How To Choose An Outdoor Lantern

Nothing beats a pleasant dinner or drinks in the garden with friends, especially during warm summer evenings. While permanent lighting fixtures focus on functionality, your new outdoor lanterns will have a different yet essential task: create the perfect atmosphere, blending flickering pools of light and a touch of nostalgia.

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Being portable and easy to move around, they're particularly ideal if you are currently renting. This doesn't mean that they should be picked randomly, though! Here's how to choose outdoor lanterns that go divinely with your garden and match your most magical vision.

Will Your Outdoor Lanterns Be Standing or Hanging?

This depends on which part of the garden you wish to add a glow to:

  • Standing: the most practical, portable and versatile! They'll become the center of attention if you place them on a table, or create a virtual bubble around you and your guests when the sun goes down if you leave them around the seating area. If you haven't already got any permanent garden lights, you could use standing lanterns to illuminate the walk from the gate to your main door. They'll also allow you to get creative trying different combinations and layouts whenever you fancy a décor revamp;
Solar Powered Table Lantern
Battery LED Outdoor Lantern
Simple Stylish Standing Lantern
Basket Outdoor Standing Lantern
Big Standing Lantern
Beige Jar Standing Outdoor Lantern
  • Hanging: because they need to rely on some kind of hook, these outdoor lanterns are a bit more restrictive. However, they could still be a better choice if there's a specific spot in your garden or patio that should always be illuminated, especially if the lighting above your table and chairs isn't bright enough or, on the contrary, is so bright that it ruins the atmosphere: hanging lanterns will create the perfect balance!
Solar Powered LED Hanging Outdoor Lantern
One Light Outdoor Hanging Lantern
Contemporary Stylish Hanging Outdoor Lantern
Color Changing Hanging Lights
Simple Rustic One Light Hanging Lantern
Stylish Solar Powered Hanging Lantern

What Are the Types of Power Sources for Your Outdoor Lanterns?

The right atmosphere? It all comes down to the type of lighting. However, functionality should also be taken into account when choosing the power source:

  • Solar: this eco-friendly option is particularly practical if you don't always want to go around the garden lighting up each lantern. However, keep in mind that they'll light up every evening until dawn! This might not be the best choice if you're only planning on having them on whenever you have guests round, unless you keep them underneath your patio and bring them out to charge before special occasions;
Colored Solar Powered Outdoor Table Lantern
Cracked Glass Solar Powered Hanging Lantern
Owl Shaped Decorative Outdoor Lantern
Ribbed Jar Solar Powered LED Lantern
Solar Powered Outdoor Lantern With Fake Candle
Basket Flickering Hanging Lantern
  • Battery: usually including fake candles or simulated flames, theycombine tradition and modern luxuries. Not really looking forward to lighting up the candles manually every time? Choose battery-powered lanterns if that side of your garden doesn't receive enough sunlight to power their solar alternative, or you simply don't want them to be on every night.

    Some designs even include a timer, so you can program them to switch on and off whenever it suits you. For an eco-friendlier choice, pick LED lights, which consume less energy and last longer than traditional bulbs, or rechargeable lanterns with USB cables;

Cylinder Basket LED Battery Powered Electric Lantern
Contemporary Stylish Battery Powered Lantern
Cozy Lantern With Fake Candle
Tall Battery Powered LED Lantern
Ornate Bronze Battery Powered LED Lantern
Rustic Battery Powered Lantern
  • Candles: when it comes to atmospheric lighting, you can't go wrong with candles! The everchanging pools of lights created by their flickering flames will leave your guests with a pleasant nostalgic feeling. If you enjoy spending time in the garden and don't mind having to light them up individually every time, they will be the perfect choice for your summer evenings.

    However, there are some safety concerns that must be taken into account: have you got any crawling babies or particularly curious pets roaming around the garden? Then you should stick to solar or batteries to avoid unpleasant accidents;

  • Oil or gas: if you're an unapologetic vintage soul, you might want to experiment with these old-style lanterns, especially if you're planning on hanging them or placing them on a table;
Industrial Style Decorative Lantern
Stylish Retro Oil Lantern
Camping Style Dual Fuel Lantern
Oil Powered Outdoor Lamp
Stylish Retro Oil Powered Lamp
Industrial Style Lantern
  • Fairy lights: looking for something quirky? For the most Instagrammable garden, add a whimsical touch by filling your lanterns with battery-operated strings of fairy lights.

What Style of Outdoor Lanterns Will Be Best For My Place?

Garden lanterns are an opportunity to complement your outdoor décor and showcase your attention to detail, but… if you place a nautical oil lamp in an ultra-modern patio? It could easily backfire. Before choosing the style of your outdoor lanterns, consider the external décor of your house and the feeling that you want to convey.

The most popular styles for outdoor lanterns are:

  • Square – ideal for modern or minimalist décors;
  • Cylindrical – still a great fit for the previous styles, their jar-like appearance can add a reassuring homely feel that works well with mid-Century modern and more traditional designs;
  • Jar – for French-country inspiration or rustic cottages (and the best to experiment with fairy lights!);
  • Prism – for a Scandinavian feel;
  • Bohemian – colorful and meticulously decorated;
  • Hurricane – the iconic design of traditional oil or gas lanterns is a must for vintage looks;
  • Nautical or anchor – for a heartwarming old-style feel, or to complement your maritime wall décor;
  • Empire – for a retro or sophisticated atmosphere.
Minimalist Tall Steel Outdoor Lantern
Rustic LED Lighted Lantern
Rope Jar One Light Outdoor Lantern
Tiffany Inspired Hummingbird Lantern
Floating Light Colored Jar Lantern

Since lanterns are usually made of heat-resistant materials like metal and glass panels, the most common finishes are black, white, steel, iron and copper. This means that their color can easily complement most palettes. 

However, if you have a brighter accent tone that stands out in your garden, why not look for outdoor lanterns in that color? They might be rarer to find, but the color match is guaranteed to ensure a rounded, cohesive look.

Quick Tips

Let's go over the most important things to keep in mind in order to choose outdoor lanterns that complement your garden and create the most whimsical atmosphere:

  • Depending on where you want to place them, decide between standing or hanging lanterns;
  • Your main power source options are solar, battery-operated or candles, but you can also be original with oil, gas or fairy lights. As well as the atmosphere that you want to create, take practicality and safety into consideration;
  • Consider the existing décor and palette of the external part of your house in order to pick outdoor lanterns that fit its overall feel.