Let there be light

by Grace Bonney

The one thing I love the most about the holidays are all the outside lights. It makes a very dark time of the year very bright and jolly.

And I always think its such a drag when all the lights are taken down and everything gets dark again.

Well, then its time to put out some lights of my own.

Even if its just a small IKEA lantern that I used on one of the images.

But if I’m having guests over I love to make a ice lantern.

Its super easy.

You need two buckets, one smaller then the other.

Some greens, I love to use olive branches.

Fill the biggest bucket half full with water.

Place the smaller bucket inside it and place some rocks or something heavy to keep in in place.

Add more water, the water level should be to the top.

Add your branches to the sides of the bucket.

Use some tape to keep the small bucket in the middle of the big one.

Now set the whole thing outside to freeze.

Once its frozen, remove the small bucket first and then the large one.

You now have a beautiful ice lantern.

Place a votive candle inside and voila, the party can start.

Photos by Studio Dreyer Hensley

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  • Yes! I’ve always wanted to do this. Will finally make them for a party I’m having in February. So so pretty.

  • How fun! I totally wish i would have read this a few weeks earlier! Living in the south that is not normally possible, but it would have worked last week :-(

    oh well, they are still absolutely gorgeous!

  • I once saw a lady on tv doing this kind of lanterns using rubber balloons (the ones used to decorate children parties). She assured us that the water goes up on the walls and leaves a hollow inside, but I don’t know if you could use the branches AND the balloons. I prefer the branches, really.

  • “And I always think its such a drag when all the lights are taken down and everything gets dark again.”

    Couldn’t agree more. These ice lanterns are so so gorgeous.

  • Such a great idea! I saw this on TV over the holidays, but they used the cardboard milk or orange juice containers and did the same thing. Their’s were then square, but you just rip off the outside layer of the containers since they are paper and voila! They did the same thing though, as far as using two different sizes and putting rocks in the middle one to weigh it down some. They’re so pretty!

  • We make ice laterns every January here in Vermont. If you would like to freeze them without the greenery, go ahead and use the one bucket system. The water freezes from the outside in. The lantern will form itself without the need for a second container.

  • Hi Guys.
    If its cold out they will last for a long time.
    I used to have mine for weeks when it was really cold.
    You don’t have to use pam, just pour a little warm water on the outer and inner buckets and voila, they will slip right off.
    Thanks for all your great comments.

  • I hate to say it, but this is a Martha Stewart project. It has been in several of her magazine and holiday book publications.

  • Hi Keli
    I hate to say it, but Martha Stewart and her team did not invent the wheel.
    I was born in a winter country where this form of lanterns have been made for hundreds of years.
    My grandmother used to tell me how she made ice lanterns as a kid.
    Long before Martha was born.
    Maybe Martha was inspired by Norway?

  • I’m with you on that on Paul. I learned about ice lanterns in architecture school in 1994 from an enlightened prof who was into Scandinavian design… My husband and I have made small ones with paper cups in the freezer and have used them as shooter glasses with blue liqueur. They’re always the hit of the party!

  • tin cans and tea lights for a smaller effect. A little warm water in the inner can will loose the thing without spraying. Make sure your cans have smooth sides!!!

    Also, if you just freeze a little water in the bottom of the outer can, you can set the weighted inner can inside on the ice and just fill the gap with water.

    One can works well too if you remember to pour out the water after an hour or so before the whole thing freezes solid. I always forget so I use two cans to make sure.

    Martha’s grandmother probably made ice lanterns and told her how. That’s probably where most of her ideas came from…just like most of mine. Martha isn’t the only one that didn’t invent the wheel around here, snarky comments are so dated and played out.

  • Oh, these are so beautiful! I wish I didn’t live in Florida so that I could actually make these.

  • our neighbor’s daughter made these in large bowls and added coloring then set them out all over the snowy yard. they were my favorite yard thing this holiday season. she lit the candles every night…it was so beautiful.

  • I love the lanterns and all the beautiful photographs on sweet paul’s blog ! It is so tastefully done.

  • Very easy and beautiful.
    We had such trays for ice-creams when we were in one restaurant…it was surprising! And ice tray had strawberry taste :)

  • I saw this on Pinterest and just now pinned it! I have made a smaller version using stainless rounded mixing bowls in the freezer. (Yes, I had room in the freezer as there are only two of us, LOL) They were beautiful! I had forgotten this idea and will do it again, this Christmas! Thank you for your beautiful blog!

  • I’m sure this effect could be done in the freezer. I live in key west, Florida… I bet it would work just fine :) maybe for a night time event. A little melting block of ice would be fine. Too pretty not to try. If they can make ice sculptures on a cruise….. Key West can have ice lanterns. Just think…Frosty with shades. 8) and maybe some artificial tea lights to make last a little longer. I’ll let you know how it works out. ;) maybe add some sea shells or some palm tree instead of branches. :)

  • I wonder if you got some dry ice and put it around the lanterns where it’s warmer…would that help them last longer? I don’t know much at all about dry ice, but I would think it might be worth a try.