When it comes to your outdoor space, lighting shouldn’t be overlooked.
Arthur Smith, Main Editor of LEDwatcher.com notes, “lighting is definitely one of the most crucial yet sadly also overlooked things when it comes to both interior and landscape design. But in a way it’s almost even more important if we’re talking out outdoor design, especially if you’re planning on using your outdoor space when it gets dark outside.”
Something as simple as the right lighting can turn a quiet and intimate oasis into a lively space for large parties, and vice versa. Consider, for example, the difference a string of fairy lights or a statement lantern can make to an otherwise static patio setup. There are plenty of outdoor lighting options to consider, and as the style of lights can heavily influence the overall atmosphere of your space, it’s important to be selective.
“Lighting can definitely make or break a space, it’s an element that sets the whole mood and ties the room together. When creating a space (whether indoors or outdoors) this needs to be paid extra attention to, as it can be the element that sets the difference from a cozy to an entertainment-ready atmosphere,” says Sofia Oliveira, Public Relations Manager at Luxxu.
The right lighting fixtures for the patio and deck will not just illuminate your outdoor space but also provide a sense of security. To achieve this sense of security, install lights on all entry points and on paths, driveways, and deckings. You can also do so by eliminating shadows on some parts of the house such as on the eaves, side doors, windows, and garages.
A well-lit patio and deck should have a restful ambiance that’s perfect for entertaining or hosting a dinner alfresco. They should also be subtle and unobtrusive yet be able to create an impact around your outdoor space once the sun fades out.
Below are some tips to help you choose the right lighting for your patio.
Table of Contents
- 15 Patio & Deck Lighting Options
- What Kind of Light Works Best
- Choosing the Right Material
- A Brief History of Outdoor Lighting
- Maintaining Your Outdoor Lights
- Upcoming Outdoor Lighting Trends
- Make the Most of Summer
15 Patio & Deck Lighting Options
Torches are a fantastic way to provide light for your patio or deck area. Since you will be dealing with fire, it is important that you take certain safety precautions when using these. Generally speaking, modern torches are very safe and you shouldn’t have any issues using them safely. Just remember to place them in a spot where they won’t accidentally catch anything with their flames.
The flames won’t be too high on these torches so you will really just have to watch out for low-hanging tree branches. Keep the torches away from leaves and other things that could catch fire and you will be perfectly fine. These torches are very beneficial because they can help to keep the insects away from you while you’re enjoying your time outside. They will provide great mood lighting for you while you’re hosting a small gathering on your patio or deck.
People purchase these torches very commonly because of how useful they are and how cost-effective they can be. You can purchase torches such as this at a very reasonable price and the durable bamboo design allows them to last for a long time. This is excellent for people who want to have access to fun atmospheric lighting without having to spend too much money. You can find torches such as this at most major retailers, too, so they won’t be difficult to track down.
If you are going to be placing them on your deck, then you might want to place them around the deck for the best results. You may need to place several of these torches to get the right amount of light but it will partially depend on how much light you want. This won’t illuminate the area brightly or anything as the lighting will be much more atmospheric. Even still, this is a great option that many people enjoy.
Candles are popularly used outside to help provide light for patios and decks too. They are used for very similar reasons to the torches. People like buying candles such as this to help keep the bugs away and make their time outside more pleasant. Many of these types of candles are made using citronella, which deters bugs from coming around.
You can buy candles that are scented differently but these types of candles are great for keeping the mosquitoes at bay. Those who like to spend lots of time outside need methods to keep the mosquito population from overrunning them in the evenings and these candles have proven to be quite useful for this. Admittedly, these candles don’t provide an ample amount of light.
Placing several of these candles on your patio or deck could be a good way to provide yourself with some ambient lighting. It is enough to see what you are doing and to enjoy yourself. Some people would find candles such as this to be inadequate as the sole source of light so you will want to weigh your options. The candles are useful when you don’t want a lot of light and are more worried about keeping the bugs off of you.
Luckily, these candles are quite inexpensive. You won’t have to worry about being able to afford these as buying several of them won’t break the bank or anything. You could buy quite a few of these candles and place them at specific points around your deck or patio. This will provide a small amount of lighting and will help you in your fight against the bugs.
3. Fire Pits
If you are the type of person who enjoys having light sources that feel more natural outside, then looking into installing a fire pit is a really good idea. The fire pit idea may work better in your patio area than on a deck, of course. If you only have a deck, you would want to place the fire pit near the deck and not on it for safety reasons. Regardless, this is something that could provide your patio or deck area with a lot of light.
Fire pits can help to provide you with a lot more than just light, though. You can also use them to cook food during your family gatherings. It is very easy to buy removable cooking grids for these types of fire pits so you will be able to bring them out when you want to make some food. It really helps to give you the vibe of camping outdoors and enjoying nature.
The fire is also going to be able to keep people warm. If the nights tend to get a little chilly in your area, then you will still be able to feel comfortable outside when you have a fire pit. Simply light up the fire and you can enjoy spending time with your friends and family outdoors deep into the evening hours. These fire pits are a lot of fun and everyone will love making use of them at parties.
The amount of light that the fire pit gives off is pretty good too. This may be a light source that you will only want to use on occasion so it would be beneficial to have other lights as well. Even still, it is worthwhile to own a fire pit. If this idea appeals to you, then you will be able to get a really nice fire pit at an affordable price.
4. String Lights
String lights are among the most common types of outdoor lighting that you will see. People love the look of string lights on their decks or patios and they can actually provide a lot of light. There is something about string lighting that gives off a very whimsical feeling. They’re interesting to look at and you can string them in visually interesting ways that help your deck or patio to stand out.
These types of lights are pretty versatile because you are able to use them in imaginative ways. You could simply string the lights in straight lines and they will look nice. You can also decide to string them up in a pattern or wind them around a pillar. Some people like to attach the string lights to their roofs and then have them run all the way down to the railings of their decks.
It will be up to you to decide how to best make use of this type of lighting. Whatever your ideas wind up being, you will be able to make great use of them. They are fairly inexpensive as well so you will be able to buy plenty of these lights without having to spend too much of your money. This will make lighting up your deck or patio area that much simpler.
String lights should be able to be found at most major retailers and you can also find them at some hardware stores. Online retailers commonly sell them as well so it won’t be tough to track down exactly what you want. You will find different styles of string lights as some of them will have bulbs that look different. Take the time to pick out the option that appeals to you the most.
5. Landscape Lighting
Landscape lighting is an option that you will want to consider when looking for outdoor light sources. These types of lights are very commonly used by people with large garden areas. It is a good way for them to be able to illuminate their plants at night so that they can admire them. They’re really easy to use and they actually light up the area quite well.
There are many different styles of landscape lighting to choose from as well. You can purchase motion-sensitive lights that will turn on when movement is detected nearby. It is also possible to purchase landscape lights that are completely solar powered, making them a very environmentally conscious choice. The lights being shown off here are solar powered so you will definitely want to take them into consideration.
These specific lights are incredibly simple to install. All you have to do is stake them into the ground wherever you want them to be. Then you will be able to have light wherever you want it. When you are looking to illuminate your patio or deck area, it would be smart to stake them around the perimeter of your deck or patio.
You could also choose to stake the lights in the ground somewhere nearby the deck or patio if you would like the light to be a bit further away. It shouldn’t be an issue to have the lights fairly close to your deck or patio as the light that these units give off shouldn’t be too harsh in most cases. This is certainly one of the easiest ways for you to light up your deck or patio area. It will be very simple to figure this out and since they are solar powered, you won’t have to worry about electricity or batteries.
Outdoor lanterns are a top choice and classic staple of many outdoor areas, because of their versatility and practicality. In addition to their use in private homes, they can often also be found in restaurants and public gardens. Outdoor lanterns provide good visibility on patios, can light a pathway within your garden or be used as decoration to create a cozy, enchanted aesthetic.
Lanterns often give off a natural-hue creating a cozy and inviting space. Smith of LEDwatcher.com emphasizes the colour and temperature of your lighting, “because no matter how stylish or cool your light fixtures will be, if you use bulbs that are the wrong colour in them, they might still look wrong.”
There are a variety of outdoor lantern styles to choose from, such as antique and modern, as well as different functionalities. Some lanterns may be used as centrepieces on a table or console, while others may hang over your patio or garden. The size of the lantern also affects the amount of light that it emits, so it’s important to have an idea of what you are looking for before diving head-first into lantern shopping. When choosing a style, here are some things to consider:
- If you’re looking for a lantern for your table, try a kerosene lantern. It emits a bright light and is fuel-efficient. The natural light creates a comfortable ambiance, but the enclosed flame keeps it safe.
- If the patio table has an overhang, consider a hanging lantern. These make the space seem more polished.
- For larger patios and terraces, consider a full-sized floor lamp. There are many fun and contemporary styles that can be explored with these floor lamps and lanterns.
- Entrances, on the other hand, are best suited for wall-mounted lanterns. They are efficient, require minimal space and illuminate the entrance.
In addition to lanterns, Doug Root, co-owner and president of Atlanta Light Bulbs adds:
“For a low-cost, DIY outdoor lighting solution, consider Christmas lights. Stringing white Christmas lights overhead on your patio creates a festive, fun and relaxing atmosphere for your patio. Christmas lights provide subtle, soft light that will keep you outdoors with friends and family deep into the evening.”
Hanging up your new lanterns won’t be a difficult task either. They will be a little more cumbersome to work with than the string lights that were mentioned above but this is still relatively easy. Simply pick out the ideal spot where you want to hang them and you will be ready to host parties outdoors soon enough. Lantern lighting is going to prove to be very nice and people will likely compliment how neat they look.
7. Solar Deck Lights
Source: Home Depot
Perhaps the easiest solution for lighting up your deck area is going to be to install deck lights. These deck lights can be placed at specific locations around your deck. You will be able to turn them on very easily and they can provide an ample amount of light. This makes lighting up your entire deck simple and you will be able to sit outdoors at night without having to worry about not being able to see well.
The deck lights being shown off here are solar in nature too. They are completely powered by solar energy, making them a very desirable product. Not having to worry about wiring up these lights to your house or having to fiddle with batteries is always nice. You can simply place these deck lights on one of the posts of your deck and they will be ready to work great.
The level of light that you will get from a deck light is dependent on what you decide to purchase. You can purchase deck lights that are very bright but you can also find lighting options that are a bit more ambient. Take a close look at what you are purchasing before you buy it to ensure that you are getting the amount of light that you want. This way, you won’t be disappointed when you install a light and see that it is either too bright or too dim for your liking.
It can be a good idea to play around with the positioning of your deck lights as well. Try to work out where the ideal placement of each deck light would be in order to provide the right illumination. Proper light placement will help you to need to use fewer lights and can save you a bit of money. These lights will work well for your purposes so just make sure that you buy what you want in order to have the best experience on your deck.
8. Lighting Sconces
Lighting sconces are some of the most useful types of lighting that you will find on this list. If you want to light up your deck area very easily, then buying some lighting sconces is going to be a simple way to do it. These lighting sconces can be wired right into your home so that you can turn them on with the flip of a switch. They will then provide all of the light that you need in order to see on your deck or patio area.
These lights are more than just practical too because they look really fantastic. You will find so many unique styles of lighting sconces on the market. Some of them will look incredibly ornate and you will want to consider which style is going to look right in your deck or patio area. If you are going with a rustic country feel for your patio or deck, then it will be possible to find a lighting sconce that matches your tastes perfectly.
Typically, these lighting sconces will be placed right on your house itself. Wiring them into your system may be easy for you if you feel confident in your skills. It might also be best to get a professional to come and put them in, depending on how good you are with these types of tasks. It definitely isn’t a big job to install this type of lighting and it will be very useful for your deck and patio areas.
You can also buy different bulbs for these lights if you want more vibrant light or dimmer lighting options. This makes lighting sconces even more versatile because you have the ability to sort of tailor things to your liking. If you want to light up your deck or patio area properly, then this is probably the best way to do that. It isn’t as simple as using string lights but it can definitely provide more light.
9. Outdoor Table Lamps
You will see outdoor table lamps being used in many people’s patio areas. If you have a little table area on your patio where you eat lunch or have chats with your friends, then it makes sense to purchase one of these lamps. Outdoor table lamps are made to be very rugged so that they can stand up to being used outdoors. These lamps will be able to provide the light that you need to enjoy your patio once the sun has gone down.
There are many people who love using these outdoor table lamps to add to the overall visual appeal of their patio areas. You will be able to find lamps that look really interesting and they will definitely fit right in with your sense of style. A good outdoor table lamp can be more interesting to look at than some of the other lighting options on this list. You might want to use an outdoor table lamp rather than landscape lighting or torches, depending on your sensibilities.
It won’t be hard to find a good outdoor lamp that you can make use of, either. You should be able to find these types of lamps at many major retailers and you can always turn online to purchase what you need. You should think about your patio furniture when buying your new lamp and then try to pick a lamp that looks as if it belongs. Having everything match up well in your patio area is going to make it that much more enjoyable for you.
You can also change out the lamp shade if you find an option that has a base you really like but a lampshade that isn’t quite right. Once you have picked out what you want, all you will need to do is place it on the table and you are good to go. This is a lot easier than many of the other options so simply being able to plug your lamp into a power source is quite nice. Some people choose outdoor table lamps simply because they don’t have to worry about the hassle of installing anything.
10. Outdoor Security Flood Light
Source: Home Depot
Another option that you will want to think about is purchasing an outdoor security flood light. These types of lights have proven to be popular options for home defense and they will certainly work well to illuminate your deck or patio area. These lights can illuminate a fairly wide area and will be very bright overall. Some people might even find these lights to be too bright.
You may want to place this floodlight a little bit away from your deck or patio area if you want to use it as a comfortable source of light. It might be so bright that having it up close will wind up seeming to be a nuisance. These are incredibly popular among people who have pools attached to their decks, though. They are very bright and will make it so that everyone can see exactly what he or she is doing inside of the pool.
These are also excellent for security purposes. Having such a bright light is often enough to deter any potential threats from wanting to step foot onto your property. This is a beneficial light to own but whether or not it will be right for your patio or deck area is up to you. There are options that are more aesthetically pleasing but this is going to be a great way to make things really bright at night.
11. Orbs & Spheres
If you’re looking for a more contemporary and modern approach to lanterns, consider installing spherical orbs and lights throughout your space. These easily create an ethereal look throughout your patio, backyard or garden. They can be hung individually or clustered in groups of varying sizes depending on your layout and personal preference.
12. Outdoor Pendant Lighting
Pendant, or hanging, lights are best placed over a dining table or any other section of your outdoor space that you’d like to draw attention to. They can be useful to cordon off specific spaces and shed light upon mealtime conversation, and keep the outdoor festivities going late into the night.
13. Strips of Hidden LEDs
For a more subtle and chic approach to outdoor lighting, consider placing strips of hidden LED lights underneath the base of your stairs or under furniture. Not only does this highlight potential hazards in the dark, but it also works to brighten up your patio and garden in a way that isn’t too ostentatious. The subtlety and efficiency of this option also means you can choose to leave these lights on at all hours of the day to transform your outdoor space.
14. Pot & Planter Lighting
Greenery and potted plants likely play a large part in your outdoor space. If you’re using planters, why not opt for ones that can pull double duty as both planters and light sources. These are planters that come in a variety of sizes with lights built-in to them, offering an almost magical aesthetic. Illuminated planters work well for either planting a few flowers or larger hedges.
On this note, furniture with built-in lighting is also a great option if you’re looking to incorporate a statement piece. Console tables and stand-up lamps work great for this.
15. Uplighting Technique
Statement lighting is a great way to transform your outdoor space, and the easiest way to achieve this effect is using uplighting. Simply position lights under trees, plants and even right up against the walls of your home so the light shines up the length. This will instantly brighten up your space and create a dramatic and cozy effect.
What Kind of Light Works Best
The best outdoor lighting emits natural-hued light. As such, it’s best to avoid the harsh and sometimes clinical effects of bright or fluorescent lights. These types of lights are often better suited for working or culinary environments. In contrast, your patio space is a casual environment where you only need a small amount of light to illuminate the space during the evenings for some me-time or for entertaining guests.
This is echoed by Luke Babich, licensed realtor, active real estate agent, and co-founder and CEO of Clever Real Estate:
“Outdoor lighting should be an important consideration for any homeowner looking for a more relaxing, comfortable outdoor space. To avoid hospital-like lights that put off a colder, more foreboding atmosphere, use warm lights. Warm lights relax us and offer a comforting, festive vibe. A great option to implement warm lights is through string lighting: this trendy idea offers multiple sources of light, helping ward off excessive shadows!”
Choosing the Right Material
Selecting the right lighting style to suit your outdoor space is only half the battle. You must also consider the type of materials these fixtures are made from to ensure they suit both your outdoor aesthetic and climate of where you live. If you’re looking for something structurally sound yet affordable, consider fixtures made from composite materials, which are often made from a mixture of plastics. While these tend to be cheaper than comparable metal fixtures, they lack the quality and over a relatively short period of time may start to degrade from the stress of the elements.
Aluminum fixtures are another affordable, yet lower-quality option. While they can certainly look chic, these fixtures can quickly oxidize and fade in colour. Powder coating will extend the life of the fixture, but they’re not recommended for long-term use.
While slightly more expensive, brass fixtures are a durable and high-quality option that is guaranteed to last. While brass will naturally patina (turn darker) it will not corrode from exposure to the outdoor elements.
Finally, while not as durable as brass, copper is another high-quality option. It’s used in a wide range of products because of its thermal conductivity, strength and resistance to corrosion, and is a great material option for outdoor lighting fixtures.
A Brief History of Outdoor Lighting
Outdoor lighting became mainstream in the early 20th Century. The trend has its roots in overhead street lights, which were necessary to brighten-up city streets and provide safety for pedestrians and, the newly-invented, automobiles. The first cars didn’t have lights (headlights or otherwise) built-in, and relied upon street lights to illuminate the city streets.
Shortly after the invention of incandescent bulb in the late-19th Century, General Electric introduced fluorescent bulbs to the mainstream at the World’s Fair in 1939 in New York City. They captured the public’s imagination and were soon used to replace old bulbs in street lamps, in parking lots and other public spaces.
Outdoor lighting became especially important during the Second World War to ensure vehicles were able to see at nighttime, to keep headquarters and command posts well-lit, and flood lights were used to illuminate the sky so that enemy aircraft could be spotted and shot down. The post-war years saw an influx of residents move into city suburbs, because of the ubiquity of the car to cut distances and travel time. With extra room, and more outdoor space, many began to install outdoor lighting in their backyards and in front of their homes. Subsequent developments in compact fluorescents and LEDs have seen the lasting popularity of private outdoor lighting within people’s homes.
Maintaining Your Outdoor Lights
Much like your outdoor patio furniture, care needs to be given to your outdoor lighting fixtures to ensure their longevity. There are a few key tips to keep in mind whether you have only a few or a whole collection of outdoor lights.
First, take care to cut back plants and branches. This is especially important if you’ve installed uplighting or light-up planters. Regular trimming of your plants will ensure they don’t block your lights and potentially damage your fixtures.
Second, clean your lighting fixtures regularly by removing any mud, dirt, fallen leaves or debris left from insects. This will not only work to keep your space looking clean, but also avoid fire hazards.
Third, look for exposed or damaged cables and replace them quickly. Even if your fixtures were installed professionally, damage can occur from bad weather, pets or children who like to dig in the yard.
Fourth, check your fixtures for damage, such as broken lenses, dented metal, or corrosion and consider replacing bulbs with long-lasting LEDs.
Fifth, clean your fixture’s metal and plastic components before cleaning their glass lenses. Sometimes, warm water and soap will do the trick, however, you may need to use alternate substances to clean rust and corrosion from certain metals. Be sure to test any substances on an inconspicuous spot first to ensure it does the trick and doesn’t damage the material.
Sixth, clean your fixture’s glass lenses once the metal and plastic components have been cleaned. This can be done with warm, soapy water and a soft cloth. However, if you need something stronger, CLR and a Brillo pad will do the trick.
Finally, regularly check and adjust you fixture’s position. Sometimes your fixture’s position may shift because of weather, or other activity, so it’s important to check it regularly to ensure they’re still in the desired position and effectively illuminating your space. You may also need to adjust your outdoor lighting to accommodate your changing landscape.
Upcoming Outdoor Lighting Trends
With summer officially upon us, it’s the perfect time to spruce up your outdoor oasis with new lighting. Easily integrate your existing fixtures with a few new pieces that are projected to stay on trend throughout the summer and into 2020. Key trends revolve around taking inspiration from the past with incandescent-style bulbs; mixing materials, namely wood and metal; and injecting bohemian vibes with resin-coated rattan.
Instead of traditional fairy, or Christmas lights, opt for a string of lights with hanging incandescent-style bulbs. These add the same warmth and charm as any other string lighting, but instead offer an industrial, vintage feel. They work well on their own, strung across your space or wrapped around your porch. However, they can also be integrated with other fixtures to complement one another.
Similarly, wall sconces with a gooseneck steel arm and cage over the bulb also provide rustic, industrial vibes and are perfect for attaching to the side of your home or porch.
Mixing metals have proven to be a popular trend and is most commonly found on lanterns. Opt for ones that incorporate a wooden or teak top and brass base, creating the perfect combination of boho and glam. These can be staggered upon patio steps, clustered near your lounging area, or placed singularly upon your dining or nearby console tables.
Finally, wicker and rattan are always popular and classic choices for outdoor patio furniture and décor. Opt for lamp or pendant lighting shades made from weather-friendly resin to achieve the look of the natural fibres while maintaining durability. This style of fixture is ideal if you’re going for a bohemian vibe, however, can work equally well if you’re interested in mixing styles and aesthetics.
Additionally, there are a number of smaller design elements that are currently on-trend and can easily be incorporated into your existing outdoor lighting fixture landscape. Marble accents are making a strong appearance on table and floor lighting, however, rather than traditional white marble, black, green and grey marble are all the rage. Raw brass is another material of choice for lamps and other lighting bases. Pendant shades made from natural fibres, such as paper and wood are inspired by the Biophelia movement, which connects humanity and nature.
In terms of shape: structural and unusual lamp shapes are becoming increasingly popular amongst light fixtures, as well as globe lighting and the use of clean milk glass.
Make the Most of Summer
Winter always feels long and summer seems too short, so make the most of summer by creating your perfect outdoor oasis suited for entertaining guests and relaxation.
Hope Morris, decorator, interior/exterior planner and sales manager at PatioLiving encourages homeowners to think of their outdoor space as an extension of their homes, making it easier to decorate.
“Much of the time, homeowners don’t think of their backyards as an extension of their living space. Instead of looking at it as a ‘patio’ or ‘backyard,’ think of it as and outdoor living room and consider how you can make it a space you want to spend more time in.”
Morris implores homeowners to consider what they will use their outdoor space for, and decorate it (with lights and other furnishings) in a way that’s complementary.
“Do you like going out in the evening to drink a glass of wine or do you enjoy hosting guests for BBQs? Build your space around that. Maybe you have kids and want an area to cater to them.
If your yard is large enough, imagine it was several distinct rooms. An outdoor kitchen and dining area could include a fire pit ringed by seating. A play space might have swings, a trampoline, or a slide for the kids. An outdoor living room might have swings and a hammock.”
With some thought, design and proper lighting, you can create the perfect outdoor atmosphere that will last you throughout the summer and long after the sun sets.
Home Stratosphere is an award-winning home and garden online publication that’s a result of our talented researchers and writers who work directly with hundreds of professional interior designers, furniture designers, landscape designers and architects from around the world to create helpful, informative, entertaining and inspiring articles and design galleries.