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The Best Outdoor Lights to Brighten Your Exterior Spaces | Architectural Digest


If you’re lucky enough to have a patio, balcony, or any kind of backyard space, some nice outdoor lights will let you enjoy the fresh air both during the day and at night. The thing is, you can’t just set up a cool table 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 anything that can easily get weathered with use. You want lighting solutions that last and can illuminate an area in ways you’ve never thought of before—whether with 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.

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 some simple LED 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 the absence of darkness.” 

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SANJICHA Extra-Long Solar String Lights

Amazon is full of very versatile landscape lighting options—like these best-selling string lights that have over 6,000 five-star reviews and come in seven different colors.

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SOLPEX Solar Ground Lights (12 Pack)

If you’re looking for something unobtrusive, these path lights will remain understated during the day but shine bright after sunset.

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Simple String Lights

Elevate any outdoor festivity with these elegant frosted bulbs.

Svater Outdoor String Lights

If hazy-looking bulbs aren’t your taste, opt for these similar-looking globe lights that give off a warm glow.

West Elm Aurora Glow Solar String Lights

Crafted from handblown glass and weather-resistant, these durable solar lights from West Elm are sure to give your space an artisanal feel.

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Birch Lane Gracinha Standard String Light

Turn the backyard into a rustic oasis with a string of these vintage-inspired hanging lights.

Blend in with the background

Get inspired by nature and go with outdoor light fixtures 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 wood beams,” she says. “They look completely natural and camouflage with the environment. They just fit and add to what makes our space unique.”

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Allsop Home & Garden Stella Bell Solar Lantern

No outlets, no problem: These enchanting lanterns use rechargeable batteries and solar panel technology to disperse light.

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Allsop Soji Stella Market LED Outdoor Solar Lantern

This perfectly rounded silhouette from Allsop is another great non plug-in option to try (and available in seven colors).

Pottery Barn Flora All-Weather Wicker Pendant

Wicker for the outdoors isn’t particularly groundbreaking, but we think this modern fixture should complement any natural surroundings.

Bay Isle Home Parmer Chandelier Led Pendant

Another light and airy option to suspend from your patio cover or deck ceiling.

But also 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,” Dive Palm Springs founder and CEO Dale Fox says. “Lighting is evolving rapidly with the state-of-the-art changing on a quarterly basis.” 

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Solpex Solar Pathway Lights Outdoor

Light the way with these mini post lights that’ll give your gardens and pathways an ethereal feel.

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Dusk to Dawn Motion Sensor Light

This motion activated fixture has a smart-dim light sensor that makes it easy to venture in and out of the house at night, or provide some extra brightness if you’re hosting a soirée.

GIGALUMI Solar Hanging Lantern Outdoor

Tree lights aren’t just for the holidays! Place some candles (we recommend a no-flame option from Amazon) into these delicate-looking lanterns to illuminate the branches on your favorite tree.

West Elm x Good Thing Outdoor Lantern

A portable outdoor lamp, like this stylish collaboration from West Elm and Good Thing, is also handy to have. This rechargeable design can be taken wherever it’s needed without having to worry about pesky wiring.

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Smart & Green Vessel 2 Bluetooth Outdoor LED Lamp

These color-changing floor lamps from Lumens are another travel-friendly LED lighting solution.

Philips Hue Impress Outdoor wall light

Help set the mood with this wall light from Philips. It’s easily controlled with the Hue App, where you can program color changes and even enable voice command. 

Allgala Hurricane Candle Lantern Set

Looking to create a sophisticated atmosphere? These modern-looking lanterns and a few no-flame candles should do the trick.

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. “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.” 

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The Great Outdoors 1 Light Outdoor Wall Sconce

A durable and affordable option, this textured sconce doubles as accidentally stylish wall decoration.

Jsot Outdoor Fence Lights

Surrounding your outdoor living space with these uniform fence lights is one way to ensure a well-lit setting. Plus, their solid, stainless steel design will weather even the fiercest storms.

TOBUSA Modern Outdoor Wall Light

Here’s a sleek pair of outdoor sconces crafted in anti-rust aluminum and equipped with power-saving automatic sensors to detect the brightness of their surroundings.

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,” Dale says. “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.”

You could also match summer’s heat with warm, matte lights that won’t overpower a space. There’s nothing worse than harsh exterior 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 2,700k lighting, but the best is the lighting around 2,100k. That’s truly equivalent to candlelight. It’s warm, intimate, romantic, and really sets a scene.” 

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6-Pack LED Dimmable Edison Light Bulbs

These dimmable bulbs feature an energy-saving LED filament, making them ideal to replace 40W incandescent bulbs and save over 90% energy.

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Vintage Incandescent Edison Bulbs

These decorative light bulbs are another dimmable design that will allow you to capture the function’s mood and ambiance.

It’s not always 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.

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Sofucor Ceiling Fan with Lights

Perfect for any season, this aerodynamic design has controllable airflow and a built in light for extra brightness.

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Andover Mills Outdoor Standard Ceiling Fan

Andover Mills’ ceiling fan has over 300 five-star reviews, with many buyers praising the model for its well-made design and superior ventilation.


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