5 garden lighting mistakes to avoid to ensure a cosy and inviting outdoor space, according to experts

Festoon outdoor lights hanging outside house exterior
(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Burt)

Seeing as lighting plays a major role in interiors, it's no surprise that it's just as impactful in an outdoor space too. Therefore, being clued up on the garden lighting mistakes to avoid is knowledge that is certainly worthwhile – and can make all the difference as the nights continue to get longer.

While there are a handful of garden lighting ideas out there that promise to up the ambience and cosy vibes in your garden, there's actually a bit of a science to curating the right lighting.

That said, if you want to make the most of illuminating an outdoor living room, we've asked experts for their advice on the garden lighting mistakes to steer clear of when decorating outdoors this summer.

A living wall, framework with plants, vertical planting, above a sunken seating area in an urban garden

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Garden lighting mistakes to avoid

'Outdoor lighting is an essential element of any good garden space. Not only does this increase functionality, allowing you to enjoy the space no matter the season, but choosing the right lighting is also central to creating an inviting atmosphere,' begins Marlena Kaminska, designer at ValueLights.

However, before you begin, it's important to consider the lighting you'll be using in your outdoor space. 'For patio and decking lighting, you want to ensure that you use IP44 minimum rated lighting to ensure water resistance against outdoor weather conditions,' advises Julian Page, head of design at BHS.

So long as you've got that covered, here are 5 common garden lighting mistakes to avoid when lighting your outdoor space – and what to do instead to bring some cosiness to your outdoor lighting ideas.

Garden with wooden black fence and curved boardwalk on white gravel

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

1. Not zoning your garden

Similar to how you would curate your indoor lighting to suit the needs of the room they're in, the same should apply to your outdoor space.

'Whether you realise it or not, every garden is divided into zones – from doorways and paved areas to flower beds and seating. Each area of your garden serves a distinct purpose and should be lit accordingly,' explains Marlena.

For example, consider using wireless outdoor lamps or LED candles around your garden seating ideas for al fresco dining or opting for ambient lanterns for illuminating your patio ideas to create a divide between the areas in your garden.

Wooden outdoor seating area with cushions and pendant lights

(Image credit: Future PLC/Katie Lee)

2. Over-illumination

Although bringing out lots of varied lighting to your garden is tempting, you should be wary to not overdo it as this is another big garden lighting mistake that is made far too often.

Jo Plant, head of design at Pooky explains that over-illumination can 'create a harsh and unwelcoming environment' – which is exactly what you want to avoid when trying to curate an inviting outdoor space you want to sink into.

Instead, Jo suggests opting for a 'balanced lighting scheme that highlights key features while maintaining a cosy ambience'. Similar to our first point on zoning lighting, you can use smaller task lighting for certain areas and bigger outdoor pendant lights for larger areas.

Close up of outside lights hanging from olive trees. Shed in the garden of a two bedroom mid terrace house

(Image credit: Future PLC)

3. Neglecting balcony spaces

While a handful of us may not have balconies, oftentimes those who do are neglecting to light them completely – being one of the biggest garden lighting mistakes. When illuminated correctly, balcony garden ideas are easily the perfect cosy resting place.

'Festoon lights and outdoor string lights are the perfect choices for smaller spaces. Being incredibly versatile, the placement of these lights can be adapted to suit the shape and size of your space,' assures Marlena. 'Why not try wrapping them around any railings, fences or trees to define the borders of your balcony and add a touch of romance?'

Alternatively, Julian suggests opting for outdoor wall lights on either side of the entryway leading out onto the balcony for a symmetrical and balanced appearance.

Festoon outdoor lights hanging outside house exterior

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Burt)

4. Forgetting about smart lighting

Smart lighting is quickly becoming a must in many homes, so it's no surprise that the same can be (and should be) said for lighting our outdoor spaces thanks to its ability to completely transform outdoor spaces at the touch of a button.

'Whether you're installing new smart lighting or simply exchanging regular bulbs for smart bulbs in your existing fittings, the added functionality can be game-changing,' says Kate Baker, lighting advisor at 4lite.

Bamboo plant growing in pots and raised bed in outdoor garden space

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

5. Not considering solar first

Although lighting a garden to cosy perfection is the end goal, there's undoubtedly a cost that will come with it that could result in higher bills. If you want to save energy at home, then switching to solar for some key lighting in your outdoor space is the solution.

'Investing in good quality, durable solar-powered garden lights is a quick and easy way to cut the cost of lighting your garden,' assures Kate. 'Using solar lighting won't add a penny to your energy bills.'

Not only will they help cut costs, but they also make for a great rented garden idea as there's no hard wiring involved in the installation process.

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All in all, when done right, outdoor lighting can enhance the look and feel of your garden whilst bringing some much-needed functionality to enjoy those long summer nights for even longer.

So long as you stay away from the above garden lighting mistakes, you're sure to indulge in a beautifully illuminated outdoor space for the upcoming seasons.

Jullia Joson
Junior Writer

Jullia Joson is a Junior Writer at Ideal Home. She's always loved all things homes and interiors, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Nottingham where her love for journalism blossomed following her internship at ArchDaily. Now focused on home tech, Jullia works on writing features and explainers to help people make the most of their home appliance investments. When she isn't writing, she loves exploring the city, coffee shop hopping, and losing hours to a cosy game.