The Best Candles To Ignite Inspiration: 10 Creatives Share Their Favourites

By Ashleigh Cometti
Feeling burnt out? These 10 creatives share their favourite candles to spark creativity once more. Photo / Pompeii Home

From grounding, earthy notes to invigorating citrus, these candles cultivate creativity.

Is lighting a candle the secret to boosting your productivity? Tapping into your creativity? Reducing your stress levels?

Functional fragrance, or the power of scent to activate parts of the brain that release neurochemicals to either

For some of New Zealand’s top creatives, candles are a powerful means of awakening their senses and igniting inspiration.

While some creatives lean in to the escapism scent provides, allowing them to tap into an alternate reality of sitting beneath swaying tomato vines in Puglia, Italy, or relaxing fireside in the Swiss Alps, for others their scent of choice is woody and grounding — fostering a sense of calm and focus during a busy work day.

From jewellery designers and mixed media artists, to photographers, architects and illustrators, discover their top picks below.

Jasmin Sparrow, jewellery designer

Scent profile: Woody, earthy and resinous, with notes of cedar, cypress and vetiver.

Jasmin says: “I truly love Aesop scents; I love layering their moisturiser, deodorant and perfume and walking around smelling like an Aesop store. My favourite perfume of theirs is Hwyl — it’s quite an androgynous scent.

Their Ptolemy candle was created in inspiration of this scent and is my favourite of the three they offer. I love having candles in our living room, I light them whenever we have friends over, or during a relaxing weekend at home with the family.”

Anahita Paul, photographer and mixed media artist

Scent profile: Ripe with notes of juicy heirloom tomatoes, this scent is reminiscent of summer dinner parties spent in Sicilian gardens.

Anahita says: “My central way of sparking creativity is through escapism — being somewhere far away rather than my desk in suburban Auckland and dreaming up some alternate reality that I’m living out there. Scent is one of the strongest ways that I lean into this escapism.

My current scent of choice is the Roma Heirloom Tomato candle by Flamingo Estate and my current alternate reality is being somewhere in Puglia, Italy, drinking red wine in the sunset and plucking my own tomatoes, prepping fresh panzanella salad. The scent is so vividly green and fresh, you can practically smell the earth it was plucked from.

It helps get visual references flowing and sends me into a state of calm that I only experience when I’m fully switched off on holiday. It’s quite a potent scent, so I usually burn it in my lounge, right beside my home office.”

Milka Zaleska, ceramicist

Scent profile: Citrussy bergamot and orange peel combine with neroli, cedar and vanilla to evoke long, summer nights on the Italian coastline.

Milka says: “While I’m not able to burn candles when working at the wheel, most of my ideas come to me during moments of relaxation as I can better focus on my surroundings to draw inspiration from them.

I think best when all my senses are stimulated; music and a scented candle set the mood perfectly as I flick through art and design albums to find inspiration in shapes, negative space, or design.

Some favourite scents you’ll find around my house are the woody aromas of Aesop candles and Pompeii Home — held in beautiful brass vessels to complement the experience.”

Alicia Haszard, jewellery designer

Scent profile: An uplifting blend of juicy lemon and lime, complemented by notes of coconut and fresh florals, set in a vanilla and sandalwood base.

Alicia says: “I am obsessed with New Zealand candle brand Mila Mae and Co, and in particular their scent of French Pear. When I found out it was a small NZ business I wanted to support them, but then became addicted to the smell as it’s just so delicious.

I have the French Pear candle in multiple places in my office and home. I am always burning it. The scent is inspiring and really helps me when designing my pieces. I find that because I have it at work I associate the smell with working, it’s the scent we have in our office whenever I am in my creative zone. I have it at my desk and our packing table so I can really get into work mode.

When I’m at home I have another Mila Mae and Co candle in a Gingerbread scent that I love to burn when I clean. I’m really into scent association.”

Jessica Barter and Maggie Carroll, co-founders of architecture and interior design firm Bureaux

Scent profile: A warming, resinous scent with notes of amber, vetiver, patchouli, spices and tonka bean.

Maggie says: “Fragrance is a beautiful way for people to emotionally connect with their environment and enhance their experience. I have many candles around my home and light each one for different reasons. Diptyque Ambre is one of my favourites, it’s subtle earth and woody tones ground and relax me. I love to light it to warm up my living space and shift from work to home mode in the evenings.

At our studio, Jess and I have also loved Tom Dixon’s Elements in Earth candle ($335 from ECC) which is a delightful fresh and clarifying scent. We like that people who visit us have a sense of familiarity through this, like a signature perfume.”

Scent profile: Drawing inspiration from the heady aromas of the tuberose fields in Southern India, this nuanced olfaction walks the line between verdant and milky.

Jessica says: “Scented candles are a beautiful part of creating ritual for me at home. I like to light candles to create a gentle other world in the time between waking up and getting up and into the day, and the same after getting into bed before falling asleep. Often I have the most creative clarity in these times. One of the candles I love is Diptyque’s Tubéreuse — the fragrance takes me back to my childhood and heady memories of my mother’s glasshouse, which she would fill with tuberoses.”

Babiche Martens, photographer

Scent profile: Smoky and enveloping, with comforting notes of chestnut accord, red berries, clove oil and cashmeran.

Babiche says: “I love Replica candles which I often light in my office while I work, allowing the perfumed scent to circulate throughout the upstairs of my home. My current favourite scent, By the Fireplace, is a journey of nostalgia for me, whisking me back to my 20s when I lived in the snowy Alps of Switzerland.

The warm, woody embrace of this scent transports me back to the cosy depths of European winters, nestled by the fireplace, surrounded by the grandeur of the Alps. I tend to lean towards burning specific fragrances that remind me of the various places I’ve lived around the world.”

Kate Mitchell, multi-disciplinary glass artist

Scent profile: Woody, earthy and resinous, with notes of cedar, cypress and vetiver.

Kate says: “Currently, my go-to favourite candle is the Aesop Ptolemy Aromatique Candle. I was gifted this candle on my 30th birthday last year and have since repurchased it because I love it so much. Its real woody and rich aroma creates a warm and grounding atmosphere that’s perfect for my home studio.

I’ve tried to make this space as homely and welcoming as possible, and this candle adds to that cosiness. The scent makes me want to stay in space and helps me feel grounded while I work.”

Nellie Ryan, textile designer, trend forecaster and illustrator

Scent profile: Crisp and aromatic, with fresh notes of citrussy lime and mandarin mingle with peppery basil, alongside thyme, bergamot, lilac, vetiver and patchouli.

Nellie says: “To help me focus when I’m being creative, I have calming rituals to help set the tone, playing music or listening to podcasts and lighting my favourite candle, Jo Malone’s Lime Basil & Mandarin. It helps stimulate my senses and awareness and puts me in a good head space to focus on my work.”

Bonnie Brown, illustrator

Scent profile: Spicy and warm, aromatic clove combines with heady scents of tobacco and leather, while woody oak moss, oud, geranium and patchouli deliver an earthy element.

Bonnie says: “I have a real soft spot for the Clove & Tobacco candle from Kingdom. I discovered it years ago when I was working at a gorgeous homeware store, The Axe in Wellington, and trying to get my own illustration and design business off the ground.

I feel like scents that totally transport you back to different moments in time so when I burn it now it gives me such nostalgia for those early days when I’d finish working retail during the day and come home and work on my own projects until the wee hours.

Clove & Tobacco sounds so rogue but trust me on it being the best scent, it’s kind of warm and masculine. I love to burn it at my desk when I’m deep into a project. An open flame and working with a lot of paper brings an element of chaos too.”

Ashleigh Cometti is an Auckland-based beauty journalist with more than 12 years’ experience in the industry. After joining the Viva team in 2018 and being appointed as beauty editor in 2020, Ash has fine-tuned her skills at sniffing out new fragrance launches, discovering the next generation of talented makeup artists, and writing about all things that feed her obsession as a skincare fanatic.

More things that smell nice

Perfumes and the people making (and wearing) them.

What our editors thought of these new local fashion perfumes. Our first impressions of the latest scents from Lela Jacobs, Gloria and Zambesi.

What does contemplation smell like? Perfumer Barnabe Fillion thinks he has the answer. He shares the vision and process behind Aesop’s beautifully complex new scent, Ouranon.

Spring forth with 8 of the season’s best new scents. Nothing captures the romanticism and renewal of spring quite like fragrance.

The opera singer turned computer programmer turned fragrance maker bottling history. A vintage scent Jaime Frater bought broke in transit. It set his creative juices flowing.

11 unisex scents you can share with your lover. Eschew traditional gender lines with these unique scents made for everybody.

Unlock this article and all our Viva Premium content by subscribing to 

Share this article: