Candlepower for patios

Sharon Cohoon  – July 15, 2004

No one is sorry that Thomas Edison figured out how to harness electricity. But if a seductive atmosphere is what you’re after, candlepower beats kilowatts every time.

In his backyard ramada in Scottsdale, Arizona, artist Jeff Zischke houses candles in antique carriage lamps and ordinary mason jars; he supplements their glow with low-voltage lamps. “There’s still no substitute for candlelight,” he says. “That flickering glow just draws people in like moths.”

For a rooftop terrace in Palm Desert, California, Elana Donovan opted to forgo electricity. She relies on candlelight for dining outdoors. “It’s wonderful being up there in the near-dark, looking at the stars,” she says.

In the wildflower meadow behind his home in Escondido, California, Greg Rubin creates the illusion of candlepower by altering solar lights that come on automatically when the sun goes down. “It’s the lazy man’s candle,” Rubin says.

Tabletop Ambience

A casual arrangement of candles in assorted-size glasses illuminates a table in Elana Donovan’s rooftop garden. A candlelit Moroccan lantern at the end of the lineup leads your eye to distant mountains fading in the evening light.

Solar Flair

To make his solar lights (Intermatic Malibu for retailers) look like candlelit torches, Greg Rubin screwed off their lids, which contain the illuminating device, and discarded the base and housing. Then he set the lids on clear votive glasses that are cradled atop decorative metal stakes (Pier 1 Imports; 800/245-4595). For the best effect, Rubin suggests using an amber rather than a white LED and laying a piece of white paper over the bottom of the glass to better reflect the light.

DESIGN: Greg Rubin, California’s Own Native Landscape Design, Escondido, CA (760/746-6870)