Outdoor Lighting Ideas
The table is lit with kerosene lanterns; easy to fill and light, lanterns provide the same shimmering glow as candles -- but unlike candles, they won't blow out. Lanterns can also be set down or hung by their handles at strategic points on the terrace or in the garden.
Glowing Shell Arrangement
You can use oversize shells to bring a touch of the seashore -- and a bit of romantic atmosphere -- to an evening at home. We used "lion's paw" shells (Lyropecten nodosus), available inexpensively from online auctions and souvenir shops. Fill a shallow tray with sand, arrange pairs of your prettiest specimens, and place a votive candle at the center of each pair (leaving room for the flames to flicker safely). Set the tray on a low table, and enjoy a quiet drink on the patio.
Bars and buffet tables must be adequately lighted, but they're often located far from electrical outlets. An easy, inexpensive solution is to gather clear apothecary bottles and fill them with lamp oil and wicks. Arrange the bottles under a large hurricane for protection; we set these on a sturdy glass cake stand (make sure the bottles are evenly balanced on the stand).
Cocktails at sundown are more memorable when you supplement the waning daylight with Asian-inspired lanterns. These tabletop versions consist of colorful sheets of vellum paper sandwiching tall votive candles in glass holders; chopsticks hold the paper in place.
These lanterns hanging from bamboo poles are origami "balloons" fashioned around battery-operated lights and finished with ribbons.
Shaded String Lights
Holiday strands trace every slat of a porch trellis; the bulbs are covered in shades made from chartreuse and turquoise vellum. The table is lighted by pillar candles, each protected by two vases (one inside the other); blue-tinted water fills the space between glasses.
Tiki Torch Anchors
Light up your outdoor space with these glowing tiki torches.
Easy Sand Candles
Colored bands of sand dress up votive candles to make flickering lights that are cheerful and fun.
Glowing Hurricane Vases
Hurricane vases are wrapped in layers of colored tissue paper for a glowing effect.
Turn glass candleholders into stylish accessories by dressing them in decorative fabric.
Jelly Jar Candles
Antique jelly jars are perfect vessels for scented candles, which make wonderful centerpieces.
Reflected in the liquid's shimmering surface, the flickers of a candle's flame appear doubly radiant and twice as beautiful. Floating candles add instant atmosphere to a casual summer table, and with our technique, you can create lots of them in only a couple of hours.
Overhead fixtures, strung from trees or a trellis, set the mood. Hanging solar lanterns, such as the Soji Modern, that turn on automatically at dusk make alfresco dining elegant.
Bamboo candles, which have built-in shelves, are a pretty way to decorate the table the next time you're entertaining outdoors.
The shells that the ocean cast at your feet last summer -- the ones you so fastidiously collected -- make lovely remembrances of the season with candles formed inside them. Deep shells like scallops, clams, and quahogs work best and burn longest.
If you're throwing a party for someone's anniversary or birthday, the guest of honor will shine with a set of photo frame lanterns. They consist of three hinged photo frames set around votive candles.
These festive lanterns were made by weaving magenta satin ribbons through party-store paper lanterns. The colors reflect classic Filipino textiles.
Fire and Ice Lighting
To create this illuminating centerpiece, place a glass vase inside another that is slightly larger (secure them with floral adhesive), and then pour tinted water in between them. Pillar candles are best for this project; not only are they pretty, but their weight will further anchor the interior vase. For added light play, make a series of these centerpieces in different shades of the same hue (a few extra drops of food coloring will yield the desired contrast).
Light up a table with this sand-and-shell centerpiece. Use candle adhesive to secure slender tapers to the bottom of a clear glass vase. Carefully pour in a few inches of sand, then arrange shells on top. Besides refracting the candlelight for added ambience, the vase will protect the flames from breeze.
Flower Votive Displays
Flowers and candlelight are nothing new, but together they create tabletop decorations fit for relaxed summer entertaining. Place votive candles in tall glass vessels, and attach a flower (dahlias are shown here) outside each, trimming the stem to fit and tying with raffia that matches the flower. Set each display in a saucer of water to keep the flowers fresh.
Silk-Flower Party Lights
These flowers look like the prettiest climbing vines. But they're not just sweet by day -- they're radiant by night. Despite their enchanted appearance, they are simply holiday lights covered with faux flowers (we chose flame-hued silk poppies).
No need to bring the party indoors after the sun goes down, even if your yard isn't lit. String up lights to illuminate the festivities. Don't have a place to hang them? Wooden poles anchored in flower buckets filled with garden gravel can be set up anywhere there's level ground, and they help define an outdoor gathering place.
Cast a warm glow from above. A midsummer night's meal is served on the lawn under tall maple trees strung with lanterns hanging on chains from strong branches. Small and large, these lamps hold ivory tapers, their bases disappearing in a thick layer of fresh, fragrant rose petals.
Votive Place Cards
Your guests will love seeing their names in lights. These glowing place cards are votive holders wrapped in paper, inscribed on opposite sides. This way, others can read the names from across the table -- helpful if people are meeting for the first time. Cut a piece of parchment to fit around a votive holder. With a ruler and pencil, mark two guides for the names, and then write them on with a felt-tip pen. Erase pencil marks. Wrap paper around votive, and secure with double-sided tape.
Origami Votive Wraps
Light shines through these thin paper sheaths, creating a gorgeous glow at your outdoor party.
Striped Votive Holders
Any fabric can be used to create these candle sleeves. Those at left are inspired by American shirting materials and are perfect for Memorial Day or Fourth of July parties.
Flower-petal votive holders cast a warm, festive glow over the table.
Geometric "topiaries" inspired by the paper sculptures of Isamu Noguchi stand on both sides of this swimming pool. A few white plastic beach balls tied to weighted lines float in the pool like pearls cut loose from a giant strand (for safety, never cover the surface of a pool with a large number of balls).
Patriotic Strung Votives
This string of votives will shed a soft glow over your Fourth of July celebration. Place tea candles in translucent red, white, and blue colored-glass votives, and tuck each into a tiny wire basket.
Faux Tabletop Glow
Faux candles and lanterns illuminate the table. OXO Candela DemiGlow Rechargeable LED Lights are a safer alternative to candles and stay cool to the touch.