Outdoor living season is very much here, so it's time to prep your patio/balcony/backyard for summertime entertaining. Whether you're planning large parties or casual get togethers (or just want to decorate for you), utilizing proper lighting is an essential part of creating the right vibe for your space. String lights are an easy solution that have a big impact, so we rounded up our favorites at all price points and styles that will make your outdoor space shine.
How This Works
Every week we bring new products into our "test lab" and have the whole office test and vote on their favorites, based on quality, appearance and price.
Maxwell Ryan, our Founder & CEO, oversees the field, throws in his vote as well, and then demonstrates the favorites in a video so you can see them with your own eyes. Come back every Thursday for a new edition of The Guide right here and in social with Maxwell's Instagram story!
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Outdoors in warm weather candles are essential for mood, but string lights are easier and can add that lovely easygoing European marketplace feeling to any rather blah space.
I've bought them for years, have tried many different kinds, and have gravitated over time to the dimmer and the more unusual. These heavy duty market lights with Edison style bulbs from Amazon are similar to the ones I first bought from Resto for a lot more. Now they come in much more affordable versions, and they are awesome, not too bright and really set the mood.
I actually use these string lights in my bedroom, but they can just as safely be used outdoors as well. Minimalist and made of copper wire that's easy to bend, these lights cast a soft glow that's perfect for intimate gatherings and smaller spaces that don't need to be fully lit. This pick is also seriously low-priced, especially considering that you're getting 33 feet of lights for under $15.
For a more substantial look, check out these lights found on Save on Crafts. Meant to mimic the bulkhead lights found in ship passageways, this strand has a bit more flair than the usual suspects and will definitely add a decorative touch to your outdoor space. Each strand has 10 caged lights total at 8.5 feet, and can be connected to a maximum of 22 strands.
If you're looking for lights that you truly never have to think about, these LED solar-powered lights found on 25 Main Street might be for you. The lights are charged by day and automatically light up around dusk, so you can significantly cut back on energy costs and not worry about outlets. Plus at 55 feet in length, you have a lot of freedom to decorate how you want.
If you need fun lights for a party then Ooga Lights is your answer. There's a seemingly endless supply of quirky, festive light options, from pizza to cowboy boots and everything in between. These pineapple lights are good for summer cookouts, pool parties (if you're lucky enough to have a pool) or for your patio if you just really like pineapples. One strand is 8.5 feet with 10 lights, and can be connected to other strands.
These lights from Target have a more sophisticated industrial vibe thanks to the copper metal covers, which also create a warmer glow than your average uncovered bulb. Plus, if copper isn't your jam, these lights also come in black. Each strand is 15 feet long and has 10 lights, making it ideal for smaller spaces.
Maxwell has been using RH lights for years for their style and quality, and these globe lights are no exception. These cafe-inspired lights look equally appropriate indoor and outdoors; in fact, our panel agreed that these are the most attractive of the bunch. There are two sizes to choose from based on bulb size: the large has 10 lights and measures 11 feet, while the small has 20 lights and comes to 21 feet.
Another, more decorative solar-powered option, these star-shaped lights come with a separate solar panel, so you don't have to worry about them getting enough sunshine. As long as the panel gets direct sunlight, these lights will be powered for up to 8 hours in the dark. At 15 feet long and including 20 lights, this pick will quickly create a whimsy vibe in your space.
On the high end, these lights from Pottery Barn are made of subtly patterned glass globes that give off a nice warm glow. They're also solar-powered, a major perk for any outdoor lighting. Each strand contains 6 globes and is 25 feet long, but be wary of water—Pottery Barn recommends these be used in covered outdoor spaces.
Outdoor Lighting Tips
- Weave string lights across a balcony or stair rails. If you need more light in your outdoor area but are lacking space, weaving string lights in balcony railings or stair handrails is an easy way to add both light and character.
- Accessorize with light. Aside from string up lights, consider bunching up a small strand and putting it in a vase, lantern or mason jar (if you really want to go all out with the "shabby chic" look). Another option: Wrap string lights around a piece of decor to add some spark.
- Use light as space divider. If you have a large enough area, you can use string lights to create different "zones" of your space. String up lights over a table to create an intimate entertaining area, or use them to transform a dark corner into a cozy nook. Feel free to do some experimenting and find a method that works for your space.
Our Best String Light Posts:
- String Them In Style: 14 DIY Lights For Your Porch, Patio & Fire Escape
- 20 Gorgeous Outdoor Lighting Picks to Brighten Your Backyard or Balcony
- Best Outdoor Lighting for Partying All Night Long
- 9 Summer Outdoor Lighting Solutions
Other Good Resources:
- The 8 Best Outdoor String Lights to Buy in 2018 — The Spruce
- Best Outdoor String Lights — Patio Brothers
- 20 Dreamy Ways to Use Outdoor String Lights in Your Backyard — Country Living