15 Different Types of Patio and Deck Lighting Options to Transform Your Outdoor Space

Don’t underestimate the importance of lighting in your outdoor space.

According to Arthur Smith, the Main Editor of LEDwatcher.com, lighting is often overlooked in both interior and landscape design, but it’s even more critical for outdoor spaces, especially when you plan to use them after dark.

The right lighting can completely change the ambiance of your outdoor area, turning it from a serene oasis to a lively venue for large gatherings and vice versa. Whether it’s a string of fairy lights or a statement lantern, there are numerous options to consider for outdoor lighting. Since the style of lights can significantly impact the overall atmosphere, it’s essential to choose carefully.

So, what types of lighting should you set up? To conserve energy, sensor lights or dusk-to-dawn lights are highly recommended. These lights automatically adjust their brightness based on the surrounding lighting conditions, saving energy and ensuring a well-lit outdoor space.

“Lighting can make or break a space. It sets the mood and ties the room together. Whether indoors or outdoors, extra attention should be paid to lighting when creating a space to transition it from cozy to entertainment-ready,” says Sofia Oliveira, Public Relations Manager at Luxxu.

Selecting the right lighting fixtures for your patio and deck not only illuminates the space but also provides a sense of security. To achieve this, install lights at all entry points, along paths, driveways, and deckings. Additionally, eliminate shadows in areas such as eaves, side doors, windows, and garages.

An ideal patio and deck lighting setup should create a relaxing ambiance for entertaining or hosting alfresco dinners. The lights should be subtle and unobtrusive yet capable of making a visual impact once the sun sets.

To help you choose the perfect lighting for your patio, here are some tips:

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15 Lighting Options for Patios & Decks

1. Torches

Torches are an excellent choice for providing light to your patio or deck area. However, ensure to take necessary safety precautions when using fire-based lighting. Modern torches are generally safe, but be cautious of low-hanging tree branches or flammable objects nearby. Torches not only create a cozy atmosphere but also help repel insects, making them perfect for small gatherings.

These torches are cost-effective and widely available, featuring a durable bamboo design that ensures longevity. You can find them at major retailers without difficulty.

For optimal results on your deck, place torches strategically. Depending on the desired brightness, you might need several torches. Keep in mind that torches primarily offer atmospheric lighting rather than intense illumination, but they remain a popular choice for many.

2. Candles

Candles are a popular option for providing light on patios and decks. Similar to torches, they help repel bugs, making outdoor time more pleasant. Many candles are made with citronella, a natural mosquito deterrent.

Although candles don’t provide abundant light, placing multiple candles on your patio or deck can create a soft, ambient glow. However, if you require brighter illumination, consider additional lighting options. Candles are perfect when you prioritize bug control over brightness.

Luckily, candles are affordable, allowing you to buy several and strategically place them around your deck or patio, enhancing both lighting and insect control.

3. Fire Pits

For those seeking a natural and cozy light source, installing a fire pit is an excellent choice. Fire pits work best in patio areas but should be placed near decks for safety reasons. Besides providing light, fire pits offer a cooking option, as removable cooking grids can be purchased separately. This creates a camping-like atmosphere, allowing you to enjoy the outdoors and cook food simultaneously.

Furthermore, fire pits provide warmth on chilly nights, extending your outdoor time with friends and family. While fire pits emit a decent amount of light, it’s advisable to supplement them with additional lighting sources for versatility. Investing in a high-quality fire pit at an affordable price is worth considering if this concept appeals to you.

4. String Lights

night wedding ceremony, the arch is decorated with flowers, candles and garlands of light bulbs and there is a wedding cake on the table

String lights are a popular and versatile option for outdoor lighting. They add a touch of whimsy to your deck or patio while providing ample illumination. String lights can be creatively arranged, whether in straight lines, patterns, or wrapped around pillars. Some people even hang them from roofs to the railings of their decks.

String lights are affordable and widely available at major retailers and online stores. You can choose from various styles, including different bulb designs, to find the option that suits your aesthetic preferences.

5. Landscape Lighting

Landscape lighting is a practical choice for illuminating outdoor spaces, particularly large gardens. It allows you to showcase your plants at night while providing effective illumination. There are various styles of landscape lighting to choose from, including motion-sensitive lights that activate when movement is detected nearby. Additionally, solar-powered landscape lights offer an environmentally conscious solution.

These lights are easy to install, simply staking them into the ground wherever you desire. When illuminating your patio or deck area, consider using landscape lighting to enhance the overall ambiance and visual appeal. Solar-powered options are particularly recommended for their energy efficiency.

6. Lanterns

Lanterns are a classic and charming choice for patio and deck lighting. They come in various styles, from traditional to contemporary, and can be hung or placed on surfaces. Lanterns with LED candles provide a safe and long-lasting lighting solution. You can also opt for solar-powered lanterns for eco-friendly illumination. Lanterns add a touch of elegance and a warm glow to your outdoor space.

7. Step Lights

Step lights are practical and stylish options for illuminating stairs or steps on your patio or deck. These lights enhance safety by providing visibility in dark areas and also add a decorative element. Step lights can be installed directly into the steps or attached to the nearby walls. They come in a variety of designs and can be customized to match the overall aesthetic of your outdoor space.

8. Spotlights

Spotlights are ideal for highlighting specific features of your patio or deck, such as a beautiful garden, a sculpture, or architectural elements. They provide focused and intense illumination, drawing attention to the desired focal points. Spotlights can be adjustable, allowing you to control the direction and angle of the light. Consider using spotlights to create dramatic effects and add depth to your outdoor space.

9. Solar Path Lights

Solar path lights are not only functional but also add a decorative touch to your patio or deck. These lights are powered by solar energy, eliminating the need for wiring or batteries. They are easy to install and can be placed along pathways, driveways, or edges of your outdoor space. Solar path lights come in various designs, including lantern-style, stake lights, or recessed options. They create a welcoming and illuminated pathway for you and your guests.

10. Pendant Lights

Pendant lights are a stylish and unique option for overhead lighting on your patio or deck. These hanging lights can be suspended from pergolas, canopies, or covered structures, creating an inviting and cozy atmosphere. Pendant lights come in a range of designs and materials, allowing you to choose the perfect style to complement your outdoor decor. They provide focused lighting and can be paired with dimmers for adjustable brightness.

11. Wall Sconces

Wall sconces are a versatile lighting option that can be mounted on the walls of your patio or deck. They add a touch of elegance and functionality, providing both ambient and accent lighting. Wall sconces come in various styles and finishes to suit your outdoor aesthetic. You can place them strategically to illuminate specific areas or use them as decorative elements to enhance the overall ambiance.

12. String Lanterns

If you love the charm of string lights but want a unique twist, consider string lanterns. These lanterns are attached to a string, creating a whimsical and festive look. They can be hung across your patio or deck, adding a soft and warm glow. String lanterns come in different colors, shapes, and sizes, allowing you to create a customized lighting display that reflects your personal style.

13. Deck Post Lights

Deck post lights are practical and visually appealing options for illuminating the posts or railing of your deck. These lights are typically installed on top of the posts or attached to the sides, providing soft and diffused lighting. Deck post lights come in various designs, including solar-powered options, and can be coordinated with the overall design of your deck. They contribute to the safety and aesthetics of your outdoor space.

14. Chandeliers

For a touch of luxury and sophistication, consider installing a chandelier on your patio or deck. Outdoor chandeliers are designed to withstand the elements while adding a glamorous and eye-catching element to your outdoor space. Whether you prefer a traditional crystal chandelier or a modern metal design, this statement piece will become the focal point of your patio or deck, providing both light and elegance.

15. Outdoor Ceiling Fans with Lights

If you want to combine functionality with illumination, outdoor ceiling fans with lights are an excellent choice. These fans not only provide a refreshing breeze on hot summer days but also come with integrated light fixtures. They can be installed on your patio or deck ceiling, enhancing air circulation and providing ambient lighting. Outdoor ceiling fans with lights are available in various styles and sizes, allowing you to find the perfect fit for your outdoor area.

By exploring these diverse and unique options for patio and deck lighting, you can transform your outdoor space into a captivating and inviting haven. Remember to consider the desired atmosphere, energy efficiency, and safety when selecting the right lighting options. With the perfect combination of lights, you’ll create a stunning outdoor ambiance for relaxation, entertaining, and enjoying magical evenings under the stars.

The Ideal Light for Your Outdoor Space

For the best outdoor lighting, opt for lights that emit a natural hue. Harsh and clinical lighting should be avoided as they are more suitable for work environments. Your patio is a relaxed setting where a gentle amount of light is needed for evening relaxation or entertaining guests.

Luke Babich, licensed realtor and CEO of Clever Real Estate, agrees:

“To create a more relaxing and comfortable outdoor space, warm lights are essential. They provide a comforting and festive vibe, avoiding the cold and foreboding atmosphere of hospital-like lights. String lighting is a great option for warm lights as it offers multiple sources of light and helps prevent excessive shadows.”

Choosing the Right Materials

Selecting the appropriate lighting style is only part of the equation. It’s also crucial to consider the materials used in the fixtures, ensuring they match your outdoor aesthetic and withstand the local climate. If you’re looking for affordability and structural integrity, composite materials made from a blend of plastics are a viable option. However, they may degrade over time due to exposure to the elements.

Aluminum fixtures are another cost-effective choice, but they can oxidize and fade in color. While powder coating can prolong their lifespan, they are not recommended for long-term use.

Although slightly more expensive, brass fixtures are durable and of high quality. While they naturally develop a patina, they won’t corrode from outdoor exposure.

Copper, though less durable than brass, is another excellent high-quality option. Its thermal conductivity, strength, and resistance to corrosion make it suitable for outdoor lighting fixtures.

A Brief History of Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor lighting gained popularity in the early 20th century. It originated from the need for overhead street lights to brighten city streets for pedestrians and newly-invented automobiles. Before cars had built-in lights, streetlights played a crucial role in illuminating the roads.

Fluorescent bulbs were introduced to the mainstream by General Electric at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City, following the invention of incandescent bulbs. These bulbs replaced old lighting in street lamps, parking lots, and public spaces.

During World War II, outdoor lighting became essential for nighttime visibility, the illumination of headquarters and command posts, and spotting and shooting down enemy aircraft. After the war, as people moved to suburban areas, outdoor lighting became popular in backyards and front yards due to increased space and the rise of private vehicle usage. Compact fluorescents and LEDs further contributed to the popularity of private outdoor lighting.

Maintaining Your Outdoor Lights

Similar to caring for outdoor patio furniture, outdoor lighting fixtures require maintenance to ensure their longevity. Here are key tips for maintaining your outdoor lights, whether you have a few or a collection:

1. Trim plants and branches regularly to prevent obstruction of lights and potential fixture damage.

2. Clean fixtures to remove mud, dirt, leaves, and debris, preventing fire hazards and maintaining a clean appearance.

3. Check for exposed or damaged cables and promptly replace them to prevent further damage.

4. Inspect fixtures for any damage such as broken lenses, dented metal, or corrosion. Consider replacing bulbs with long-lasting LEDs.

5. Clean metal and plastic components before addressing glass lenses. Test cleaning substances on inconspicuous spots to avoid material damage.

6. Clean glass lenses using warm, soapy water and a soft cloth. Tougher stains can be tackled with CLR and a Brillo pad.

7. Regularly check and adjust fixture positions to ensure optimal lighting and compensate for any shifts caused by weather or activities.

Upcoming Outdoor Lighting Trends

As summer arrives, it’s the perfect time to enhance your outdoor oasis with new lighting. Incorporate a few new pieces that align with the latest trends for a stylish and on-trend space. Key trends include vintage-style incandescent bulbs, mixing materials like wood and metal, and adding bohemian vibes with resin-coated rattan.

Instead of traditional fairy or Christmas lights, opt for string lights with hanging incandescent-style bulbs. These bulbs create a warm and industrial vintage feel. They can be used alone, strung across your space, or wrapped around your porch. You can also combine them with other fixtures to create a cohesive look.

Wall sconces with gooseneck steel arms and cage-like structures around the bulbs provide a rustic and industrial touch. They are perfect for attaching to the side of your home or porch.

Lanterns are popular for mixing materials. Look for lanterns that incorporate wooden or teak tops with brass bases, blending boho and glam aesthetics. Place them on patio steps, cluster them near your lounging area, or use them as singular accents on dining or console tables.

Wicker and rattan are timeless choices for outdoor decor. Opt for lamp or pendant lighting shades made from weather-friendly resin. This allows you to achieve the natural fiber look while ensuring durability. Resin-coated rattan fixtures work well for bohemian vibes or when mixing different styles and aesthetics.

Additional design elements that are currently on-trend include marble accents on table and floor lighting, particularly in black, green, or gray tones. Raw brass is another popular material for lamp bases. Pendant shades made from natural materials like paper and wood, inspired by the Biophilia movement, can create a connection between humanity and nature.

Structural and unusual lamp shapes, globe lighting, and clean milk glass are gaining popularity among light fixtures.

Make the Most of Summer

Winter feels long, and summer is too short, so maximize your enjoyment of the season by creating a perfect outdoor oasis for entertaining and relaxation.

Hope Morris, a decorator and sales manager at PatioLiving, suggests viewing your outdoor space as an extension of your home. Treat it like an outdoor living room and decorate accordingly.

“Think about how you want to use the space. Do you enjoy having a glass of wine in the evening or hosting BBQs? Design your space around those activities. If you have kids, create an area that caters to them. Imagine your yard as several distinct rooms, such as an outdoor kitchen and dining area with a fire pit surrounded by seating, or a play space with swings and a slide.”

With thoughtful design, proper lighting, and consideration of your outdoor needs, you can create an inviting atmosphere that will last throughout the summer and beyond, even after the sun sets.

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