By Ellen Finch
Looking to brighten up your plot? Try these festoon light ideas – they will instantly add sparkle and style to your space. Whether you're after a cosy outdoor living room or an atmosphere that's fit for a party, it's easy to see why they're such a popular go-to. Effective, affordable, and easy to string along a fence or hang from a pergola – what's not to love? They're the perfect choice if you're on the lookout for garden lighting ideas.
'When it comes to styling your festoons, there are so many options,' says the team at Lights4fun. 'For a subtle illumination around your garden we recommend swagging the lights along an exterior wall or fence, or for the ultimate wow-factor create a festoon canopy overhead, this looks particularly effective over an outdoor dining table or seating area and adds an inviting warm glow to your space.'
Thalia Shaw, owner of Sparkle Lighting, adds, 'Festoon lights are a great affordable option to create atmosphere in a garden. They are brilliant for emphasising a focal point such as a barbecue area, dining area or sitting area,' or 'for creating a zone.'
Sounds perfect, right? But which is the best festoon lighting style for you? To help you decide, we've rounded up our favourite ways to use them. So whether you're creating a romantic dining scheme or adding a touch of fun to an entertaining space, read on for all the inspiration you need. Then, why not check out our best outdoor lights for even more ideas.
1. Use en masse to make an impact
Festoon lighting can instantly transform a simple garden bench into a spectacular seating area. Sometimes, more is more, and we love how these swathes of glowing bulbs bring a real sense of magic to this scene.
Accompany with pillar candles, a fresh foliage table decoration and your favourite dinnerware and you've got a table set for a very special evening outdoors.
2. Create a multicoloured glow
Looking for something a little jazzier than the traditional honey-hued glow? Well, why not mix things up with multicoloured festoon lights?
Wind them around a pergola for a grown-up yet totally fun look and accompany with lanterns and even smaller-bulbed fairy lights. Your garden will feel ready for a party in no time.
3. Deck out your greenhouse
Make your greenhouse or glass-walled garden room a feature. Decked out in festoons, it will create a stunning focal point for the garden to be enjoyed from both inside and out, and will tempt you to use it longer, after the sun sets.
We love how it creates such a welcoming glow – adding a boost of atmosphere to any garden plot.
4. Weave around a pergola
These beautiful warm-white lights bring a magical, festival-like vibe to this seating area, accompanied by overhanging foliage. It feels cosy and intimate – a lovely setting for a romantic dinner for two, or an evening soiree with loved ones.
Alongside glass candle holders and pared-back furniture, this is a great look for lovers of a more minimal aesthetic. It works perfectly on a pergola-covered deck or patio alongside climbing plants.
Why not take a look at our pergola ideas, too?
5. Guide the way by decorating an arch
This archway provides a clever way to zone the decking from the lawn, and we love the inviting effect that the surrounding festoon lights offer.
It's simple to recreate this contemporary look and will make your archway a total joy to walk through. Pair with outdoor cushions, comfy seating, and galvanised planters for an on-trend outdoor-living look.
6. Choose classic monochrome for a sophisticated scheme
Whether your garden scheme is traditional or super-contemporary, you can't go wrong with black festoon lighting. It's a classic style that complements any colour palette and will last you for years, even as your garden evolves – and will look amazing contrasted with white or light fencing and garden furniture.
In this scheme from Rust Collections, the lights stand out against the soft colour palette of the furniture and the natural texture of the wooden fence.
7. Create a romantic outdoor room effect
Atmospheric lighting is just as important for a living room outdoors as it is for the one inside your home. Adding festoon lights above a cosy sofa is the perfect way to create an inviting spot where you can snuggle up after dark.
We love the way that adding billowing pieces of white fabric to the pergola really ups the romance levels in this setup, plus it's a perfect way to boost your garden privacy ideas too.
8. Up the fun by pairing with a projector
We've mentioned the joys of multicoloured festoons above, but to create an evening to really remember, why not pair them with an outdoor projector? It'll create the ultimate laid-back vibe that you'll love just as much as the kids will.
Pair with a cosy outdoor rug, deckchairs and a blanket or two and you've got the perfect set-up for a night of family entertainment outdoors.
You can find the best outdoor projector for your garden cinema experience in our buying guide.
9. Match with your furniture
Festoon lights are also known as 'cafe lights' for a reason – they're a great way to add mood lighting and set the tone for intimate settings. Use them to your advantage in your outdoor dining area, like John Lewis & Partners have here: they'll make a dinner party table feel extra special.
For extra style points, match the colour of the festoon lights to your furniture – it'll offer a modern and cohesive look. We love how this set-up feels neatly pulled together by using lots of black.
10. Illuminate unexpected areas
Areas to the side of the house often get forgotten when we add mood lighting to our garden, but stringing up some festoon lights can instantly transform an uninspiring part of the garden into somewhere far more atmospheric. It means guests will also get a warm welcome as soon as they come through the gate into your outside space.
For added effect, go for a design where you can connect different sets so you can mix and match the bulbs. You could combine white, single coloured or multi-coloured in one striking setup.
11. Maximise hygge in an outdoor living room
We've already mentioned the power of festoon lights to make a space feel intimate, so it follows that they're perfect for cosying-up an outdoor living area to make a chill-out space.
String along a fence or hang above the space using a pergola – the soft glow of the bulbs will gently illuminate the space and aid relaxation. Add plenty of soft textiles and you might just create your new favourite spot.
12. Use as task lighting in an outdoor kitchen
When you think of task lighting, you're probably imagining lights sat flush to a ceiling or pendant lights hung over a worktop. But outside, festoon lights can provide ample lighting power to assist in prepping everything from salad to skewers in an outdoor kitchen, as this setup from Cuprinol shows.
Happily, most garden cooking spaces will back on to a fence or wall, so it's easier than ever to attach some hooks and string along your lights.
There's more inspiration for your alfresco cooking space in our outdoor kitchen ideas.
13. Add interest to your fence
If they're not covered by climbers or fronted by tall plants, fences can feel quite plain in a garden that's otherwise filled with colour and texture. So, why not add interest with festoon lights to instantly uplift the space?
The lights will also define the boundaries of your garden when it gets dark, and can help guests find their way along any paths that run parallel to your fences. This design from Ikea also provides a pretty backdrop to a patio set.
14. Hang in a tree for a beautiful natural feature
Trees are a key part of a garden design, so make the most of yours by hanging festoon lights in its branches. As well as providing a beautiful canopy for any seating or dining areas underneath, the lights will accentuate the natural structure of the branches and cast stunning shadows for an instant focal point.
There's more inspiration in our outdoor tree lighting ideas feature.
15. Hang from your parasol for a pendant effect
The beauty of festoon lights is that they can be hung from almost anywhere, so use potential areas to full effect – including parasols.
If you leave yours up all summer long, or want to create a special display for a dinner party you're hosting, try this trick. Intertwine string lights around the branches of the parasol, then add festoon lights, making sure they hang down for a pretty pendant effect. Need an update? Have a browse of our best garden parasols.
16. Dot through your garden structures
Structures like pergolas, awnings and even furniture are statement features of their own in a garden. But, they come on to another level when they're adorned with pretty festoon lights.
Use as many or as few as you like to achieve your desired effect, whether that's a minimalist smattering of lights or a full-blown twinkling canopy. Either way, your garden will look glorious.
17. Pair with greenery – and lots of it
There's something to be said for maximalism in a garden – it's easier to get away with going overboard when your space is out in the open.
That's why we love this festoon lighting idea, which uses strings and strings of bulbs to create a pretty canopy over a dining area, alongside tons of greenery. That's what we call a magical scene.
Take a look at our guide on how to grow clematis to create your own foliage-filled and festoon-lit haven.
18. Try squirrel bulbs for a grown-up take
We love these squirrel bulb festoon lights which are slimmer and longer than the more popular alternatives. Hung against a wall, they'd look a little like mini wall lanterns, but whichever way you use them, they're a subtle twist on a classic for those who like to be a little bit different.
19. Embrace the quirkiness of a mix of bulb styles
While we were searching around online for the best festoon lights out there, we happened upon these, which are made up of an array of bulbs ranging from the classic globe shape to teardrop versions and longer, thinner designs.
Perfect for lovers of a vintage look, the mix-and-match effect of these make them great for hanging from a tree or pergola for a statement finish.
20. Use them to frame a feature point
For long or narrow gardens, festoon lights can be used to great effect to draw your eye to the end of your plot.
Simply attach two sets of lights to either edge of your house, then trail both strings to a single point at the end of your garden – whether it's a summerhouse or a fence.
Fancy turning your shed into a garden retreat just for you? Take a look at our she shed ideas for inspiration.
21. String along a pathway using hook stakes
Love the idea of festoon lights, but got nowhere to hang them from? Don't worry, these clever shepherd's hooks make it easy to create mood lighting in an instant.
Place them an equal distance apart along a pathway (or at the edge of a fence, if you don't want to hang them on it directly) then string your festoon lights along. Simple, foolproof and effective: that's what we like.
22. Go battery powered for ease of use
The beauty of battery and solar powered lighting is that you can use it anywhere outdoors. We love the idea of weaving battery festoon lights in and around solar powered lamps for an atmospheric, no-fuss scheme.
The glow after dark of the two styles combined would be truly magical, while the all-white scheme is modern and fresh, making it a perfect look for a contemporary garden, patio or your balcony garden ideas.
23. Connect multiple sets for added impact
Got a large garden and need multiple sets of lights to illuminate your space? Look for lights that come with a connector so you can join several sets together for a longer length of lighting that only needs plugging in at one end.
Lights 4 Fun's Pro Series enables you to connect up to 150m of festoons from one plug, meaning you can light up your whole garden ready for garden parties and celebrations!
24. Mix it up by trying a different style
Festoon lights don’t always have to be a string of lights that can be hung from hook to hook. Mix it up with something like these cluster lights for a great alternative. By choosing a battery operated design, you can hang them from a tree or perhaps from the centre of a pergola or gazebo for a romantic alfresco setting.
How bright are festoon lights?
Festoon lighting is bright enough, but won't emit a dazzling glare. 'Festoon lights are for creating atmosphere,' says Thalia Shaw, owner of Sparkle Lighting. They 'give a warm light so you can see each other and your drinks but you wouldn't be able to read.'
Some festoon lights come with dimmer switches, too, for ultimate brightness control.
Are festoon lights waterproof?
Yes, festoon lights should be waterproof in terms of rain showers, 'if they have a rating over IP43,' says Thalia Shaw, owner of Sparkle Lighting. 'Ours are all over IP44.'
If you're wondering, IP stands for Ingress Protection, and basically states how hardy your lights are against rain, water, and dirt. The higher the score, the better. Make sure any extra cables, if using, are waterproof too.
Are solar festoon lights any good?
In answer to whether solar festoon lights are any good – 'They can be if you find the right ones,' says Thalia Shaw, owner of Sparkle Lighting. 'They need bright days to charge up so if you want to use them in the middle of winter too, it is best to get plug-in or battery powered.'
They are a fabulous and low-maintenance choice for the warmer months though. And, if you shop around, you can find ones that promise to charge even under cloudy conditions. So, if solar lights take your fancy, why not check out our guide to the best solar lights for outdoor spaces?
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