Monday, July 25, 2016

Outdoor lighting experiments: flame powered options

July is the height of the summer season for outdoor entertaining... and one of the reasons is that the days are long, and evenings are so beautiful! So who wants to end the party just because the sun's going down? In order to get the most out of my summer, I'm going to test out a few simple (no outlets/plugs/rigging), affordable (like almost free!), and even a little sophisticated (date worthy!) DIY lighting options to keep my guests comfortable during our gorgeous summer nights ;D
Of course, when I say "simple" I really mean simple! DIY decor is my thing, so these lighting options do not require power, special rigging/equipment, or fancy knowledge of wiring. What they will take is some creativity... and fire. Which brings me to our first experiment: the flame powered options!

There are lots of flame powered light sources out there, but they all come down to 2 main options: candles or lanterns. 

Candle lights come in lots of forms: lumiere, tea lights, pillars, tapers, etc. These are all great options, but there are a few things to consider about your personal situation before making your choice. If you are in a windy area, as I am, you will need to protect your flame from the wind. Any candle can be protected with a hurricane, or by placing it into a glass holder that's tall enough to block the wind. Some people like lumiere's which are often paper bags with some anchor at the bottom (often sand or gravel) into which a small candle or tea light is placed. These give off a nice glow, but are generally placed on the ground to light a path or border, so they aren't the best choice if you have kids or pets playing around.

Then there are lanterns: globe lanterns, oil lamps, tiki tourches, etc. These are great for a long burning solution that can be used repeatedly. In most cases these lanterns are less susceptible to wind, but with larger  and stronger flame you may want to keep it covered for the safety of your guests. The either consideration with these is that they can come with 2 potentially unpleasent characteristics: smoke and odor. Luckily both of these are now things you can avoid pretty easily. To control for the smoke, make sure to get "smoke free" oil and wicks., and keep your flame low. The odor is also something you can control with the oil you buy, or the scent you add to your oil; eucalyptus, citronella for instance.

OK, let's talk shopping!
I happen to be a hoarder of candles... that's according to my husband. I buy them whenever I see a great deal, and lean towards simple white pillars. Yard sales, garage sales, and thrift shops are all great sources for these, but home goods and big box retailers often put them on sale until they are practically free... so watch for those deals! Anyway, I have tons and now I'm going to put them to use!

I also have a few oil lamps that a friend of mine gave me recently, because she didn't think she had a use for them. I didn't think I had a use for them either, but... FREE. They even came with wicks and extra lamp oil!

Lastly, the containers. I mentioned that the candles need to be protected from wind, which is definitely an issue in my area. Just so happens that in addition to hoarding candles, I also hoard clear glass vases. I do have a large garden so I need to have a variety of shapes and sizes to hold an array of flowers throughout the spring and summer. Just so happens these also make great candle holders. The best place to get these is at arts and crafts stores, the big box kind. When they have coupons available, you can actually get a better deal than a thrift shop! I'm talking 10 for $10! So keep an eye out there.

The only thing I think I actually purchased for this experiment was a round metal container that I had originally planned to use as a drink holder. I found it on a flea market hunt for about $20. 

Enough about the options: here's what I did!
My lighting focused on 3 main areas: dining table, second seating area along a wall, and 2 large planters flanking the steps. The dining table was my primary concern; it needed to provide enough light to see everyone, but not be intrusive, and not attract any bugs! Luckily, the oil lamps gave off a great amount of light, and the addition of the tea lights created just the right atmosphere. A couple small bouquets from the garden really made this table special... casual but elegant.

The next challenge was creating a secondary seating area, which I focused around this round metal container. The idea here is probably obvious, but it creates a campfire/firepit feel with out the heat or attention that a fire needs. I actually do the same thing inside; my fireplace is filled with candles so I can enjoy the glow all summer without the heat! A few pillows and blankets complete this casual campfire gathering spot.

Lastly, I positioned a couple tall pillars in the large planters on either side of the patio steps. These aren't so much to light the path as to just balance out the space. These pillars are simply placed inside large cylinder glass vases and into the planter. The vase both protects the flame from the wind, and the plants from the flame!

I hope you found this little experiment helpful, and consider trying some of these DIY ideas for yourself... in fact, now it's your turn! I would love to see how you're lighting you're outdoor spaces this season! What vintage, upcycled, or handmade treasures are you incorporating into your decor?

That's it; on to the next project! Want to know what it is? Follow me on twitter for sneak peeks and updates! If you're just looking for DIY inspiration, stayed tuned @ for more on my DIY projects through the summer! If you're looking to get some of the items you've seen here, on twitter, or on my boards, check out my etsy shop!