It doesn’t matter whether you have a garden, a balcony, or a forest of foliage, lighting is the secret behind making any outdoor space feel truly magical. But conjuring up amazing outdoor lighting ideas isn’t always easy, which is why we’ve scoured the High Street in search of some of the best lighting ideas to make your garden or balcony sparkle and shine.
The best news? Outdoor lighting doesn’t have to cost the earth. From colourful festoon lights and fairy lights to in-style bohemian lanterns, there are hundreds of budget-friendly lighting ideas that can create warm evening ambience without breaking the bank.
Read on to discover our favourite outdoor lighting ideas, and if you're feeling inspired, don't miss our garden wall art guide for more ideas to make your outdoor space stand out!
The best outdoor lighting ideas
Whether it’s a romantic meal for two or a socially-distanced BBQ, getting out in the open can be a great way to boost your mood and vary your surroundings. But as autumn approaches, it’s important to make sure your garden is ready for those darker evenings – which means an outdoor lighting design which is functional as well as eye-catching.
When it comes to seating areas, festoon lights are a great way to add soft overhead lighting. Known for their versatility, you can quickly drape them over a pagoda, along a balcony, between trees, or even using hook posts, to create instant atmosphere. For larger spaces, you can even create chains of festoon lights to make a dramatic evening look. Plus, as they don't need to attached to anything, they’re great for renters!
The secret to magical outdoor lighting designs? Zoning. No matter how big or how small your outdoor space is, it’s important to identify your zones and the areas you want to highlight. For balconies, your zones could be focussed around a small bistro table and a cluster of floor-level potted plants, while for larger gardens, you may want to highlight dining areas, pathways and larger foliage or trees.
Hanging lights are perfect for distinguishing a certain zone in your garden, and look particularly effective nestling amongst trees and illuminating shrubs. When you're styling them, remember to group them in odd numbers to achieve the best look - three, five, or seven hanging lights over a certain garden zone will look the most effective.
While temporary outdoor lighting ideas like festoon lights, rope lights and fairy lights are a great quick fix, permanent outdoor lighting features are perfect for adding sophisticated details and showing off a truly bespoke lighting design.
If you want to dip your toe in the world of permanent outdoor lighting fixtures, then wall sconces are your first step. Available in a huge variety of styles and finishes, they’re ideal for adding ambience and giving a home a polished look.
If you’re not sure where your lights should be placed, entrances and exits are a great place to start. Be sure to look out for light fixtures with a rating of IP44 and above to ensure your fixtures are suitable for outdoor use, too.
Parasol fairy lights
Though they may not seem like it, parasols are the perfect place to add a dash of sparkle above your outdoor dining area and help illuminate your guests after the sun goes down. Try wrapping a set of outdoor battery-powered fairy lights around your umbrella’s beams, or even suspending decorative bulbs to add a touch of sparkle to your canopy.
When it comes to colour choices, opt for a warm white colour to give your awning a warm and cosy glow, or get funky with an array of fun multi-coloured bulbs!
You’ve tackled your wall lights and considered your overhead lighting options, now it’s time to cast your eyes on the floor. Though it may seem like an unusual area to highlight in your lighting design, floor lights are great for creating a relaxed feel in your garden or patio area.
This season, it’s all about floor lanterns. Often associated with boho interiors, floor lanterns are now available in a huge variety of shapes and sizes to complement every home’s design. Go for a minimal look with a sleek black-framed square lantern, or lean in to the bohemian vibe with brass lanterns featuring intricate cut-outs.
When it comes to styling your lanterns, try to work in layers; larger lanterns can be placed on the floor, while smaller lanterns can be placed on benches or along steps leading up to entrances. Just be sure to use waterproof battery-powered candles or lights inside the lanterns to keep children and pets safe.
Illuminated water feature
Our gardens should be a tranquil place to retreat to at the end of a busy day, and there’s no better way to make your garden feel zen than with a soft glow, minimalist furniture and the sound of trickling water.
Investing in a water feature that has integrated lighting is a great, cost effective way to make your garden feel magical. It’ll make an eye-catching addition to a decking space, pebbled area or patio, and immediately introduce a sense of calm to your outdoor dining or seating area. For a low maintenance option, choose a fountain that doesn’t require a permanent water supply!
Sometimes the simplest displays are the most effective, so if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to inject a magical feel into your outdoor space, plain white pillar candles are the way to go.
Outdoor candles are great for creating your very own laid-back, boho display or an impressive alfresco dining set up – simply group lots of them at varying heights around the edge of your patio, or in the centre of your dining table.
Where possible, it’s always best to opt for fully waterproof LED candles – like these ones from Lights4Fun – as they will fill your garden with a flickering glow as soon as darkness falls, whatever the weather.
More like this
Matilda Bourne is a content creator specialising in food and lifestyle