Friday, December 30, 2011

Candles-A Look at Light

Well, Christmas Eve has come and gone, and boy, did we sell candles!  And while doing so, lots of people asked us about them—what to get, how to use them, and so on.

So first of all, I will start with all my prejudices and biases—of which, as I am sure you know, dear reader, I have many.

Number One:  I don’t use paraffin candles—and neither should you.  They are a petroleum product and thus not suitable for burning inside the house.  And they smell horrible.  The only candle I like for burning inside is a beeswax candle.  Unlike paraffin (or soy—more on this later), they are a truly sustainable product.  And bee-keeping is one of our most important agricultural pursuits—bees are the chief pollinators of most of the crops grown in the Western world, and for some unexplained reason, they are in decline.  This is very worrisome to both scientists and farmers, so you will be doing everyone a favour when you burn your beeswax candles.  They are completely eco-friendly, they don’t drip and get all over your table linens (unless they are in a draft which will cause them to gutter—burning to one side and destroying the candle), and they smell good in a very light and unassuming way when you burn them.  Now I am talking about unscented dinner candles and the candles which go in to candlesticks and sconces all over your house.

Photo courtesy of Edward Addeo
Farrow and Ball, the Art of Colour, by Brian Coleman
See the two candles in the wonderful wrought iron candle torchere.  
Because these are beeswax, there is no worry about the candle 
dripping onto the chair upholstery.

Number Two:  I don’t like coloured candles or pure white ones.  I like the soft natural colours (a somewhat ivory colour is my favourite, and also the somewhat darker natural one).  These are both the colours that come naturally to the wax, and they are beautiful in a room, and never detract whether lighted or not.  The great decorator, Valerian Rybar, used to prefer black candles, and this is very French, but it is also very “in your face”.  He could get away with it, but I am more traditional and don’t like them.  I really don’t like red candles, even at Christmastime, but you don’t have to agree with me on this.

Picture courtesy of Farrow and Ball, the Art of Colour, by Brian Coleman 
with pictures by Edward Addeo. 
Notice how the sconces and the chandeliere mimic the look of candles, 
and how simple the beautiful “photophores” on the table with their candles are.

Number Three:  I don’t like too much scent in the house.  Therefore, although I love one or two scented candles burning (far apart, please!), don’t go hog-wild.  And never use a candle with a chemical scent.  Sadly, the good scented candles are expensive—and they should be.  They take bazillions of flowers and leaves to make their extracts, and that’s why they are so nice.  And remember—NEVER use scented candles near food.  A lot of your taste is based on the aroma of the food, and a scented candle simply overpowers those important smells.  Put the scented candles in the living room or library, etc.  This goes for votive candles too.  Scented votives are for the powder room or such.

And maybe not important, but I think all this hoo-haw about making sure the candle wicks have been lighted once is just a lot of folderol.  It’s what I call Magazine Editors’ Advice—I mean, really.  If you have just set the table for a beautiful dinner party, and have all your grandmother’s Paul de Lamerie candelabras out, you are NOT going to rush around and light all the candles and them blow them out, so why do it for a picture of your beautiful table?  Light the candles when you are going to use them!  And remember, no candles on a luncheon table.

Caption: photo by Edward Addeo for Farrow and Ball, the Art of Colour
Please note that the candles have not been lighted since it is lunchtime—
they will be lighted that night for dinner.

So, since I’m so snicky, what candles do I like?  Well, there’s lots out there—there are just all beeswax.

First, for basic candles, there are two wonderful companies:

Perrin-Mowen, who has been making wonderful quality candles in California since the 1980’s.  They make both a rolled honeycomb candle in a dinner size (all the way from 5” to 16”). Or solid ones for the same use.

A solid candle is more expensive but it will burn a lot longer.  It is for people who use candles as an everyday thing. (Remember to put your candles out with a snuffer, and they will last longer).  A rolled “beehive” candle gives an incredibly beautiful light, and they are for usually a one or two time use. 

You can also buy their rolled beehive candles in pillars that are varying thickness, for use on a coffee table or similar.  It is best to use them in a hurricane globe since that will keep them burning evenly, because these candles can be used many times. 

They have many wonderful shapes, such as squares which look great on a modern coffee table or console, and little “beehives” which look great in the powder room.  Although, as I said above, these pure beeswax candles are not scented, they have a naturally nice odor, and all candles, by their burning, keep the air fresher.

You can buy Perrin-Mowen candles at my boutique, Leta Austin Foster.  E-mail:, with your needs.

Another candle company which I like very much is Root out of Ohio.  They make beautiful solid beeswax candles suitable form use in candlesticks, in a wide variety of sizes, in both the ivory and the darker naturals.  One style is called Timberline

A more formal look is Collenette with its beautiful look of a fluted column

And they make tapers which are just what they sound like

This company has been making candles for almost 150 years, so they certainly know what they are doing.

Root also sells candle supplies, one of the best of which is their little wax circles that hold your candles upright in their holders.  These go along with my other choices for the Leta Austin Foster Faux Nobel Prize for Useful Things that Make Life Easier—such as prewashed organic lettuce, etc.

Since their candles are beeswax and thus evaporate instead of dripping, you, under ordinary circumstances, won’t need bobeches for your candlesticks, but if you want them,
You can Google Biedermann and Sons where you can boy lots of stuff for candles—most highly unnecessary.  But the bobeches are nice.

You can buy nice plain votive holders at Root.  Remember to use boiling water to get out the leftovers when you are finished.  And another thing that is nice at Root is their candle wax remover for your linens.

Now when I talked about beeswax being sustainable, I did not talk about soy candles.  As with any soy product, you MUST check and make sure that it is organic soy—commercially grown soybeans are one of the two largest, genetically modified crops in the country (the other being corn) which is bad, bad, bad.  Beeswax is the way to go.

If you are really into beeswax (I am. But not this much!), you could make your own candles—just like the pioneers.  You can buy sheet beeswax, and roll them yourself.  Or if you want to be really basic, you can go to and grow your own hives.  I will NOT be with you on this, but do let me know how it turns out.  In actual fact, bees are gentle animals who will not sting for no reason.  My daughter, India, used to let them land on her finger in our garden in Maine, and then she would gently stroke them.  I must admit that I was too cowardly to do this, but I do love the idea of bees, and I am not afraid of them—not like Yellow Jackets, which are very aggressive.

Now which scented candles do I like best—well, who could not love Agraria?   A wonderful company from California, for years the only place you could buy Agraria products was at Henri Bendel’s original store on 5th Avenue.  And the original candle was the Balsam one.  It is still made today, along with Bitter Orange (wonderful, too) and Lavender and Lemon Verbena (great for “eating up” kitchen odors.  These are great candles.

Agraria also makes the Charlotte Moss candles, my favourite of which is “Virginia.”  Sadly, they have changed the packaging, which is sad since so many people recognized the lovely flower-printed boxes.  I am showing you the new packaging so you will know it when you see it.

Another of the great old-timers in scented candles is Rigaud—“Cypres”in its distinctive zebra packaging and its red ribbon trim encircling its glass filled with deep pine green wax, it was the darling of New York social butterflies such as C. Z. Guest and Jane Wrightsman.  French fabrics and leopard velvet and carpeting and Rigaud candles-  it was all so perfect.  Rigaud also makes gardenia and a wonderful (though Christmas-y) spice candles.

I love Diptych candles, especially the carnation and the jasmine and the tuberose ones.  They are beautifully simples, clean scented, and lovely to have burning.  There is an enormous array of scents

And of course, there is Nest.  Created by Laura Slatkin, their very with-it scents such as Bamboo and Wasabi Pear are perfect for young, hip hostesses.  Their Christmas candle, Sir Elton John, sold out for us almost immediately.  It is a wonderful scent in the same kind of aroma as the Agraria Balsam or the original Cypress candle from Rigaud.

Any of these candles made wonderful hostess presents too.  They certainly “light up my life”.  Have fun with them, and remember, don’t take any of this seriously.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tutu Cute!

Tutus and Tees are on trend!
Gorgeous soft pink tank from Le Nouveou Ne, $55.00
Soft beige tutu, from Little Sofie's Garden, $30.00.
From Little Sofie's Garden,
super soft cotton "Yulia" Tee, $40.00
Fashionable and Chic, also from Sofie's Garden
Yulia Tutu in black, $30.00.

Perfect for New Year's Eve, these wonderful tutus from Little Sofie's Garden are sure to delight any little girl. Wonderful to mix and match with any of our soft cotton tees, these adorable tutus are a customer favorite. Call or come in, we have more colors in stock and ready to go.  As always contact or call the Boutique at 561. 655.7367.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Beautiful Smocking for the Holidays

Gorgeous hand embroidered "Galatea" grey wool dress, and
embroidered shirt combo. $520.00.

Wonderful brown velvet hand-smocked "Terese" party dress
by Anachini.  $382.00

The perfect accessories.
Delicate nautical charm bracelets by Sasha Lickle Designs.
Gold-tone $100.00 and Silver $95.00 

These beautiful hand embroidered party dresses are perfect for the winter holidays.  Made exclusively for us, these stunning designs (and more) are now available at Leta Austin Foster Boutique.  Call or email, or stop by and take a peak at all our lovely gifts. 

Happy Shopping!


Monday, December 19, 2011

Chic and Easy Party Dressing

Chic in Cashmere
Luxurious burgundy cashmere "Crystal"  cardigan, $222.00
Belted tucked cream silk shirt, $130.00
Flouncy navy blue "Petticoat" skirt, $135.00
all by CZ by Carolina Zapf, New York
A lovely combination.
Bella Bliss "Emma" silk blouse in pearl, $48.00
CZ by Carolina Zapf navy blue cotton cardigan, with pearl buttons, $90.00
Also by CZ, silver "Petticoat" silk skirt, $135.00
"Triple Scotty" headband from France Luxe, $40.00
Silver nautical charm bracelet by Sasha Lickle Designs, $95.00

These fabulous and versatile separates, in mix and match colours, are the perfect all-purpose party clothes for the holidays or year round.  Come see for yourself at our older girls department (we carry up to size 12 now) or call (561.655.7367) or email to order.

Happy holiday shopping!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

More Great Gifts

From Baroni, pink gingham nightgown, with
white satin ribbon and pink and white embroidery, $176.00.

From Baroni, beautiful nightgown in light blue,
with white embroidery and white ribbon, $176.00

These lovely and ladylike nightgown will be sure to delight any little girl this holiday season.  Available in stock and ready to order.  Come in, or call Betty (561.655.7367) or email her at  She is always happy to help with any questions.  Happy shopping! 


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Something Beautiful-and Amazing

At N. P. Trent Antiques
3729 South Dixie Highway
West Palm Beach, Florida
The following are pictures of a wonderful pair—not really a pair, but they should be treated as a pair—of Victorian rustiques at N. P. Trent Antiques.

They were probably made for a conservatory in England—although they could certainly be French—at that time, all of Europe was in the throes of back-to-nature in the garden.  Capability Brown and his brethren had transformed some of the gardens of the stately homes in England, creating vast vistas and little vignettes in would-be arcadias, and these led to beautiful summer houses and gazebos which were furnished with all kinds of furniture that reminded one of the woods.  These concrete and iron or wooden pieces were often created to look as though they were made from twigs and branches, and they can still be found, although they are often very expensive.

A fine mid 19th century cast iron garden bench in the twig pattern,
manufactured in New York City by James Beebe and Co.
This firm provided benches for the US Capitol and other buildings
of similar stature.  It is signed by the firm, and is available
at South Street Antiques in Litchfield, CT.

This lovely Greek Revival building houses South Street Antiques which
specializes in 18th and 19th century furniture and accessories. 
One of my very favourite antique stores in the world--and that's saying a lot, is Cote Jardin which has lovely homes both in Washington, D. C. (3218 O Street, NW, Washington DC, 20007) , and in Palm Beach (3627 South Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, 33405).  They specialize in Garden furniture, especially of the "rustique" variety. 

Look at this absolutely enchanting twig bench in cast iron, complete with flowers,

Or, unbelievably enough, this amazing pair of cast iron benches.  Notice all the details, especially the heads of the arm rests which were cast in the shapes of dogs.  Animals, especially dogs and horses, were an important design element in Victorian furniture, even that out in the garden.

Here are some Chinese or Japanese pieces, made in ceramic of all things, and thus more suitable for inside than out, unless you happen to live in a frost-free climate.  But they certainly would be pretty in the garden, and how nice to have a place to serve tea.

Another rustique table from Cote Jardin.

And look at this wonderful bench.

Nota Bena:  this concrete furniture, when it sat out in the woods, was impervious to the elements, although, due to dampness, it often took on a beautiful coat of soft green moss.  Try to imagine this sitting in a little dell or glen, sheltered by trees, and with a wonderful tray for either lunch, tea, or dinner on a table nearby.

The furniture below has, unfortunately, been painted, but it would be an easy thing to remove this.  The furniture looks best in its natural state, so that it can "grow" its mossy finish.

Nota Bena: this kind of furniture is very heavy—it is not suitable for grassy lawns where dragging a chair would pull up the grass—it needs to have a paved area under it or be situated in such a way that the pieces are not moved.  Now, in the “olden days” such as 18th or 19th century times, in places like Paris, these would have also been placed on graveled areas, and they are certainly beautiful there.  Consider gravel for the open places in your garden.  It’s permeable, so it’s good for the environment, and it’s beautiful.  It does need to be raked on a regular basis, and it should be hand-weeded when necessary.  Do not use weed killer.  Weed killers (also called by the more rafinee name of herbicides) seep down into the water table and poison all of us and various animals and birds.  Do not do this.

I love Cote Jardin so much, and I use it all the time.  They have amazing pieces besides these outdoor garden ones—Swedish chests and French armoires and they are the source when you want to buy Herve Baum, the beautiful outdoor wrought iron from France.  Do Google them, if you are not lucky enough to go to either their West Palm Beach or Washington, D. C., stores.

This furniture style was, of course, not limited to the garden; it also went into garden rooms, or entry halls.  I love treillage, and use it a lot, both indoors and in the garden.  The company, Accents of France, part of the holdings of the dear, dear Le Menach family from Tours, is located, for American users in California, and they will come at your beckoning, and build for you a most beutiful and special room such as the ones below

All pictures above curtesy of
Accents of France, Tarzana California,
Contact Philippe Le Menach

When one had rooms decorated with incredible trelliage, one wanted special furniture for it.  These two planters that we talked about above, would have been just the ticket.

Filled with ferns such as maidenhair and beautiful and rare flowering plants, a sunroom owner could have been proud.  At first, I thought these planters had a d├ęcor that was a form of straw marquetry—a post on that later—but now, I believe they were a more strangely exalted form of straw embroidery.  Straw embroidery was a rare form of embroidery usually used to decorate the most elaborate of ball gowns.  It was worked onto a black or very dark tulle.  When you look at the details on these two beauties, you can see that someone with a “dab hand,” as they used to say, did this incredible work.

If you are planning a wonderful treillaged space, go to N.P.Trent’s website and inquire about these.  They are somewhat expensive, and should be.  I wish they were mine.


PS: I will come back to you soon with more on treillage, and that is a beautiful subject.  Also more on Paris to come.