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Lighting Ideas for Outdoor Living

Choose from a variety of lighting options and find landscape lighting design tips and deck lighting ideas to create the perfect backdrop for entertaining.

Outdoor patio.

String Lights

String lights are synonymous with party lights. Use string lights to illuminate food and drink areas, or to light an open space for dancing. They also look cool wrapped around tree trunks, deck railings or even trellises for an unexpected focal point. Add a bit of vintage flair with Edison bulb string lights or mercury ball string lights draped from a gazebo or pergola.

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Lanterns add a pop of color against a greenery backdrop and are available in a variety of finishes. Mix different sizes to create a lighted centerpiece for your dining or buffet table. Group smaller lanterns on a side table next to conversation chairs for more intimate lighting, and place larger lanterns on the floor. Check out LED lanterns, too, if you’re looking for warm lighting without the heat.

Don’t feel limited to surfaces, though; lanterns are also fun to hang from shepherd’s hooks in key locations around your patio. Also, hang lanterns from tree limbs, pergolas or gazebos. Stagger the hanging height to add dimension to the space.

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Landscape Lighting

Landscape lighting illuminates the trees, shrubs and flowerbeds you’ve been planting and grooming. Show off your hard work with path lights sprinkled throughout the garden. Floodlights and spotlights are best for trees and larger areas of your yard. Most landscape lights are available in low-voltage, solar and LED; they also come in kits with everything you need to light your outdoor space. They’re available in a variety of finishes and glass types, so you can select a style that is right your patio. For more information on landscape lighting, check out Landscape Lighting Ideas.

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Fire Pits

Fire pits are a fun place to gather around in spring, summer, fall or winter. And the crackling sound of a fire always brings people together. Set a few Adirondack chairs around one, and you have an alternative seating area, too. A simple wood-burning fire pit is perfect for entertaining, but feel free to go fancy with a stone-design gas fire pit too. Plan to have marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers tucked away – any season is a good season for s’mores.

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Candles and Torches

Candles provide accent light with a soft glow. Arrange candles together on a dining table or side table for a more dramatic effect. Look for LED flameless candles if you have small children or pets with active tails; flameless versions provide the same effect without the safety concern.

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Decorative metal or split bamboo "tiki" torches add an inexpensive decorative effect to your outdoor event. As with any open flame, avoiding overhanging eaves, trees and areas of activity where they could be knocked over.

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Sketch Out a Plan

It’s always good to have a game plan. Think about the activities you enjoy and how you’d like to use your outdoor space. For a smaller area, create an intimate setting by grouping lanterns and candles. Add landscape lights to the patio perimeter and any pathways from the patio to the house. If your yard gets direct sunlight, try solar landscape lights; otherwise look into low-voltage or LED. Deck or stair lights also add ground lights while adding extra safety.

If you have a larger space, use lighting to define the different areas. String lights work great draped from a pergola or gazebo and create a fun party vibe. A fire pit provides warmth on a chilly night and a secondary place to gather. Use spotlights or floodlights to illuminate trees and shrubs, and to put the finishing touches on your outdoor retreat.