20 of Our Favorite Outdoor Lighting Ideas to Brighten Up Your Space
Outdoor lighting is an imperative aspect of any nighttime gathering, whether it's an open-air dinner for two or a party for dozens. Whether you're guiding guests to your front door or are illuminating a beautifully decorated dinner table, the possibilities to light up your surroundings are seemingly endless. Ahead, we're showing you some of our favorite creative outdoor lighting ideas that are guaranteed to elevate your backyard living space.
Lighting can take many forms—from candles to hanging lanterns, you have a number of options to choose from. But before you start picking and choosing what you do and don't like, it's important to take the area you're trying to illuminate into consideration. Porches, backyards, and gardens all need different types of lighting. If you're on the hunt for functional and decorative lighting ideas for outdoor entertaining spaces, we have plenty—some of which you can even make yourself. Line the perimeter of your backyard with our tiki torch anchors that we're teaching you how to make. Or for a smaller craft, create our Easy Sand Candles and watch as your backyard glows through the night. They're the perfect addition to your Fourth of July table.
If you prefer to purchase your lighting instead of crafting, we have plenty of options that are just a click away. Hang an outdoor pendant that looks as great suspended from your front porch ceiling as it does on your backyard patio. It's made of rattan and is just the thing to round out your outdoor décor. You could also opt for a minimalistic lantern, forged from metal that works as a way to illuminate the path to your front door, or as a table centerpiece. No matter what style you're looking for, you'll find a wide array of great outdoor lighting ideas here.
A hanging rattan pendant makes for an aesthetically pleasing outdoor lighting idea no matter the time of day.
Shop Now: Serena & Lily "Pacifica" Outdoor Pendant, $248, serenaandlily.com.
Adding a lantern is a beautiful and cost-effective way to lighten up an outdoor space. Simple black metal ones look great grouped together on a pathway or on their own as a table centerpiece.
Shop Now: Petaluma Black Large Metal Lantern, $99.95, crateandbarrel.com.
Solar Garden Lights
The perfect way to illuminate a pathway, like your driveway, is with a sustainable solar light.
Shop Now: Martha Stewart "Skylands" Landscape Solar Lights, $60 for four, qvc.com.
Add festive lighting to any part of your yard with tiki torches. Anchor them in gravel-filled, galvanized-steel flower buckets ($36.99, wayfair.com), and have yourself a tropical night. To anchor the torches, position flower buckets on level ground for stability. Hold one torch upright in each bucket and fill the bucket with garden gravel to about three inches from the rim. The containers are then heavy enough to support the lit torches safely as they burn. Both the buckets and gravel are available at garden-supply centers; torches can be purchased at home-supply stores.
Easy Sand Candles
Colored bands of sand dress up votive candles to make flickering lights that are cheerful and fun.
Place these decorative leather-trimmed lanterns upon a table as an instant centerpiece that doubles as a light source. Plus, they're easy to make with five simple steps.
What might be considered as an indoor-only fixture, outdoor lamps are a simple way to add light to any area.
Shop Now: Kenroy "Egress" Outdoor Lamp, $239.40, target.com.
A rustic touch to any space, terra-cotta candlestick holders are not only beautiful, but they hold up well outdoors.
Geometric "topiaries" inspired by the paper sculptures of Isamu Noguchi stand on both sides of this swimming pool. A few white plastic beach balls tied to weighted lines float in the pool like pearls cut loose from a giant strand (for safety, never cover the surface of a pool with a large number of balls).
Cast a warm glow from above. A midsummer night's meal is served on the lawn under tall maple trees strung with lanterns hanging on chains from strong branches. Small and large, these lamps hold ivory tapers, their bases disappearing in a thick layer of fresh, fragrant rose petals.
Glowing Hurricane Vases
Hurricane vases are wrapped in layers of colored tissue paper for a glowing effect.
Overhead fixtures, strung from trees or a trellis, set the mood. Hanging solar lanterns that turn on automatically at dusk make alfresco dining elegant.
Votive Place Cards
Your guests will love seeing their names in lights. These glowing place cards are votive holders wrapped in paper, inscribed on opposite sides. This way, others can read the names from across the table—helpful if people are meeting for the first time. Cut a piece of parchment to fit around a votive holder. With a ruler and pencil, mark two guides for the names, and then write them on with a felt-tip pen. Then erase pencil marks and wrap the paper around the votive, before securing with double-sided tape.
No need to bring the party indoors after the sun goes down, even if your yard isn't lit. String up lights to illuminate the festivities. Don't have a place to hang them? Wooden poles anchored in flower buckets filled with garden gravel can be set up anywhere there's level ground, and they help define an outdoor gathering place.
These lanterns hanging from bamboo poles are origami "balloons" fashioned around battery-operated lights and finished with ribbons.
Reflected in the liquid's shimmering surface, the flickers of a candle's flame appear doubly radiant and twice as beautiful. Floating candles add instant atmosphere to a casual summer table, and with our technique, you can create lots of them in only a couple of hours.
Shaded String Lights
Holiday strands trace every slat of a porch trellis; the bulbs are covered in shades made from chartreuse and turquoise vellum. The table is lighted by pillar candles, each protected by two vases (one inside the other); blue-tinted water fills the space between glasses.
If you're throwing a party for someone's anniversary or birthday, the guest of honor will shine with a set of photo frame lanterns. They consist of three hinged photo frames set around votive candles.
Add a touch of romance with outdoor lighting in the form of floating candles. Placed in small glass casings, they add enchanting flickers of light.
Flower Votive Displays
Flowers and candlelight are nothing new, but together they create tabletop decorations fit for relaxed summer entertaining. Place votive candles in tall glass vessels, and attach a flower (dahlias are shown here) outside each, trimming the stem to fit and tying with raffia that matches the flower. Set each display in a saucer of water to keep the flowers fresh.