EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT VINTAGE LANTERNS
While it’s true that nothing sets the mood quite like candlelight, the mindfulness an open flame requires can sometimes send us into a state of worry that is decidedly un-romantic. What’s an entertaining girl to do? Well, rather than cancel the whole affair, let us propose the vintage lantern.
Stylish, unique, and just a tad unexpected, a vintage lantern takes the risk out of candle burning (ah, yes, enter sigh of relief here!). Typically constructed of metal or glass, a vintage lantern shields a burning candle in a box or dome, thereby protecting the candle from drafts, while simultaneously working to keep flammables at bay. Equally appealing is the fact that a vintage lantern is a work of art in its own right, often featuring ornate embellishment and glimmers of glam.
Used since ancient times, candle lanterns have held a fabled place in virtually every culture we can think of, resulting in a wide array of vintage lanterns to choose from. To learn more about vintage and used lanterns, along with tips on how to style a few of our favorite used lanterns, read on!
THE HISTORY OF THE LANTERN
In Western culture, the paper lantern is one of the defining symbols of the East, and with good reason—in China, vintage lanterns date back to 230 BC. These first known candle lanterns were crafted of paper, and according to myth, were created to signify the power of Buddha. More recently, ceremonies such as the Festival of Lanterns and the Ghost Festival (a ritual in which lit, lotus-shaped lanterns are set afloat on bodies of water to guide dead ancestors into the afterlife) have become keystones in the Chinese culture.
The Chinese weren’t the only ones to utilize vintage lanterns, though. Look into the history of virtually any other country—Japan, India, Mexico—and you’re likely to find that decorative lanterns were a mainstay of their celebrations too. By the 16th Century; however, the lantern was increasingly becoming a utilitarian item, meant to light roadways and the interior of the home. In direct correlation to this, the lantern was becoming less of an aesthetic treasure and more of a nuts-and-bolts essential (think: railroad lantern). Still, even these workhorse lanterns maintained a sense of style, one the continues to bear emulation even today.
VINTAGE LANTERN STYLES
Care to learn how we style our favorite used lanterns? While we’ll will of course stick a candle in them from time to time, as you’ll see, there are so many other ways to light these beauts up!
Brass Moroccan Lantern
If you’re looking to give your home a sense of the exotic, try a vintage Moroccan lantern. Heavily relying on stellated forms, geometric patterns, and jewel-bright glass, Moroccan lanterns are more than just a functional light source—they’re downright captivating. While they are dozens of Moroccan lantern variations to choose from, most will be made of metal and feature a domed or cathedral-like shape. Some emit light through holes punched in the metal, while others feature glass panels.
By nature, most Moroccan lanterns are hanging lanterns, making them ideal for decorating an outdoor patio or deck. Opt for several hanging lanterns in colored glass and string them from an outdoor arbor or tree for color during the day and a firefly-like flicker come nightfall. Alternatively, if backyard living isn’t your thing, try using a trio of Moroccan lanterns—we personally love silver lanterns here—strung up over a rectangular dining table. Because there’s three, the impact will be major and the vibe will be pure Casablanca romance.
Nautical Ship Lantern
If Moroccan lanterns feel too frilly to make the cut in your space, then let us suggest a medley of nautical ship lanterns. While avid collectors will be happy to educate you on the particulars of starboard, port, cargo, and anchor lanterns, we’ll shamelessly put it out there—we really just love them all! Originally lit via whale oil, traditional ship lanterns were designed to adorn different parts of the boat and both light it for the crew and send signals to oncoming boats. To endure elements, many of these used lanterns featured brass, tin, or copper construction.
To use these rustic lanterns in contemporary homes, try opting for a pair and using them to flank a front door. We also love the look of a large, single nautical lantern staged on an entry console or dining table. If an authentic ship’s lantern doesn’t call to you; however, don’t discount the look just yet! Instead, try a nautical-inspired piece, like a hurricane lantern or a wooden lantern with a rustic, washed finish. Many of these used lanterns will evoke a maritime spirit without the industrial edge.
Understandably, when it comes to decorating with vintage lanterns, paper lanterns might not be the first thing you think of. With a vibe that’s perhaps more attuned to a sweet sixteen bash than serious home decor, paper lanterns can sometimes feel temporary, or—even worse—disposable.
But when used in the right room, paper lanterns can actually feel remarkably chic. What’s the right room, you ask? Try a playroom or a nursery. Featuring a fun, ball-like silhouette and deep, bubble-licious hues, paper lanterns are nothing but sweet bliss when clustered over a crib or hung over a twin bed in lieu of a canopy. To keep the look from straying into party territory, try arranging your paper lanterns in a tight cluster and using an array of colors and textures, like ribbed, ruffled, and pompom lanterns. It probably goes without saying, but skip the lights here (unless your used lanterns come pre-wired), and make sure to hang them high enough so little hands can’t reach. Finally, stand back and admire your dreamscape!