Patio lighting ideas – 11 ways to illuminate your garden

Create the perfect ambience for your outdoor space and use your patio for longer
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  • With the weather improving we turn our attention to our outdoor space, and with some clever patio lighting ideas extend its use for longer. Whether your patio is next to the house, positioned in a sunny spot half way down the lawn, or tucked in the corner underneath a pergola, you can really transform the space with new patio lighting – creating the perfect spot for relaxing, entertaining and dining.

    There are so many patio ideas that you can try to improve your outdoor space, including a whole host of patio lighting ideas for different effects.

    Lighting, just like inside your home, is really important for creating a certain mood or ambience in the garden, and should be given the same kind of dedication to achieve the style you want. Get it right and you can really transform the space, and not just from the patio itself, but by also creating a visual illumination that can be viewed from the house.

    Patio lighting ideas

    The first step to improving the lighting in your garden and on your patio, is to establish the type of ambience you want to create, and to have a think about the sorts of activities you’re going to be using the space for. Overhead, brighter festoon lights will give more illumination so would suit a dining area better than smaller stake lights pushed into plant pots.

    For some inspiration, we’ve rounded up our pick of the best patio lighting ideas, from festoon lights and candles to solar-powered lanterns, built-in spotlights and more. Read on for the must-have patio lighting ideas that will totally transform your space.

    1. Highlight zones: illuminating steps and a path with floor standing lamps

    garden with patio areas and paving

    Image credit: Future PLC

    If your garden is multi-level with a combination of steps and pathways, then it’s a good idea to light the way with suitable lighting. You could opt for solar-powered lanterns and stake lights pushed into flower beds or have wall lights installed into retaining or boundary walls, as seen here.

    But for a more powerful ray of light to highlight patio paving ideas, why not use floor standing lamps that you can move about? Solar powered or battery operated versions will cast enough of a glow to guide the way and can be left in one permanent spot or repositioned as you desire.

    2. Hang an overhead pendant to create an outdoor dining room

    wooden pergola with dining table and chairs and deck chair

    Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole

    For the ultimate outdoor dining experience, give some attention to creating a space that feels like a dining room, except that it’s in the garden. An overhead pergola or similar patio cover idea serves as a ceiling from which you can hang all sorts of decorative items – plant pots with trailing foliage, pretty adornments, chimes and lighting.

    A single, stand-out pendant lamp positioned centrally over a table will give an immediate zoning effect, creating the feeling of a dining room. Go for a metallic brass finish for an on-trend look.

    4. Bring in a freestanding light for a portable glow

    Patio with black painted fence with bistro table and chairs set

    Image credit: Lights4fun

    Like a pendant light being used above a table isn’t just for the dining room, a floor standing lamp isn’t just for the living room. One of these makes a fabulous patio lighting idea that you can bring in next to a sofa, chair or table. Of course, it can’t be an actual interior lamp, it needs to be one specifically designed for the outside with a weighted base and weather proofing. If you have a power source in the garden then you could use a plug-in version, but there are chargeable and solar options available if you want to avoid trailing cables.

    Used alone it will cast a light, gentle glow, creating a wonderfully restful atmosphere for you and your guests, especially when placed next to a cosy sofa. If you want to produce something more impactful, then combine the lamp with other patio lighting ideas, such as floor hurricane lanterns with candles inside and a string of festoon lights.

    5. Install outdoor wall lighting to illuminate the back of the house

    CURVED GARDEN PATIO

    Image credit: Future PLC

    If you have a traditional patio set-up that is next to the house, then you most likely won’t have an overhead structure from which you can hang decorative lights. But perhaps you have a nearby tree with overhanging branches where you could place lanterns? Or another patio lighting idea is to attach a hanging basket bracket to a wall or fence and then hang a solar-powered light from it.

    Though the great thing about your patio being next to the house is that you have the option to install permanent light fittings that can be incorporated onto the main electrical circuit of the house. You can control them via a standard switch and they could even have motion sensors, which would help with your home’s security. These industrial wall lights give a modern finish to an otherwise traditional scheme and will cast a beautiful glow on the rear of the house.

    5. Go all out and combine a mix of light sources

    patio at night lit up with candle light and fairy lights

    Image credit: Lights4fun

    If you’re hosting a garden soiree and looking for some quick lighting solutions, then take a cue from what’s been done here. Pulling together lots of different patio lighting ideas that include electric, solar-powered and battery-operated lights, as well as real candles, it’s created a beautifully ambient setting for an outdoor party.

    Drape festoon lights between permanent structures, such as the rear wall of the house, a hedge or fence, or a shed and summer house – any fixed point you can find. Adorn an umbrella with fairy lights and dot lanterns and open candles around. It will create the most perfectly inviting space. If you don’t want to use real candles due to the risk of fire and mess the wax can make, then go for faux versions – you can get some really good ones where even the flame flickers; your guests won’t even tell they’re not real.

    6. Cast a directional glow with wall-hanging spotlights

    Patio with mirror small garden ideas David Still

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Still

    Just like inside your home, lighting plays a huge role in setting the tone. People are dedicated to mastering the art of lighting and understanding how it travels and casts – it’s even the career of some. Choose the right method and you will open light up to its full potential in curating the perfect mood in your garden.

    A small courtyard like this benefits from directional spot lights as you can use them to control the light in certain areas. Here, positioned near to an oversized mirror in a small garden, the light can be directed onto either the table, or the bench, or onto the mirror to bounce even more light around. What would otherwise be a gloomy area becomes a bright and welcoming space. It’s about being creative with patio lighting ideas to ensure you get what works best for your patio.

    7. Install permanent downlights on a retaining wall

    Garden path downlighters

    Image credit: Nedgis

    You’ll need to recruit the help of a qualified electrician for this one, but permanent light fittings added in various parts of the garden will give you an all-year glow. When you can use mains electricity and you don’t have to rely on the rays of the sun, of which there is very little in the winter months here in the UK, you can still create a warm ambient mood out of season.

    For practical reasons, downlighters are especially useful next to pathways and steps, making moving around the garden in low light safe and easy, but they also look appealing. Use warm bulbs and the light they will cast downwards will be soft and attractive, which will really amp up the style stakes in any outdoor space.

    8. Hang playful festoon lights overhead for a cheerful effect

    outdoor patio with pergola painted slate grey with string of festoon lights

    Image credit: Future PLC

    It’s an easy one but a goody. If you have a pergola then grab yourself a box of festoon lights – the kind that look like proper light bulbs – and string them just about anywhere you can get them.

    If you don’t have a pergola, then hang them from anything fixed in the garden – a tree, fence, wall, or shed. Put small hooks at various points and use these to drape the lights from. You’ll create a wonderful cascading effect wherever you put them which will also look lovely viewed from the house.

    If you don’t have anywhere fixed in your garden then don’t worry. Get yourself a few heavy plant pots (planted up, of course) and hammer in a long cane or branch, from which you can then hang your festoon lights. Be mindful of its height as people need to be able to walk underneath comfortably without getting tangled. Plus, don’t forget that you’ll need more length of festoon lights than you think you will – you’ll be going back and forth across a pergola or draping them loosely along a fence.

    9. String pendant lights from a garden brolly

    Patio with dingin table and chairs set with parasol

    Image credit: Ella James

    You can find patio lighting ideas in unexpected places, so look beyond the usual spots for positioning lights. Perhaps you don’t have a pergola but want to try the trend for hanging lanterns and pendant lights overhead. If you have a sun-shade brolly then make good use of that instead, and hang solar-powered lanterns from the ribs and stretchers of its canopy. You could also entwine battery operated fairy lights up its shaft for an inviting table glow.

    The great thing about an umbrella is that it can be moved about – you could use it to hang lights for an al fresco dining set-up, or stand it next to an outdoor sofa to create a cosy atmosphere for snuggling up in the evening.

    10. Illuminate a small patio with sleek downlighters

    raer house exterior with covered patio

    image credit: Future PLC

    If you only have a small patio adjacent to the house then you don’t want to clutter it up with lots of light, lamps and candles. Instead, choose simpler lighting options that can be installed onto the rear wall of the house. Stainless steel up-down light fittings like these will cast just enough light onto the patio below, whilst also throwing light onto the wall above, and in this case, the lean-to type glass ceiling fixture.

    Being creative with lighting and nearby reflective surfaces, such as glass and mirror, is a brilliant way to make your patio lighting ideas work harder. It will push the light around the space more to make it feel bigger and more open, which is great for courtyards, balconies and a small patio like this.

    11. Position oversized lanterns for a colourful scheme

    Paper lanterns hung in the garden

    Image credit: Sparkle Lighting

    Dining areas in the garden are a bit of a thing now – everyone wants a pergola with trailing foliage and pretty lighting to create an outdoor room. If you’re fortunate enough to have the space for one, then consider oversized colourful lanterns and make a feature of it. Seen from the house, it’ll look pleasing to the eye when not in use, whilst of course serve a practical purpose for al fresco dining.

    Paper lanterns such as this will cast an ambient, subtle glow and even cast delicate patterns in their shadows. Go for a combination of sizes, shapes and colours for the full effect.

    What is the best way to light a patio?

    ‘When it comes to planning your garden lighting, you can illuminate virtually anything from architectural features to the decking, trees and planting, ponds or fountains, pergolas, patios or paths,’ says Kate Barker, light and wellness advisor at 4lite.com.

    ‘However, just because you can illuminate virtually anything doesn’t mean you should. Paint a picture in your mind of the lighting proposal you wish to install by viewing the garden environment in its entirety, rather than just considering individual or local features on a one-by-one basis.’

    What’s important is that you create the mood and ambience for the area that matches the functionality and need required. First think about what you’re planning on doing on the patio. If it’s lots of entertaining then you’ll want to enjoy the outdoor space for longer into the evening, so you’ll need brighter lighting options – festoon lights give an immediate party feel and will cast plenty of light. Take advice from yours truly here who, for a garden birthday party, only dotted a few jam jars around the flowerbeds with faux candles inside. It definitely didn’t cast enough light to keep guests feeling comfortable past dusk and ended up being a bit of a party snuffer.

    Secondly, you need to think about where you need the light. If you’re going to be barbecuing around dinner time in the early evening light, then you’ll need to set up some brighter task lighting which you can switch off when it comes to sitting down to eat. And low lighting is always sensible around paths and steps, too. In short, it’s important to consider what it is you need the light for and where, before you embark on dotting about lights or enlisting your local electrician.

    How can I light my garden without electricity?

    There are so many ways to light a garden without electricity. In fact, you don’t really even need electrical points in your garden at all. If you’re able to have electricity routed down to the bottom of the garden with outdoor sockets installed by a qualified electrician then that’s a bonus and it will open you up to more patio lighting ideas, but it’s not essential. If you do go for permanent electrical outlets then be sure they’re installed in accordance with regulations and by a qualified technician.

    Electrical lighting aside, there are so many modern solar-powered, chargeable and battery-operated lights and lamps available that you can use instead. Not to mention the warming glow that a fire pit, chiminea or candles would cast on the patio as well. It’s all about finding the right level of glow for the activity or area you need it.

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