Lanterns have been used for millennia as a convenient and portable means of transporting a light source while keeping it protected. Even today, they can be used to safely contain candles, but they're now sought after primarily for their decorative purposes. Coming in a whole host of designs from solar outdoor lights for patios to large statement styles for indoors, there really is a lantern to fit every home.
The huge variety on offer means that picking the right one can get a little tricky, and that's why we've written this buying guide to make the task easier. By breaking the process down into easy-to-understand steps, and then introducing you to our ten favourite LED and candle lanterns, we hope to help you find a decoration that you'll truly love.
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If you've already had a bit of a browse through some of the decorative lanterns that are on offer, you're likely feeling excited and raring to go. Before you do, however, take a quick look through our buying guide. Full of handy tips on what to look out for, it's a sure-fire way to make the perfect purchase.
As with every piece of furniture that you purchase, the key to buying the perfect lantern is to find one that matches the style of your home. Mostly, this comes down to choosing one that conforms to traditional or contemporary styles depending on which best complements your decor. Read on to find out more.
The fact that we've used them for over two thousand years means that lanterns are commonly found adopting a traditional or antique style. Usually made from time-tested materials such as metal and glass, they often feature carrying handles, owing to the fact that the original purpose of the lantern was as a transportable light.
The exception to the rule, of course, is Moroccan lanterns. While they're just as ancient as their transportable counterparts, they're much larger and made with the intention of being decorative, and therefore remain stationary.
Naturally, these types of lanterns work best in homes with similarly time-tested décor. Traditionally styled homes equipped with lots of wood and darker colours, for example, are the perfect backdrop against which to place a Moroccan lantern or a storm lamp.
Placed side-by-side, contemporary lanterns can look really quite different to traditional ones. They're certainly not designed for portability as their forebears were, and this is reflected in the fact that they're often made largely, or completely, of glass.
Where you'll notice most variation, however, is in their shape – rather than the traditional cylindrical style, modern lanterns can be dome-shaped, sloped, or even woven! As contemporary lanterns differ quite drastically, it's wise to find one with a sensibility that matches your home.
If your space utilises lines and shapes in an intriguing way, a lantern with a unique sloping design is sure to do the trick. On the other hand, you may prefer the minimalist look and, in this case, a lantern made entirely of glass is sure to look fantastic.
Gone are the days in which lanterns were designed to encase a flame powered by oil. Nowadays, lanterns are most commonly used to bear candles, both real and artificial.
There's nothing like the warm glow of a real candle and, true to their nature, many modern lanterns are still quite capable of encasing live flames. The pairing of a traditional style with the light of a real flame is truly something to behold – just check that a lantern is safe for housing a lit candle before you begin to use it in this way.
Artificial candles may not have quite the same allure, but they do come without the safety issues, meaning you can keep them lit, needing only to worry about battery life. They're also weatherproof, so you can use them outdoors without any worry of them being blown out. Some are even solar-powered for fuss-free garden use.
Lanterns come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and it just so happens that the construction of a lantern can drastically affect the way it emits light. When parts of the lantern itself obstruct the light, you may be left with less of a glow than you anticipated.
Some designs avoid this problem by using encasings that are made entirely of glass. This allows the light to be cast in all directions without any obstruction at all. However, it's more common to find that there are periodic 'breaks' in the glow that is cast due to the frame, and sometimes this is used to great effect, such as in the case of woven lanterns.
The most famous example of a lantern that uses shadow to its advantage is surely the Moroccan lantern, which is decorated with a series of cutwork patterns. As light filters through, it casts the designs across the room, creating a beautiful sight indeed. Such things can have a huge effect on the ambience, so it's definitely worth considering before buying.
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Moroccan lanterns are famed the world over for their intricate patterns, and nowhere are they more exemplified than in this one, which is handcrafted and features a distinctly Oriental style. Measuring 36 cm tall, it's truly a sight to behold whether you choose a real candle, an LED variety or a light bulb.
In addition to the lantern itself being stunning, there's something truly special about the glow that it casts. You could search the world over and you'd struggle to find an ambience that matches that created by a Moroccan lantern's warm radiance. It's not just a light, it's an object of unparalleled beauty, and we think any home would be glad to have it.
Rattan is a material deriving from a species of tropical palm tree, and it's currently all the rage. This is in large part due to the fact that its woven style possesses a bohemian look while also remaining distinguished. We think this is exemplified in this set of two, warm brown rattan lanterns.
With inner LEDs that are solar-powered and weatherproof, they're just as effective used outside to light up the decking on a summer's eve as they are in your home. There's nothing that compares to watching a warm light cast shadows through rattan weaving, and these lanterns are perfect for bringing some free-spirited charm to your home.
Providing a welcome change from the norm, these lanterns, rather than be placed on a flat surface, are actually suspended from the roof. As they dangle over your head, you'll love watching the lights twinkle through the gorgeous panes of coloured glass.
Their undeniable beauty comes from the fact that they use a Moroccan style that has been popular for centuries, from their stained glass all the way to their iron frame. We love absolutely everything about these lanterns, and we're sure you will, too.
The design of this lantern is truly one of a kind, combining a glass dome with a sturdy iron base and twisted wire handle. If you're drawn to unique furnishings like a moth to a flame, this is the lantern for you.
We're also big fans of its 'smoke glass' – glass that possesses a hazy look, rather than being entirely clear. It's available in three different sizes (which you could also arrange as a trio), but we've picked medium here as we feel it best allows its dome shape to shine.
Being made entirely of glass, this lantern doesn't conform to the traditional 'lantern look', but that makes it unique and all the more appealing to those who like to set themselves apart with their choice of décor.
There's something hypnotically alluring about its smooth, curved shape, and the 100% glass construction means no obstructions when it comes to casting light across your room. If you're looking for something distinctive, this is a lantern that you're sure to treasure.
Leaping right out of the pages of a history book, this antique lantern mimics the oil and glass lanterns of yore and possesses a look that is undeniably retro. Weatherproof, and with a copper finish, it looks and feels just like the real deal. The only difference is, because it uses LED bulbs, you won't need to worry about running out of oil!
Considering the level of detail that's gone into this lantern, we're amazed at how affordable it is. If you're not a fan of steampunk and you're decorating a coastal cottage, its retro look might not appeal, but otherwise, it's an excellent choice if you don't want to faff with real candles.
A set of three lanterns allows flexibility. You could use them completely separately – perhaps placing the small one on a bedside table and using the big one to cast a cosy light across your living room – or placed together as a unique statement piece.
Even if there's not a lot going on here in terms of detail, the shape of each lantern offers a unique take on a classic design, with a tapered form that really shines, particularly when all three are placed in a row. They also boast a durable stainless steel construction with plenty of glass to allow the light to shine around the room.
Let's be honest, although some contemporary looking offerings are truly beautiful, they're not what springs to mind when you hear the word 'lantern'. This one, however, with its metal and glass construction, fits the bill perfectly.
It's got a distinctly vintage look, complete with bits of faux 'wear and tear' that make it look like it's been taken straight off the set of a Dracula movie. In fact, we imagine that it's more popular with Harry Potter fans and at Hallowe'en than at any other time of year, but if you've got a taste for everything antique, this is a lantern you'll enjoy all year round.
If you have a taste for contemporary design, you'll love this silver lantern, whose use of geometric lines has a unique art deco flavour while remaining distinctly modern. It'd work fantastically well as a dining room centrepiece.
Its predominantly glass structure allows a decent amount of light to be cast around the room and is nicely rounded out by the silver chrome frame, which stretches the length of the lantern and culminates in the convenient carrying handle. There's no denying that it's a little plain-looking, but for a contemporary space, it could be just the ticket.
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