How to Decorate Indoors With Paper Lanterns

Paper lanterns add a soft glow to a room by diffusing light through the paper shade. In Japan, China and Hawaii, traditions of making paper lanterns by hand continue to play a part in each culture. Various types of paper lanterns serve different decorating purposes, and adorning the lanterns to customise them to a specific decor makes them even more versatile. With planning and a selection of paper lanterns, transform your home with soft lighting and colourful or neutral decorative effects.

Look at paper lanterns in shops, catalogues and on websites to become familiar with the styles, sizes, colours and options available.

Plan the decorating theme for the paper lanterns. For example, in a home with antique Chinese furniture, select Chinese paper lanterns to continue the theme. In a spacious home with a contemporary decorating style featuring open space and minimal decorative objects, the simple, clean lines of Japanese paper lanterns work well. Make notes on the number and style of paper lanterns desired for each room.

Select shapes, styles and colours to complement your home decor. For example, echo nearby shapes with the paper lanterns, such as placing a round paper lantern over a round table. Add colour to a room decorated in neutral or soft shades by selecting deeper colours that work well with the space. For example, add interest to a room dominated by taupe, beige or cream by adding paper lanterns in jewel tones, such as emerald green and sapphire blue. Add energy to a pastel pink room by decorating with paper lanterns in a deep rose colour.

Hang some paper lantern string lights where they catch daylight, such as at the tops of windows or across a skylight. This adds colour to the room when daylight shines through and also when they're plugged in at night.

Position tall standing paper lanterns where they add illumination and would be an effective focal point, such as at each end of a sofa for reading lights. These also work well near a stairway, in bedrooms and in entryways. The sculptural effect of tall paper lanterns tends to be enhanced by tower or curved shapes.

Cover ordinary ceiling fixtures with large round paper lanterns---or choose other shapes, such as oblong paper lantern light shades.


Select multicolour string lights to add colour and create a festive atmosphere. Create a hanging rainbow with strands of single-colour string lights in all the colours of the rainbow. Rice paper lanterns combine well with shoji (rice paper) screens for a Japanese-style room. Cover glass candle holders with parchment to create a paper lantern effect for a centrepiece or to decorate a mantel.


Check that light bulbs don't come in contactor burn near the sides of---paper lanterns. Regular incandescent bulbs can ignite paper. Use cool-burning compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) in a paper lantern. Battery-operated candles create a fire-safe alternative for the look of a candle in a paper lantern. Never leave a candle burning unattended in a paper shade.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper lantern string lights
  • Tall standing paper lanterns
  • Large paper lanterns to fit over ceiling lights
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About the Author

Gryphon Adams began publishing in 1985. He contributed to the "San Francisco Chronicle" and "Dark Voices." Adams writes about a variety of topics, including teaching, floral design, landscaping and home furnishings. Adams is a certified health educator and a massage practitioner. He received his Master of Fine Arts at San Francisco State University.