Many Americans have embraced outdoor decorating, filling their yards with fluffy sofas, gleaming end tables and even outdoor rugs.
But what happens when the sun goes down?
Chris Lambton, landscape designer and host of HGTV’s “Going Yard,” advises his clients to give as much thought to the lighting of their outdoor space as they do to the furnishings.
Forget yesterday’s glaring porch light, he says. You can now choose from a wide range of much subtler lighting options. Many are inexpensive and stylish enough to quickly turn a basic patio into a chic entertaining space.
Here Lambton and two other outdoor decorating experts, Los Angeles-based designers Jeff Andrews and Brian Patrick Flynn, offer advice on the newest, most attractive and safest options for outdoor lighting.
Many indoor furniture designs and fabrics are now available as outdoor items, Lambton says, and the same goes for lighting. Companies are creating outdoor versions of their most popular indoor lamps and fixtures.
Flynn is a fan of outdoor chandeliers on patios or decks that are covered: “They’re an excellent way to make any humdrum outdoor space feel like an actual room.”
But, he says, choose wisely: “To get them right, you’ve got to take scale and proportion into consideration.”
Flynn also recommends using floor lamps and table lamps designed for outdoor use.
Another option: Create your own outdoor fixture. Many electricians can rewire your favorite indoor lighting to be safely used outside, Lambton says.
Rather than one or two bright porch lights, all three designers suggest using a variety of softer lights.
Lambton has used faux stone blocks with LED lights hidden inside, alongside traditional lighting. Flynn has done the same with illuminated planters.
“Sneaking in ambient light in unexpected ways is something I love to do,” Flynn says. “In Los Angeles, I turned the middle of a family’s Los Feliz backyard into a full-fledged family room, comfy sectional sofa and all. To bring light to the space, I used modern, plastic planters that light up. They have cords on the back of them, and connect to exterior outlets. Once turned on, a light bulb inside the transparent plastic illuminates and the entire area glows softly.”
Even simpler options: thin strips of lights that can be attached along the underside of deck railings, or strands of lights in the shape of everything from simple bulbs to stars, hearts or jalapeno peppers strung overhead.
No matter which style of light you choose, Andrews says, add dimmers to your light switches.
Don’t forget to light the far reaches of your yard, Lambton says. It will make your property feel bigger and banish the feeling of being enveloped by darkness when you entertain outside.
It costs little to place a few small, solar-powered lights at the bases of trees and shrubs.
Fire pits of all sizes provide golden, flickering light for your outdoor space.
Display a collection of pillar candles in varying sizes, either clustered on their own or tucked inside large, glass lanterns to “add a bit of sparkle” to your yard, Andrews says.
Or create an outdoor chandelier with candles, Flynn says.
Home improvement stores and websites offer an array of options for lighting outdoor pathways and deck stairs, adding beauty while making your space safer.
And what about the safety of leaving lighting out in all weather? If it’s outdoor-rated, Andrews says, it should be fine. But keep your climate in mind.
Flynn prefers not to leave “most lighting sources out year-round unless an outdoor space is covered,” he says. “The only type of lighting I’m worry-free about for the outdoors is festival-style string lights.”