How to Light Your Outdoor Area

Apartment Therapy's Guide to the Perfect Summer

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Lighting isn't always the first thing you think of when it comes to your outdoor area. After all, you probably spend a lot of time enjoying it during daylight hours. But the evening and nighttime are prime for creating a low-lit atmosphere perfect for entertaining (yourself or guests!). Here are some things to consider when looking to light your outdoor area.

Just like your interior lighting, you want to consider all the options, make sure lighting is spread around your space for the biggest impact and you want to consider all the activities that will be in your space. With outdoor lighting, there are few other choices you can consider, as well.

Start with a top down approach
It's not the most fun lighting aspect to consider, but do first think about the overall task and security lighting needs of your space. Do you need overhead light to illuminate your back door for security or your front door so you can see to get in at night? If so, do you need to update the overhead lighting, or is that a spot you could update with an attractive fixture to have the best of both looks and function? Don't think you'll ever need a bright outdoor light? You need to consider the possibilities of waking up hearing an animal scratching around outside and needing to ascertain whether it's a raccoon or a bear (this need depends on where you live, of course).

Could you use some motion detector security lights for added safety? Don't have or want an overhead flush or hanging light? What about consider outdoor wall sconces for function and beauty? There are lots of options to consider, but give it some thought this weekend. And at the very least, if you haven't already, replace your existing outdoor light fixture light bulbs with energy-efficient ones. (Oh and don't forget to clean your fixtures if they haven't been yet!). Some security lighting posts:

Next consider your overall fun lighting
These are the lights that are there to shed general illumination on your outdoor area, no matter if you have a balcony or a backyard. String lights are a strong contender, as are clusters of hanging lanterns (candle or electric). You don't want these blasting tons of bright light (that's what your overhead lighting above does when you need it). These are here to softly illuminate your whole outdoor area when you are entertaining or enjoying it solo. Some inspiration to consider:

Think about your table-height detail lighting
Mason jars with tea lights, tabletop lanterns, outdoor lamps. You want to think about the sort of task lighting you'll need for the activities your outdoor area will be hosting. If you plan on having dinner parties outdoors, think about tabletop lights. If you want to read outside, you might consider an outdoor lamp. Some posts to peruse:

Consider path-finding lights
Dark yards and walkways can be a danger outdoors, especially for guests who may be unfamiliar with your home (and teetering around after a few of your hand-made, delicious cocktails). So make the paths to and from your outdoor area clear, clean and well-lit. Solar-powered path-finding lights are an excellent option for many.

Start your shopping here: Best Indoor/Outdoor Lighting Stores. Want to DIY your lighting? Here are some ideas: Easy DIY LED Lighting for Outdoor Parties and Novogratz Inspired DIY Outdoor Lighting.

Visit the Guide to the Perfect Summer main page for links to all of the posts published so far or sign up to have them delivered directly to you each weekend.

(Image credits: Joey and Gerard's France Meets California Mountain Cottage; Janel Laban)

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Adrienne photographs beautiful homes in and around her home base of Austin, Texas. She's a contributor to UPPERCASE Magazine and spends all her free time exploring small town Texas. She watches a lot of Star Trek.