Convinced great lighting options are only for the indoors? Think again. The truth is, accent lights are key to making Mother Nature shine, too. Whether we're talking about the front porch, back patio, or garden, not only will well-designed outdoor lighting keep your space illuminated long after sunset, but it can also make or break the overall ambience and provide much-needed security.
"It's always better to go big or go home with lighting," says Nicole Hurd of Hurd Homes. "It needs to make a statement and also add that functional light."
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Amanda Barnes of Amanda Barnes Interiors adds, "Aside from creating ambience, adequate lighting brings efficiency to homes, making them more comfortable and user-friendly regardless of the time of day. A well-lit home allows families to spend more time in their yard year-round, it helps deter thieves from targeting your space, and, of course, the right lighting illuminates the architectural features of any property."
Function is a large part of outdoor lighting — whether you're using step lights on your deck, LED path lights on the stonework, or security lights on the lawn, these lights are here to serve a purpose as well as be aesthetically pleasing.
Plus, as with indoor light fixtures, there's more than one way to incorporate an illuminated focal point. Try stringing fairy lights to add some sparkle to your summer night al fresco dining, hanging DIY pendants to transform your pergola, or even throwing in a few outdoor lamps to bring your seating area to life.
Ready to take your garden landscaping to the next level? Check out these 30 outdoor lighting ideas for inspiration.
Types of Outdoor Light Fixtures
- Wall lights: Just as their name suggests, these are lights affixed to walls, like sconces. They are quite common on the exterior of a home and usually found framing the front or back door.
- Ceiling-mount lights: Ceiling-mount lights are most common on decks. They are installed into the ceiling — sometimes flush, sometimes hanging — and are much like the ceiling lights you see inside a home. The only difference is that the outdoor versions are built more sturdily to endure the elements.
- Landscape lights: This is the lighting you'll find around the yard, and it comes in a variety of types. Pathway lights line a walkway and can be short or tall, deck lights light up the deck area to make it easier to navigate, string lights can be hung in any manner around the yard, and well lights are embedded into the ground and covered with a weather-proof top.
- Security lights: Made to keep your property safe, these include flood lights that'll illuminate your whole yard and motion-sensor lights that turn on when they detect movement.
30 Outdoor Lighting Ideas
1. Hang rattan pendants.
Want to dress up your patio? Add a few outdoor pendant lights to the dining area. Perfect for partially covered porches and gazebos alike, this is one backyard lighting idea that will up the style factor immensely. Cassie from Hi Sugarplum paired her easy, breezy pendants with wicker bistro chairs, melamine plates, and a tablescape full of succulents.
2. Line the patio with luxe lanterns.
Let's be honest: Lanterns are often treated as an afterthought. Even the biggest design enthusiast will lazily place a lantern on a stoop or dining table and call it a day. But, as the Chango & Co. team proves, they can make a statement. In this East Hampton outdoor area, the matte black lanterns play with proportions for a stately, almost museum-like appeal.
3. Illuminate a walkway with path lights.
Unless you live in an apartment building — or a well-lit cul de sac — there's a good chance you'll have to scheme up a lighting solution for the walkway leading to your front door. While there are plenty of path lights to brighten up your hardscape design, we're particularly fond of these slim stakes that the Australian firm Nest Architects used for their Glen Iris project. The good news is that stake lighting is often solar-powered — meaning no cords and no extra electricity.
4. Set the mood with bistro lights.
Just because your dorm days are long gone doesn't mean you have to kick string lights to the curb. Hunker contributor Trisha Sprouse gives this college staple an elegant, adult-approved upgrade by draping them over her outdoor space. Not only does this garden lighting scheme mimic the look and feel of twinkling stars, but it's also bound to get the party started.
5. Use discreet flush-mount porch lights.
If your design style skews more subtle, a flush-mount light fixture will be the hero of your covered patio. Not only will it provide a full, far-reaching glow, but it will also blend in with the rest of your decor. Plus, the light will be practically invisible come daytime. Let Studio McGee show you how it's done.
6. Dress up the walls with exterior sconces.
When it comes to outdoor lighting fixtures, wall sconces are the gifts that keep on giving — especially when square footage is at a premium. They save floor space, jazz up your walls, and light up your patio. Interior designer Emily Henderson nails the look by matching the outdoor sconces to her dining room chairs. The result? A space that's cohesive without being too matchy-matchy.
7. Hang motion-detecting floodlights.
Though not the sexiest of exterior lights, motion-detecting security lighting — placed at both the front and back of your home, and even the sides, if you feel it necessary — is such a good investment. These fixtures will help keep you safe by alerting you to activity outside, so it's important to test the light bulbs regularly and replace them as needed. If you go for a solar-powered option, you'll want to make sure it gets plenty of sunlight during the day in order to stay charged all night.
8. Keep your deck lit with step lighting.
Got dark stairs or a dim pathway that leads to your deck or door? Keep your household and visitors safe with bulbs that illuminate each step so there aren't any mishaps. Solar versions are available for locations that get sunlight during the day to save on extra electricity. While step lights are practical, they can also be beautiful, as proven by this setup from Hinkley Lighting.
9. Hang solar string lights in the trees.
We love any kind of string lights, but solar string lights are some of our faves. If you have a spot that gets plenty of sunlight during the day, hang these lights on trees or trellises for some dreamy ambience once it gets dark. If you have a ton of trees, that's even better: At night, they'll appear to transform into a magical forest.
10. Decorate the stairs with solar lanterns.
Want another smart solar light option? Go for lanterns like these cool finds from Ballard Designs. They will fit with almost any outdoor decor and can be moved anywhere you need a light at night. We like grouping them in pairs, but they look equally appealing by themselves.
11. Highlight your trees.
Got a few gorgeous trees you miss seeing when the sun goes down? Invest in some professional landscape lighting to showcase your leafy friends. For this stately live oak, Limelight Outdoor Lighting used three fixtures at the base of the trunk to highlight the tree's beauty. A smaller tree might require only one or two lights.
12. Create a canopy with string lights.
String lights are not only good for draping across trees and porch rails. You can also use them to mark a dedicated space, like this outdoor kitchen and dining area by Christopher Architecture & Interiors. Here, the string lights act as a canopy, creating a cozy atmosphere while also providing illumination for the grill and table.
13. Hang curtain lights for a magical glow.
If you love the whimsical look of fairy lights, take it to the next level with curtain lights, like this set from Pottery Barn. These make it easy to cover maximum surface area with a festive glow. Hang them from a pergola or against an exterior wall for an instant winter wonderland effect.
14. Make a statement with large globe lanterns.
Turn your backyard into a sculpture garden with a few striking globe lanterns, like the woven ones pictured in this space by Studio McGee. Because these fixtures are usually made of paper or straw, they're best for covered patios and mild climates. Choose neutral shades for a soothing, natural look.
15. Light up the pool with underwater bulbs.
Picture the perfect nighttime pool party with these underwater lights. You can get them installed with your pool and flip the switch when night comes to light up the water with a gorgeous glow. Just take it from this backyard by Blackband Design.
16. Install a fire pit for both warmth and light.
The glow of a fire always creates a welcome ambience, indoors or out. So, if you have the space, why not get yourself a backyard fire pit to enjoy year-round? Built-in models can be costly, but there are smaller ones that are more affordable and run on propane fuel. Either option will create a perfect hub for friendly gatherings, like this cozy porch by Brooke Wagner Design.
17. Try an outdoor floor lamp.
Floor lamps are not just for the indoors. They're the ideal complement to outdoor furniture, like this sofa, with its cheerful, weather-resistant throw pillows. This plug-in arched LED option from 2Modern makes the perfect light for reading and late-night conversations alike. Just make sure to choose lamps specifically made for the demands of outdoor use.
18. Set the mood with a chandelier.
Like a special pendant lamp, an outdoor chandelier can provide a lovely statement piece above an outdoor dining area or even hanging from the branch of a tree. For a fairytale look, outfit yours with greenery, real or faux, as in this scene designed by Alyssa Rosenheck. Lanterns and candles provide a nice mix of lighting sources, sure to look dreamy at night.
19. Place LED candles on pedestals.
Like real candles but more weather resistant and less of a fire hazard, battery-operated LED candles create a lovely, flickering glow. Group multiples together for an eye-catching display under the dark sky. Stock up on batteries to make sure your light never runs out.
20. Bring ambience with outdoor torches.
Who doesn't love the celebratory vibe of an outdoor torch? We've seen many different styles from stainless steel and brass to the traditional bamboo — you can even create your own with this easy DIY tutorial. Besides lighting the fixture with lamp oil, you can even install it on a gas line. Just be sure to place the torches away from any flammable surface. For a less toxic approach, consider using plant-based fuel instead of propane.
21. Light the way with one large lantern.
For a look that's both traditional and dramatic, light your front door with one large lantern. This house by Willow Homes shows how it's done. While the color palette is subdued and the design elements are traditional, the combination of gable roof, arched entryway, double doors, and an oversize lantern creates a stunning, impressive scene.
22. Mix string lights with hanging vines.
Mimic the look of Spanish moss with string lights. Just wrap them around your pergola and let the ends cascade downward, as in this yard spotted on Pufik Homes. You can also weave them into greenery to create a lit-up oasis.
23. Hang Moroccan lanterns in your garden.
Calling all boho-chic fans: Moroccan lanterns make for great outdoor lighting. Pick up a few of these and hang them in your garden. Even more beautiful than the lanterns themselves are the patterned shadows they'll cast around your space.
24. Wrap Edison bulbs around a pergola.
Outdoor Edison bulbs offer an industrial touch. You can wrap them around a pergola for a more dramatic look than you'd get with traditional string lights, or drape them in a simple line along a wall. Mix them with paper lanterns and flowers, as in this outdoor dining area from Cuprinol, for an industrial-meets-romantic scene.
25. Hang a single strand of lights.
There's nothing wrong with keeping things simple. Take a cue from Megan Pflug Designs and drape a strand of lights across your yard or patio. It's minimal but beautiful and surprisingly dramatic.
26. Frame the door with elegant sconces.
Use elegant wall lights to frame your door, as demonstrated in this beautiful setup by Willow Homes. Sconces like these will not only give guests a warm welcome but also provide necessary light for you when you come and go at night. You can adapt this idea to frame any other design element of your outdoor area, like a fireplace or table.
27. Spotlight the windows.
If you have multiple windows facing your yard, consider spotlighting each one with a light. On this front porch by Willow Homes, three evenly spaced black iron lanterns hang in front of the front door and two front windows, creating a polished, traditional look with plenty of curb appeal. Only the brown brick stairs and wooden door stray from the black and white palette, adding welcome warmth.
28. Embed your sconces in vines.
There's something uniquely charming about vine-covered walls. Add a couple of sconces to the mix, and you'll create a magical glow. Just imagine stepping out into this backyard at night, following the stone pathway to the illuminated pool.
29. Illuminate your workstation.
While much of outdoor lighting is about creating ambience, don't forget about task lighting. In this outdoor kitchen from Brandon Architects, a large pendant light hangs over the sink, ideal for illuminating the area when it's in use. The pewter color perfectly fits within the minimal scheme.
30. Keep it simple with just one sconce.
While sconces are often hung in pairs to frame a door, you don't have to go that route. Instead, you can embrace asymmetry with a single sconce. This works especially well if you have a smaller deck or patio, like the one on this coastal house by Marea Clark Interiors.