your fireplace.

“Candles are easier to clean up and more economical to buy, and you don’t have to worry about chopping wood,” says Steve Lockwood, owner of Mountain State Fire Protection. Beyond that, candles keep your air more breathable, especially if your chimney is broken or dirty, which could allow smoke buildup inside the home. “If you rented an apartment with a fireplace and you don’t know the condition of the chimney, it is best to use candles instead,” says Lockwood.

Here are 10 ideas for using candles in the fireplace to give some glow-y (yet safe) ambiance all cozy season long.

1. Living in a Winter Wonderland

With white candles inside a white fireplace by furry, polar bear-like chairs, this snow-colored room is the epitome of cozy. Even better? The golden container beside the fireplace reflects candlelight across the white walls of this tiny Brooklyn apartment, lighting up the whole room.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

2. Going Deep

Filling the back of their fireplace with candles of different heights adds depth to the otherwise simple fireplace in this family home in Montreal, making the whole room appear more spacious.

3. Beyond the Looking Glass

Placing a mirror behind candles helps reflect their light to the rest of the room, doubling the brightness of the small flames. As an added bonus, the mirror in this Chicago condo seems to provide a glimpse into a secret room on the other side of the wall, making the whole condo appear to be more spacious.

4. Altared States

Filling an ornate fireplace with a Virgin Mary statue and a collection of prayer candles creates an eye-catchingly eclectic altar in this New Orleans apartment.

Credit: Sandra Rojo

5. A Modern Mantle

What do you get when you combine a cardboard deer head, a dog digging into the floor, and a black board blocking off the firebox from view? A fireplace that seems entirely appropriate for a flat in art-loving Barcelona. Because the firebox is blocked, candles provide a creative way to use the structure of the fireplace.

Credit: Sylvie Li

6. Sparsely Spacious

We love the many contrasting textures in the all-white walls and fireplace of this Montreal apartment. The two taper candles may not provide much light at night, but they make the fireplace look more imposing, and when the lights are turned down low, they contribute to a romantic atmosphere.

Credit: Anna Spaller

7. A Shining Beacon of Light

Don’t like the look of candles on the floor? You don’t have to give up on your waxy fireplace dreams — just invest in a stylish candle holder, like the gorgeous Frontgate candelabra used to adorn the beautiful, shining fireplace in this Boston studio.

8. Classic and Cool

Many homeowners like to adorn their rooms with decorative candles they never intend to use, but nothing quite matches the romantic ambiance of firelight. While candles may never give you the same warmth as a blazing fire, a few dozen candles filling up your firebox might give you a comparable amount of light — and they look fabulous too, as seen in this Chicago home’s original brick fireplace.

9. Contrasting Lines

You don’t have to forgo the classic log-in-the-fireplace look to take advantage of this trend — just place a line of candles in front of a decorative piece of wood. The white prayer candles adorning this Chicago home’s fireplace flow perfectly with the white brickwork of the mantel and provide a striking contrast to the black firebox and brown log behind them.

Credit: Viv Yapp

10. Delightfully Dark

We love the details of this London flat’s striking black fireplace almost as much as the contrasting white and black hearth adorned with white tapers in wine bottles.

Why Candles Are the Safest Option in a Fireplace

Candles are less risky than roaring fires.

Wood and gas fires can put the whole home at risk, as embers can spark out of your fireplace onto your carpet or some other combustible material, warns Lockwood, adding, “If your chimney is not clean, [it] could actually catch fire.” The danger is so prevalent that some landlords even specifically ban renters from using their fireplaces, leaving candles as your only non-electric lighting option.

Fireplaces make candles safer.

Fire has inherent risks, and while candles are one of the top causes of house fires, candles that live within a fireplace are much safer than candles randomly placed throughout the home. “Placing candles in sturdy holders in a clean fireplace is a safe way to light up your home rather than candles spread throughout the house, which can be knocked over or forgotten,” the National Fire Protection Association said via email.

There are fewer smoke dangers.

Where there’s more fire, there’s more smoke, which is not good for us. Wood smoke contains particles and gases that are bad for our lungs and reduce general indoor air quality. If you have a problem with your chimney or aren’t sure about its condition, never light a fire in the fireplace.

Fortunately, candles emit so little smoke they don’t even require a chimney. “If you have an issue with your chimney, you don’t have to worry about smoke coming back in your home,” says Lockwood.

How to Safely Use Candles in Your Fireplace

Yes, candles are a safe alternative to traditional fires in your fireplace, but they still have risks, causing around 23,600 house fires yearly, according to FEMA. While burning candles in a fireplace is safer than other locations, you should still take some basic safety precautions to protect your home.

“It is always nice to have a small portable fire extinguisher within reach, and make sure there are no combustible materials next to the flames,” says Lockwood.

While cleaning ash and soot from the fireplace is of the utmost importance when you burn log fires, when using candles, don’t let wax accumulate to the point where your candles or candle holders aren’t steady. Whether you have wax buildup, uneven bricks, or something else sitting below your candles, “make sure all candles are on level surfaces so they don’t fall out of the fireplace,” says Lockwood. Similarly, he recommends ensuring your candle base is secure so your candles won’t tip over.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy as part of Holiday Night Off, presented by DoorDash. See it there: Non-Working Chimney? Here Are 10 Gorgeous Ideas for Putting Candles in the Fireplace