by Matt Gibson
Outdoor lighting is a great way to brighten up your garden when the sun goes down. The summer months are perfect for outdoor get togethers, backyard cookouts, and patio parties. This summer, add some color, texture, and warmth to your outdoor excursions by installing some DIY outdoor lighting. Take in a few tips and pointers with these outdoor lighting ideas, and then dive in and light up your area with some techniques that will make your yard or garden a summer hotspot to enjoy after dark.
Mark off zones and areas of your space by setting just a few lights a great distance apart. This gives just an idea of where the outer zones of your space begin and end, while helping to guide people to particular areas without overdoing it.
Mix It Up
There are lots of different lighting styles and lots of different types of lighting to choose from. Going with too much of one particular thing can make your space look bland. With so many different styles to choose from, play around with at least three or four different types of lighting to give your outdoor space some variation and texture.
Color Your Landscape Beautiful
Another cool idea to play around with is different colored lighting. Not only do bulbs come in a variety of colors, you can also use colored glass or colored paper lamp shades to make the lights appear in different hues.
Light Sparsely Along Pathways
Although it’s counterintuitive, pathways are not supposed to be lit up like a Christmas tree or like the runway for an airplane. The lighting along walkways should be minimal, just enough to hint to the walker how the path unfolds. The fewer the lights, the better, and placement is ultra-critical, so test a few options before committing to the layout.
Don’t Force It
If you don’t like the path lighting, another option is to eliminate it altogether. Instead of lighting the pathway, try illuminating a few shrubs, bushes, and trees along the pathway instead. There is no need to light up every square inch of your property. The key to good outdoor lighting designing is to let the space dictate where the light is needed and to never force a bad idea.
Optimize Lighting with Hidden Fixtures
One of the coolest ways to illuminate your property is to do it in a way in which it isn’t obvious to your guests how you are pulling it off. Moon lighting is achieved by placing lights high in the trees, to give the effect of real moonlight, and to hide light fixtures in the process. Uplighting trees along pathways, and moonlighting trees on the outskirts of your property will give plenty of light to paths, but promote a natural, less artificial lighting technique.
Take Advantage of Indirect Lighting
Moon lighting also helps in seated areas, where there are no harsh bulbs at eye-level, to distract your party guests. Especially in areas where people are likely to gather, moonlighting will produce a more intimate, cozy setting, whereas direct lighting can make your guests feel as if they are on stage, instead of relaxing outdoors.
Be Sure to Balance Warm and Cool Lighting
Moon lighting creates a cool atmosphere in your outdoor area, but can play a real background role when it plays with spotlights and other bright illumination. Highlight any areas where you choose to use cool lighting with some warmth from a set of tabletop candles placed around any high-traffic areas. Although the candles should be used as a temporary lighting solution, their flames add texture to your garden and patio. And if you really love the look of the candles, there are electric versions to make the look more lasting.
Change With the Seasons
Though there’s a lot to be said for the convenience of one lighting schematic that you use year-round, mixing up your garden lights with the seasons is one way to keep things interesting. Experts recommend using LED exterior spike lights for maximum flexibility, as they’re easy to take down, put up, and move around. You can have a whole new lighting arrangement as often as you please. Altering the color of your lightscape is another way to nod to the seasons. Why not try red and green hues for the winter holiday and crocuslike purple and yellow for spring?
Remember to Put Safety First
There’s a lot about your garden lighting setup that’s up to you, but a few things are non-negotiable—and safety is one of those. To keep your home’s inhabitants and any visitors safe as they traverse your garden, make sure to light any hazardous areas. That includes walkways and driveways (especially stairs), the edges of pools or raised beds, borders of flowerbeds and other garden plots, and any areas of your yard that are steep or drop off suddenly.
Illuminate Water Features
We’ve mentioned lighting the edges of pools and ponds for safety purposes, but that’s not the end of the road when it comes to lighting your garden’s water features. Adding a spotlight underneath a flowing fountain will create dancing illumination that crosses the face of your garden, or you can add fiber optics inside water jets to create a candelabra effect.
Focus on What Makes Your Garden Special
Every garden has those key features that make it unique. In your yard, that might be a focal point like a statue, topiary, or prizewinning rosebush, or it may be an architectural feature such as a walkway, gazebo, or breezeway. Whatever makes your yard stand out as different from the rest of the neighborhood, that’s a key feature you’ll want to light up to make it shine. Not only will lighting up the special things about your garden help to show them off—it’ll be easier for guests to find your home after dark when you can say “Look for the horse statue” and know they’ll be able to see it.
Basic Black Isn’t Always Best
Garden lighting setups are most commonly sold in shades of black, but there’s no good reason for this to be the case. Savvy gardeners know to look for olive green lighting, which will blend into the leaves and grasses of the landscape best. Copper is also recommended, as with time and exposure to the elements it will develop a greenish patina.
Consider How You’ll Use Your Space
The most important thing to keep in mind when you’re lighting up your garden is how you’ll actually use the space. Make sure to light any areas that need the illumination for optimum functionality. For example, a patio dining area needs lighting for parties to stretch into the night. Outdoor grills should be well lit so you can get your cooking done after dark. The entryway to your home is always a good bet for bright lighting so you’ll never have to fumble with keys in the dark. If guests will change and shower in a poolhouse, make sure to light the path from there to the pool itself. The coolest-looking lighting setup out there is a failure if it isn’t functional, so be sure to consider the practicality of your arrangement before it’s set in stone.
Once you’ve decided how you’d like your lighting to be arranged, give it a test run using flashlights or other portable options, trying out one spot at a time. You’re checking for unexpected problems like glare or a light that shines too brightly into a window. This final mockup can be an invaluable way to detect issues before you’ve put in the cost and effort required to make them permanent.
Videos For Cool Ideas For Outdoor Lighting
This video shows off five creative DIY outdoor lighting ideas:
These hanging jar lights are sure to turn some heads:
Create your own backyard string light setup using these DIY string light hacks:
Just want a few subtle spotlights to illuminate certain areas of your landscape? Check out this video of tips and tricks for installing your very own garden spotlights: