Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of decorative lighting. Personally, I think that any fixture that doesn’t add to a room isn’t earning its keep. Sure, there are lights that are made for utility, but if you have the option to buy a great looking light or one that’s just so-so, there’s almost no reason to choose “just a light” when you can get one that adds style, too. That’s why today I want to take a look at one of the most traditional lighting choices for a farmhouse or cottage – the lantern light – and how you can use this common-as-dirt design to actually add some great antique flair to your space.
Why I Hate Lantern Lights
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Growing up, my house was riddled with pretty generic lantern lights – inside, outside, front porch, back porch. So to me, lantern lights were basically just “lights,” and I’d wager there’s a good chance you know what I mean: basic prism shape, glass panes, wrought iron frame with a little cap on top. You can find these anywhere, in just about any material, size, shape, or installation, often for pretty cheap. Sure, these are a step up from your run of the mill flush mount light, but to me, they often don’t do enough. But…
….And Also Love Lantern Lights
To get a lantern light that’s worth having, you have to look back a little farther, past the basic models until you find something with a little more historical flair. What do I mean? Precisely something like this Sag Harbor lantern light. It shirks the contemporary gold standard “lantern” in favor of a bulbous, antique oil lamp shape. The inverted bulb gives a flame-like appearance, while the heavily weathered metal and bubbly antique-style glass create a charmingly old world touch. This type of light – which is as much accent as it is a fixture – is perfect for infusing a farmhouse or cottage with a slightly rustic, whimsical antique touch.
Variety Of Design
Maybe what I like most about lantern lights is that while the vast majority of contemporary designs are pretty similar, actual antique lanterns are about as diverse as they come. It takes a little looking, but you can find contemporary lighting fixtures based on some of the more unique historical designs, from hurricane lanterns to carriage lights, oil lamps, and more. Because these styles are a bit out of the ordinary, they serve beautifully as a statement piece in a living or dining room, or even in the kitchen or on a porch or patio.
One of the best ways to make the most out of these unique lantern lights is to match them (as well as possible) to the history of the house. For example, in a seaside cottage consider ship lanterns, or in a more conventional country farmhouse, stick with traditional barn lanterns. For a house out west, look for railroad-inspired hurricane lanterns. Many turn of the century farmhouses and cottages are getting new life these days, and antique lantern lights offer a unique opportunity to preserve some of the history of the space. With the growing appeal of an industrial farmhouse style, whimsical antique lighting fixtures (including storm lanterns and pulley lights) are seeing a resurgence in popularity as well.
Stick With Tradition?
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a more contemporary lantern style. But if you opt to go this route, you definitely want to pay attention to a few features to help make the light your own. First, look for an antique metal finish. Styles range from wrought iron to polished brass and everywhere in between, but if you can match the metal parts to some of the antique hardware in your home, so much the better. Second, pay attention to the glass. While different types of glass (seeded, water, mica, etc.) won’t make much difference in the quality of light the lantern produces, it will make a big difference in the way the light itself looks.
What About Outdoors?
Lantern lights are a big go-to fixture outdoors as well as inside, especially next to a front door or otherwise on a front porch near the entryway. But again while there’s certainly nothing wrong with this type of light – and in fact some of them can be quite lovely – I think we can still do better, specifically by dressing up a back yard. I’ve seen a whole slew of crafty types making all sorts of elegant, old fashioned outdoor lights (among my favorite being mason jar path lights). Rather than electric lights, these often employ candles or actual oil lanterns to give an open outdoor space a warm, inviting glow. This is an excellent opportunity to employ actual antique lamps (or replicas), especially in areas with long, warm summer nights.
What do you think of old fashioned lantern lights? Do you like the whimsy of an antique design, or are you totally on board with the more standardized contemporary designs? Let me know in the comments!
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