10 Designer-Approved Bistro Light Sets to Brighten Up Your Patio
Plus, tips from interior designers on how to hang them.
Nothing elevates a backyard patio faster than a stylish set of bistro lights. Along with illuminating your yard after the sun sets, a beautiful set of café lights can also help create an ambient atmosphere for entertaining guests outdoors. "Café lights cast a warm glow and create the perfect vibe for an evening summer barbecue," explains interior designer Natalie Suss of Hyphen & Co. "Also, wrapping them about the space contributes to a more intimate setting."
However, with all the bistro lights on the market, separating the stellar from the so-so can be tricky. "Make sure that you select a brand that is UL listed and graded for outdoor use and, if possible, notes UV protection on the cord," says interior designer Kendall Wilkinson. "Please read the product reviews and ratings; you don't want to go through the effort and cost of buying and hanging bistro lights to find out they have failed in one season or less. Price doesn't always equal quality."
Once you've ensured a set of café lights is suitable for outdoor use, Suss says it's important to display them in a way that complements the design of your patio. "Consider the size and shape of your patio to establish the lighting layout you think makes the most visual impact," she says. "If it's rectangular, you could balance it out by hanging rows of lights along the shorter width to elongate the space and create a sense of movement across. If your patio is more square-shaped, swooping them along the perimeter will create a simple frame around the area, or gathering rows to a point on a post or tree brings a more fun and dynamic atmosphere." Curious which café lights outdoor-savvy interior designers use? We asked a few of our experts to share their favorites, and here's what they had to say.
Solar Globe Lights
The only thing better than a chic set of bistro lights, is one that doesn't require any electricity. "These have a classic look and are powered by our favorite light source—the sun," Suss explains. "Plus, they're made in the U.S.A., so they're a more environmentally-friendly option all-around.
Shop Now: West Elm Solar LED String Lights in Globe, $99, westelm.com.
Edison Bulb String Lights
This string set features vintage-inspired Edison bulbs. "The exposed filament and the warm incandescence of Edison bulbs create an old-fashioned vibe on a patio," Wilkinson says. "Install in a straight line for a modern look, or in zigzag to make a statement."
Shop Now: Pottery Barn Edison Bulb Indoor/Outdoor String Lights, $79, potterybarn.com.
Solar Powered String Lights
If you aren't already employing solar-powered bistro lights on your patio, interior designer Ariel Okin says to reconsider. "I tend to gravitate toward LED solar powered bistro lights that charge during the day and automatically turn on at night, so you don't have to worry about having a power outlet outside," she explains.
Shop Now: World Market Clear Glass Solar LED 30 Bulb String Lights, $27.99, worldmarket.com.
Globe String Lights
Simple String Lights
If you have children that like to play on your backyard patio, Wilkinson recommends investing in a simple but durable set of string lights with smaller bulbs (that are harder to break). "These are a great utilitarian option for patios that see lots of activity with kids," she says.
Shop Now: Smith & Hawken 10-Count String Lights in Clear, $30, target.com.
Linkable LED Lights
If you have a lot of patio space to cover, Wilkinson suggests a long, but linkable style. "These are available in five different lengths and have end-to-end connections, so you can link multiple sets to achieve the perfect length," she explains. "They're also commercially rated and come with a lifetime warranty."
Shop Now: Enbrighten Classic LED Cafe String Lights, $49.50, amazon.com.
If you're a fan of frosted bulbs, then we have found the café lights for you. Each of the weatherproof bulbs on this eye-catching strand is coated in a shimmery pearl finish that casts a soft, warm glow over your patio.
Shop Now: Wintergreen Lighting Opaque Steady 25 Light String, $46.99, wayfair.com.
Commercial Quality Lights
A sleek strand of sparkling café lights can have a big impact on your backyard. "I love Terrain's bistro lights because of their quality and scale," Okin says. "Twinkly lights make all the difference in making an outdoor space feel charming and inviting—it makes any space feel like a movie set!"
Shop Now: Terrain Commercial Light String Bulbs, $148 for set of two, shopterrain.com.
Searching for bistro lights that will brighten up an outdoor dining set? These chic globe bulbs are designed with hooks on each, so they can easily be attached to the rungs of a standard patio umbrella for table lighting.
Shop Now: Crate & Barrel Patio Umbrella Globe LED String Lights, $39.95, crateandbarrel.com.