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7 Outdoor Lighting Design Tips to Brighten Your Space This Summer

After being cooped up at home, outside is where we all want to be this summer and beyond. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, balcony, or any kind of outdoor space, you’ll only be able to enjoy it during the day unless you deck out the area with some proper lighting. In short, outdoor lights are a must.

The thing is, you can’t just set up a cool lamp and be done with it. Beyond aesthetics, functionality has to be the top priority. There’s no point in picking out something that’s not durable or can easily get weathered with outdoor use. You want lighting solutions that last and can illuminate an area in ways you’ve never thought of before—whether delicate deck lights or subtle chandeliers that work in any space. Ahead, you’ll find top-notch design tips (above all, watch your wattage) from hospitality entrepreneurs who have completely reimagined outdoor spots at their respective hotels.

1. The simpler, the better.

When it comes to outdoor lights, less is more. Since nature is the reason you’re out there, choose lighting such as these Simple String Lights that highlight the scenery and don’t dominate what’s around it. “My basic lighting strategy has been quite simple: Get out of the way,” Ram’s Head Inn owner Aandrea Carter tells AD. “More nature has afforded us an amazing view and naturally sloping grounds, so we’ve chosen lighting with the simple goal of not the presence of light but rather the absence of darkness.”

string lights

Simple String Lights, $47 at West Elm

2. Blend in with the background.

Get inspired by the great outdoors and go with lighting options that complement it, like the Flora All-Weather Wicker Outdoor Pendant. That’s what Jayma Cardoso, founder and creative director of The Surf Lodge, did with her outdoor light installation. “Our deck features rows of balanced wicker baskets suspended from wooden beams,” she says. “They look completely natural and camouflage with the environment. They just fit and add to what makes our space unique.”

rattan wicker hanging pendant lamp

Flora Rattan Pendant, $249 at Pottery Barn

Check out how beautiful this mix of rattan pendant lamps is at one of our sold properties, 210 Via Pamplona.

3. Break out new light bulbs.

Don’t settle for the bulbs built into your set—swap them for energy-efficient Dimmable Edison LED Bulbs, which are known to reduce energy bills by 90%. “The key is to replace the bulbs that come with the strands,” Dive Palm Springs founder and CEO Dale Fox shares. “Filament ‘Edison’ LED lights have come a long way in terms of elegance, cost, and quality. The operating costs are a fraction of traditional incandescents.”

edison light bulbs

6-Pack LED Dimmable Edison Light Bulbs, $22 at Amazon

4. Can it weather a storm?

We can’t stress this enough: Make sure the lights you’re buying are built for outdoor use. Even if you have a covered patio or shaded balcony, storms can still get to them, so invest in something that can handle heavy precipitation. The Great Outdoors Outdoor Wall Sconce is a solid, affordable option. “Functionality of outdoor lighting is part of the style,” Jayma emphasizes. “It has to be durable and made well enough to withstand everyday weather elements. When you look at an outdoor light installation in a storm, you immediately appreciate the importance of style and functionality as one.”

ceramic white light sconce

The Great Outdoors 1 Light Outdoor Wall Sconce, $44 at

5. Stay warm.

Match summer’s heat with warm, matte lights that won’t overpower a space. There’s nothing worse than harsh lighting that comes on too strong, so stick with toasty and inviting lights. “Color is everything,” Dale points out. “We never go any cooler than 2700k lighting, but the best is the lighting around 2100k. That’s truly equivalent to candlelight. It’s warm, intimate, romantic, and really sets a scene.”

vintage edison bulbs

Vintage Incandescent Edison Bulbs, $14 at Amazon

6. Let your imagination run wild.

From motion-sensored security lights to bold shapes in your entryway, have fun with it and explore everything that’s out there. “We actually do a lot of experimentation on Amazon,” Dale says. “There are some great products that come straight from Asia. Lighting is evolving rapidly with the state-of-the-art changing on a quarterly basis.”

motion sensor light

Dusk to Dawn Motion Sensor Light, $50 at Amazon

7. It’s not just about the light.

“Obviously, lighting is a key component to any outdoor space,” Jayma says. However, illumination shouldn’t be the only purpose of your outdoor lighting fixtures. Take your design a step further by considering a multipurpose ceiling fan that simultaneously keeps you and your guests cool.

ceiling fan

Andover Mills Outdoor Standard Ceiling Fan, $212 at Wayfair

YOU MIGHT LIKE: The Best Outdoor String Lights to Brighten Up Your Space

Article previously published on Architectural Digest.

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