When designing your dream alfresco living area, you have to focus on a few things simultaneously: style, comfort and function. One of the ways that interior design pros put all of these facets at the forefront of any space is through lights. The right fixtures quite literally shine light on your home’s best features while also serving as standalone décor pieces and functional accents at once. The same principles should be applied to outdoor lighting—if it adequately lights up your space while bringing in some visual interest, then you can count it as a win!
Just like the lights inside your home, the lights in your outdoor space should be chosen with creativity in mind. They should first serve the purpose of adding brightness for evening enjoyment and safety. Beyond that, though, they can be decorative and chosen because they complement the rest of your open-air décor scheme. Here are some fun outdoor lighting ideas that you can use to liven up your outdoor entertaining or lounge space!
1. Brighten Up Landscaping with Meteor Lights
We love outdoor lights that work well in their surroundings, especially in lush landscapes! Meteor lights are stringed or elongated LEDs that can be strung up on trees to help highlight the natural shape of the branches. Perfect for any tree that deserves the star treatment, these lights draw attention to nature, even in the dark. You can implement them year-round or whenever you’re using your yard or garden for a special event.
2. Go Crazy with Uplights and Accent Lights
Have you ever driven through a particularly lovely neighborhood at night? You’ll notice that homes with well thought out lighting schemes will have plenty of uplighting, showcasing special landscape and architectural features. We love the idea of brightening up the entranceway, unique trees, architectural features and your house numbers with landscape lights. The experts recommend using LED landscape lights because they’re more efficient and longer-lasting, but be sure that you choose the right color temperature (warmer outdoors) because LEDs often have a cool blue tone that’s a bit jarring at night.
3. Bring the Indoors Out with an Outdoor Chandelier
For the outdoor dining space or living nook, you can’t go wrong when you take the inside-out approach. By that we mean do everything you can to bring the warmth and coziness of the interior of your home to the exterior, too! A great way to do this is by stringing up a show-stopping outdoor chandelier that honors the vibe and finishes of your exterior. You don’t have to go all-out crystal, though! Any ceiling fixture with a little warmth—perhaps something in bronze?—will bring a cozy feel to your space.
4. Complete the Porch or Canopy with Recessed Lights
Who says you can’t use outdoor recessed lights outside? These days, you can find what are called damp or wet location downlights to integrate lighting in any covered exterior environment overhead. Perfect for bringing soft, dimmable light to the porch, canopy or outdoor kitchen, recessed lights are a super-sleek yet functional way to bring task and accent lighting outside. These lights also make great landscape downlights when installed in eaves or overhangs.
5. Create a Soft, Safe Glow with Step Lights
Step lights do several different jobs in your landscape. First and foremost, they act as a safety feature to help you traverse the stairway at night or in low-lit conditions. They’re often recommended for kids, seniors and older pets to improve safety. But they can actually be quite decorative and can help to highlight the unique patio or stonework in your exterior living space as well.
6. Install a Built-In Exterior Fireplace
We don’t recommend using an outdoor fireplace or fire pit as your primary exterior lighting source, but there is something to be said about the soft, inviting glow of a fire outside. The best part about this approach is that it creates an undeniable outdoor focal point—everyone will gather around the fire for drinks, dining (hello, s’mores) and conversation. Consider creating a double-sided fireplace that casts a soft glow in either direction on the patio.
7. Don’t Write off String Lights
It cannot be denied: string lights are overdone. To some, they elicit the feeling of dorm room décor or a wedding venue backdrop. Despite this, even the most grown-up and sophisticated decorators positively adore string lights. They’re just so charming! The good news is that you can give your strings a little bit of a mature feel with the right styles. Ditch the typical Christmas LEDs for vintage Edison bulb lights or understated globes.
8. Focus on Semi-Permanent Fixtures
String lights and lamps are great, but nothing looks quite as expressive or stylish as installed light fixtures. Outside, you can give your space a grounded feel with outdoor sconces, ceiling fixtures and even pendant lights. Be sure to flank the doorway with a set of welcoming wall lights and complement the porch or pergola with some flush-mount fixtures. If possible, prioritize your exterior light budget so that you can invest in pieces that will last for decades.
How to Buy Outdoor Lights
Be sure to look at ratings and specs when you’re shopping for outdoor lighting. To ensure that it’s suitable for placement in the outdoors, buy fixtures with wet location ratings. If your fixture is to be installed beneath a covered area but will still be exposed to some moisture or humidity, then a damp location light will do. With all of these practical and inspiring light tips, you’ll surely find lovely luminaires that light your landscape for years to come!