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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
“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.