Patio lighting ideas: 21 ways to illuminate your outdoor seating space
These stunning patio lighting ideas will add an extra dose of ambience to your plot
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Our patio lighting ideas won't just bring your garden to life when the sun goes down, they will make your garden feel more secure, create different moods for different occasions and highlight what may well be the social epicentre of your space.
Think fairy lights to transform your patio into a fairy-tale haven, bohemian-chic lanterns to accompany evening drinks, and galvanized wall lights to show off contemporary patio ideas, for example.
Every backyard seating area needs stunning lighting to inject some ambience after dark, but patio lighting is just as important for safety reasons too. From spotlights to highlight the boundaries to pendant lights to help you see what’s what in your outdoor kitchen, it's an essential consideration if you want to use your space safely in the evening. Don’t forget you can go for LEDs or solar-powered versions for energy-efficient options too.
‘There are so many choices when it comes to styling patios – it’s a great chance to get creative,’ says the team at Lights4Fun. ‘Our golden rule is to illuminate at three levels, focusing on the floor, table tops and overhead.’
Bring your space to life with our patio lighting ideas
Take your pick from our favorite patio lighting ideas and ensure your space is just as warm and welcoming after dark as it is when the sun is shining during the day.
‘With so many things, less is more, but not when it comes to garden lighting,‘ says interior blogger Wilshere Interior (opens in new tab).
So get ready to turn up the ambience for your next evening spent outdoors and wow your guests with your choice of outdoor lighting ideas.
1. Light a patio at different levels
The most successful patio lighting ideas typically include multiple light sources to add to the atmosphere. The best advice is to approach the design in the same way you would when lighting a living room inside your home, where you would often have a main light source and then several smaller, softer lamps to direct light where you need it most.
'Like your interiors, you want to create a layered patio lighting scheme with multiple light sources in various areas and at different heights,' says Reilly Gray, founder of SUNS Lifestyle (opens in new tab). 'This will help create ambience whilst ensuring there's ample lighting however you're using the space, be it socialising with family and friends, alfresco feasts or relaxing with a drink and a good book.'
Simple fairy or string lights are some of the best outdoor lights for attaching to a fence, wall or hanging overhead to provide the main source of lighting in an outdoor space, then use a collection of pretty lanterns to create a softer glow around the rest of your patio decor.
These color-changing LED ball lights are a fun way to inject some extra warmth to the space too, plus they’re a really simple way to highlight steps and level changes at night, ensuring there are no nasty trips.
2. Conceal patio lighting in flower beds
For a sleek, contemporary look, designers love to use hidden spotlights tucked into flower beds and trees around the edge of a patio. The planting will conceal the fittings so they will be kept neatly out of sight, but after dark the lights will illuminate not just the patio edging but the stunning flowers and foliage too.
The team at John Cullen Lighting (opens in new tab) advise that spiked spotlights are a practical option as they can easily be moved around a flower bed to highlight planting at different times of the year, depending on what is growing well or in bloom at that specific time.
3. Hang solar lanterns overhead
If you want patio lighting that looks just as good during the day as it does when lit up at night, hanging lanterns are a simple way to add a pretty, decorative touch to any patio space.
Solar lanterns are a great choice for budget patio ideas, plus they are a really practical lighting solution. Many will already come with a hook or attachment so you can simply hang them from trees or a garden structure such as a pergola, leave them to charge up and then enjoy their soft glow.
Another option is to attach a length of thin steel tension wire (available from Amazon) (opens in new tab) between two trees, or from your house to a tree or post, and then hang your lanterns from it. Just make sure the wire is high enough so that people can easily walk underneath it.
4. Light up a patio pergola
Lighting should be a key feature of any patio cover ideas as the overhead structure gives you plenty of opportunity to introduce lights to your scheme.
Festoon or string lights will create a modern vibe for an outdoor dining space tucked underneath a pergola or gazebo, but small fairy lights could look equally effective as pergola lighting once wrapped around the roof beams, creating a canopy of twinkling lights overhead.
'If you opt for wired patio lighting, pick options that can be hung from a structure or at height in the garden,' says Reilly Gray from SUNS Lifestyle. 'Festoon lights or an outdoor chandelier will add brightness from above, lighting the space with good, general lighting.
'You then want to supplement this light source with others such as uplighters, floor lamps and lanterns. Not only will this brighten up darker corners of your patio and allow you to highlight certain elements such as your favorite plants, furniture and ornaments, but it will also add warmth, drama and help create that all-important atmosphere.'
5. Make a statement with an oversized patio lamp
If you’re lucky enough to have a large patio, small lights and lanterns can often look lost in the space, so why not supersize your patio lighting ideas and make them stand out from the crowd?
This oversized floor lamp is height adjustable and made from weather-resistant materials so can be left outside all year, plus it’s solar powered so there's no need for cables all over your patio that could potentially trip people up.
'Freestanding lamps and lanterns that are solar-powered and rechargeable are great as they can be moved around the space easily, offering a lot more flexibility and the option of directional lighting,' explains Reilly Gray from SUNS Lifestyle.
If you want to make sure you can use your lighting on gloomier days when there’s not as much sun to charge up the battery, look for designs that can also be charged by a USB cable, as this one can.
6. Go for a vintage feel with bulbs
Dress your courtyard or patio in vintage-style bulbs for an on-trend look. Their stripped-back style provides a pleasing aesthetic with their exposed filaments.
The subtle light of these types of bulbs means you can group more than one together, for an inviting glow without glare. Just hang above outdoor seating for an industrial vibe.
Try pairing with dark paint colors, such as hues of grey, for an extra moody feel.
7. Hang festoons for a rooftop-bar vibe
Choose festoon lighting ideas and go for strings of oversized bulbs with an ambient glow, reminiscent of festivals.
There are other kinds to consider, too. Have a look for fluted, crackle-effect, or even Edison-style varieties. All are alternative ways to bring a romantic, cafe-culture feel to your space.
Although particularly popular for special occasions, such as intimate gatherings with loved ones or low-key outdoor wedding receptions, these types of string lights will elevate your patio all year round.
8. Use lanterns for a Moroccan-inspired patio space
Add an exotic air of northern Africa with Moroccan-inspired lighting. A string of lanterns is perfect to decorate a patio fence, exterior wall or beneath a pergola.
'Add pattered Moroccan-style lanterns on tabletops and on the edge of benches – their intricate designs will really bring your space to life as the sun sets,' suggests the team at Lights4fun.
Why not add colorful outdoor cushions or rugs, and invest in some patterned patio paving too, to create a luxurious haven reminiscent of Marrakech. A perfect vibe for long summer evenings.
9. Create impact with masses of paper-effect shades
Paper shades may look lovely, but they’re not the hardiest against wet weather! But no need to worry, just opt for a paper-effect shade instead.
Solar-powered varieties are great options for the summer and look elegant swaying in a gentle breeze. Hang from your pergola ideas, gazebos, or along a string of jute, to bring a laid-back, beach-party feel to your patio.
10. Turn up the romance with candles
Candles will always add an air of romance to a scene. But, if you’re anxious about open flames, battery-powered versions are just as pretty if you're searching for ways to introduce some cozy patio ideas to your space. Why not cluster a few of various heights, to add an enticing focal point to a patio corner?
Arrange tea-lights on tables to light up an evening meal with friends. Or, use lanterns with patterned sides, to create decorative shadows along with their tempting glow.
11. Use modern patio pendants for an indoor-outdoor feel
If contemporary looks are your thing, why not add a simple pendant light or two to your patio? Minimal designs allow light to bounce across sleek surfaces and create reflections on nearby water, whilst providing ample light.
Check out this stunning example, where two pendants illuminate the best garden furniture to make an indoor-outdoor seating area even more enticing. Their understated vibe allows the surroundings to take centre stage.
12. Experiment with shadows using LED lanterns
‘LED candles and electric lanterns are perfect for adding instant ambience,’ says Paul Bevington of Kettler (opens in new tab). And, with less fire-related risks involved, they’re great for having around kids and pets.
Choose modern designs for stylish yet practical solutions. And if you’re looking for something really special, opt for remote-control options with multi-color functions. You’ll be able to set the perfect mood, all from the comfort of your chair.
13. Keep it subtle with patio spotlights
Don’t underestimate the power of simple spotlights, as sometimes they’re all you need to provide practical, yet stylish effects for your outdoor space.
Added to decking, ceilings or fences, they can provide fuss-free illumination that shows off your patio landscaping ideas to great effect. They are also great for functional areas, such as outdoor cooking areas, where you might want more targeted light to illuminate a worktop or garden bar.
14. Go bold with colourful cubes on the patio
If you’re looking to inject a sense of fun into your patio, then keep an eye out for brightly coloured lights in funky shapes.
Giant LED versions in adjustable colors are great for backyard party lighting, and even better if they double up as furniture when you've got lots of additional guests. Whether using as a table or chair, they’ll be sure to cause a stir at any garden party.
15. Use allium-shaped stakes for a focal point
How about introducing some sculptural stakes to your patio lighting ideas? Styles reminiscent of flower heads, with twinkly lights at the tips, are lovely ways to add interest to nearby containers, whilst making your space feel magical.
They could also be used alongside a hedge or lawn to illuminate the boundaries. Their soft light will certainly add to the ambience of your patio gardening ideas.
16. Keep it chic with small patio lights
A neatly laid-out scheme of identical outdoor wall lights can create a pleasing effect. Symmetrical positioning will also add a sense of cohesion to your space and works particularly well on small patios enclosed by garden walls or short fences.
Go for minimal, metal finishes for a modern effect.
17. Introduce uplights to show off key patio features
If your patio features your favourite plant, or perhaps is edged by an eye-catching border, then why not use lighting to show it off?
Small spotlights are great for discreetly positioning in soil, and bringing foliage, grasses and patio plants to life once the sun sets. Think about flexibility, too – adjustable lights can be moved to highlight different plants.
LED strip lights are simple to install and can be used to visually link a patio to other zones of the garden, helping to unify the different spaces at night.
18. Try a nautical vibe with traditional lanterns
If your garden has a coastal theme, nautical-style lighting will really bring it to life. Try traditional lanterns and fisherman-style lamps, in finishes of antique chrome, brass or copper.
This type of lighting looks especially stunning when combined with classic decking ideas – so why not give it a go?
19. Combine light and warmth with a light-up patio heater
‘Floorstanding and tabletop heaters offer fantastic value for money as a source of warmth, as well as lighting,’ says Paul Bevington from Kettler.
Look for stylish options that will work as an attractive feature for your patio, as well as being functional. Then, enjoy making the most of your garden all year round, as you bask in their warm glow.
You'll find all the best buys for your heating needs in our best patio heaters feature.
20. Light up stunning water fountains
‘Illuminated fountains are the perfect statement piece that will also take your tranquil space to the next level,’ says the team at Lights4fun (opens in new tab). ‘As the sun sets you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the soft glow of your patio lights.’
With the peaceful trickle of water and perhaps an iced drink in hand, what could be more relaxing than including stunning water feature ideas in your space?
21. Take fairy lights to the next level
‘We love fairy lights for giving your patio space a magical feel,’ says the team at Lime Lace (opens in new tab), and we couldn’t agree more! You can string them along fences or around nearby trees, and they work just as well inside lanterns.
Keep an eye out for decorative versions such as these ones by Cox & Cox (opens in new tab) for an extra special glow. A subtle and affordable focal point for any patio.
How do you light a patio without electricity?
‘Nowadays, it is simpler than ever to illuminate a patio without access to power,’ says Lights4fun. ‘From battery powered to solar, the choices are endless in terms of decorative lighting. You can find stylish battery-powered lanterns, outdoor candles, fairy lights, festoons and many more.’
‘Our battery-powered lights also come with an integral six-hour timer, which will automatically switch your lights on and off.’
‘Solar lights are an equally handy option for giving your garden the perfect summer glow, soaking in the sunshine throughout the day and illuminating automatically at dusk, thanks to their handy daylight sensor.’
‘If you’ve not got power to your garden, solar-powered lights are a great option,’ agrees the team at Lime Lace.
What is the best way to hang outdoor string lights over a patio?
‘String outdoor lights overhead in a canopy-style display to introduce a little light as darkness falls,’ suggests Lights4fun. ‘To achieve this look, you can add hooks to your exterior walls. But, if you don’t want to leave any permanent marks, you can also use festoon poles staked in the ground or plant pots.’
‘Alternatively, you can drape them along walls to add a touch of ambience whilst you sit back and enjoy the scenery.’
Small, fairy light styles can also be used for outdoor tree lighting ideas – simply wind them around branches and tree trunks to create magical focal point.
Which is better for patio lighting – LED or incandescent?
When landscaping with lights, the team at Lights4fun says that ‘LED lights are undoubtedly the best choice for your garden. They can be used around little hands and curious pets safely, as they remain cool to the touch at all times.
‘LED lights are also incredibly efficient, on average, you can expect a lifespan of up to 50,000 hours of illumination.’
The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.
- Beth MurtonEditor, Gardeningetc
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