With a large focus on the lighting and decor inside our homes, gardens can often become neglected and left to their own devices – especially during the winter. Even when gardens are tended to, lighting is something that can be left to the bottom of the garden design list, after landscape design and selecting outdoor dining furniture. But as spring begins to make its imprint, and we start spending more evenings in the garden, the focus turns to outdoor lighting ideas. Installing the correct outdoor lighting can really bring an entire outdoor space together, not only providing a great source of light well into the evening, but also highlighting special features that would otherwise only be seen in daylight – the perfect finishing touch to any garden.
To inspire you to refresh your outdoor lighting design, The LuxPad asked a selection of experts, from garden and landscape designers to home and lifestyle bloggers, to provide readers with their favourite inspirational garden lighting ideas. Whether you are a fan of dainty fairy lights to set the mood, or more innovative lighting solutions, we share a number of ways for you to brighten up your garden, inspiring you to create a relaxing haven and the perfect extension of your home – so you can dine alfresco late into the night…
Outdoor lighting needs to look attractive during the day as well as at night, and the materials used should be sympathetic to the scheme. This Mini Pili outdoor lighting designed by Jean-Philippe Weimer is my favourite. I like the fact that it is almost plant-like and can be wound in between woody shrubs. We use it amongst climbing roses on obelisks – so much more tasteful than a shiny steel up-lighter. The ubiquitous stainless steel works well in modern town gardens, whereas the copper and bronze (pictured above) looks great in naturalistic projects. Always use as little outdoor lighting as possible; you’ll be surprised at how little you actually need. It’s much better to put up some temporary garland lighting for a particular event, rather than rows of permanent spots set in paving.
For me, mood lighting is just as important outside as it is inside, which is why I love adding fairy lights into outdoor spaces due to their warming, cosy glow. If you have garden trellis they are the perfect addition as you can easily wrap them around the structure creating a maximum impact with minimal effort.
For me, festoon lighting is the perfect solution to outdoor lighting. They add charm and character to your garden as well as providing relaxed mood lighting for barbecues and al fresco dining.
Create intimacy outside by defining a distinct dining space. Use an architectural structure such as a pergola or gazebo and soften with foliage. Intertwine fairy lights to create a star-like canopy, echoing the night sky above. Add softly flickering candles in storm lanterns along the length of the table for a cosy night outside.
Making objects glow is one way to introduce outdoor lighting into your garden. This wonderful old jar in a garden in the South of France had been positioned at the top of some steps by the garden designer. It looked fantastic, so Sutton Vane Associates enhanced the look of the jar by lighting it with two small spots, one on each side.
Lighting design by Sutton Vane Associates.
Designed to be enjoyed throughout the year, this bespoke roof terrace kitchen combines style with practicality. Decadent back-lit white onyx is offset against leather-effect antique brown satinato granite worktops for a space that exudes luxury. Brushed stainless steel detailing and glass cladding ensures this statement feature is protected from the elements, whilst an intelligent system responds to natural daylight, ensuring the perfect mood is set as the sun goes down – perfect for an evening in the garden.
There is no reason why garden lighting can’t be stylish as well as practical, which is why festoon lights are my go-to choice for outdoor spaces, no matter the size of your garden. They offer flexible lighting options that you can move around. Place them over a table if hosting dinner, or across the garden for a whimsical atmosphere – add as many rows as your garden can fit. Solar powered lights are a great choice, but if using battery operated or plug-in ones, they could also be moved indoors during the winter months to maximize your lighting when the days are shorter.
What makes good garden lighting? I think it’s in the simplicity of the light design itself, so the light it projects is the main feature. It’s important to invest in good quality, simple, sophisticated lighting design – not super expensive, but it’s worth investing slightly more in good lighting – you won’t regret it. Solar lights are great if kept simple as they allow you to light parts of your garden, without the rigmarole of getting electrics put in, which might otherwise be left to darkness. They can light a garden path, highlight some pretty bamboo or a tree at the bottom of the garden.
For me, garden lighting design is all about up-lighting. If you are fortunate enough to have a garden, placing up-lights at the bottom of your trees and plants literally puts them in the spotlight. Super atmospheric, romantic and the right side of dramatic. Throw in some battery operated outdoor candles along your terrace or pathway and you’ve got a magical night time view.
An unlit garden turns your French windows into a black wall at night. By using garden lights, you let your garden become an extension of your indoors even when it’s dark. Use light sparingly and decoratively to highlight different shapes and features in your garden. Add functional lighting to illuminate steps and pathways. Less is definitely more in garden lighting, so try not to overdo it. In order to achieve a dramatic and effective look, you need not just light, but also shadows.
The most important thing to remember when deciding on lighting for your garden is to treat it as you would any other room. Use lighting at different levels to do different jobs and also use a variety of sources. A string of fairy lights coiled around a tree with some lanterns hanging from the branches, and a few candles in glasses spotted around on surfaces, will automatically bring a warmth and cosiness to any outdoor setting. Blur the lines between indoor and outdoor by using indoor lampshades outside – try industrial metal or natural wicker and use as pendants over garden dining tables or hang from trees, plants or trellises.
The perfect lighting scheme can help you make the most of your garden from day through to night. One of my favourite uses of lighting in the garden is to highlight natural features, like trees. Using up-lighting to illuminate trees is such a clever design trick that brings a sense of wonder to outside spaces. It can also serve as a design-led way to illuminate paths and driveways.
I love the idea of hazy summer nights spent in the garden, lit by beautiful candles and twinkling fairy lights. We spend so much time tweaking the lighting in our homes, it only makes sense to do the same in the garden.
Solar or battery powered fairy lights are the perfect way to add pretty lighting to your garden. It couldn’t be simpler, just pop them in an empty, clean jam jar, and then wait for the sun to set so you can see them at their best. Add shelving or surfaces where you can in your garden, and you’ll easily be able to create glossy-magazine-worthy vignettes with just a few fairy light filled jars, a candle or two and perhaps some succulents in little pots. Perfect for setting the scene for alfresco dining, helping you to enjoy your garden that little bit more this summer.
Using outdoor lighting around ponds and rockeries is an excellent way to bring featured areas of the garden to life in the evening and enhance the scenery. This is especially fantastic when entertaining family and guests as it makes an excellent focal and talking point in the garden. Try solar powered LED lights for ease of installation and to form beautifully glowing areas around the garden.
For city-living where outdoor space is often at a premium, this simple-to-achieve garden is a winner. Paint any masonry white, up-light taller plants to give an impression of depth/height and invest in some space-saving but party-friendly banquette seating. Adding hurricane lamps or festoon lights will bring atmosphere to your urban oasis.
Add a warm and cosy handmade touch to your garden by using recycled jars or bottles to create hanging candle lanterns. Use twine, chains or coloured string to hang them pride of place. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, hunt down a nice birch branch or metal frame to create a layered display of lights, hang them over your garden table and chairs to make a glowing feature and centrepiece.
To create an atmospheric and inviting space, use up-lighters to highlight small trees and feature plants that have height – this will create interesting shadows and add texture. Fences and walls are often overlooked, fit down-lighters that transform them with soft pools of light at night. Choose warm lights and accent with a little pop of colour in unusual spaces, such as under seating, tables or large planters. Always use LED to save energy and choose solar charged lighting wherever possible.
Lighting is not merely functional, it is a vital part of creating atmosphere and making a home feel welcoming. It is fundamental throughout the design process to consider lighting as it can enhance a home and bring together a scheme. For example, clever use of architectural lighting (as shown in our Cotswold Manor project), produces pools of light and shadow which complements the overall aesthetic of the exterior.
Garden lighting will help you create an amazing look for your outdoor space. Zone off your dining or entertainment area with draped festoon lights to create not only a stunning look in the daylight, but a relaxing atmosphere for when the sun goes down. Pair with oversized plants and pattern to give your outdoor space a real wow factor.
Feature lighting can create a magical atmosphere in the garden. These illuminated trees will enhance an entrance and also create a focal point when viewed from inside. They are the brainchild of Hampshire-based Susie Reid Thomas and can be either bought or rented, used for parties or year round.
I love how much lighting can transform the atmosphere in a space – not just indoors, but outdoors as well. Something as simple as tea light lanterns hanging from trees, or scattered all over the garden make an easy way of lighting up your outdoor space. Not only do they look great, but they can also be quite inexpensive to purchase and maintain.
Festoon lighting has to be my favourite type of garden lighting. It looks great during the day in shady spots and creates a subtle glow around the garden in the evening. There are so many affordable places to buy festoon lighting; to get the most out of it, go for solar powered ones which will turn on gradually as it gets darker. Festoon garden lighting is easily moveable – to create your ideal arrangement, wait until night time to position the lights. If they do not create enough light, grab some tea lights, put them in jars and place them around the garden at a lower level.
I think the days of structured, modern lighting are over. Instead, imaginative lighting that blends in with and enhances a garden is the way forward. Think about shadows, natural textures, and whimsical details to create a truly cosy garden. In this image, the designer has brought these salvaged logs to life beautifully. The texture and the interesting shadows scream magic to me. Use them in a clump as a feature, or in a line alongside a path. They will enchant adults and children alike.
Create a gorgeous ambience in your garden with these easy-to-use path lights. Simply insert into the ground and sit back as they soak up the sun to produce a glowing presence in the darkening evenings.
I really like the idea of up-lighting a tree, bush or topiary. I recently pushed some solar-powered spike lights/up-lighters into the ground around my garden. The view of the garden at night used to be pitch black, but now the way the plants glow at night and subtly illuminate the garden feels chic and a little bit glamorous – it reminds me of hotel courtyards on hot summer holidays. It’s also made the garden look a lot bigger, as it draws the eye to the outer corners of the space. Spike lights are fairly cheap, widely available and easy to use – just push them into the ground and point them towards the plants you want to illuminate – maximum impact with minimum input.
I love the way the lighting here does three things: first it picks out delicate edges and highlights, like the trellis battens. Second it adds drama through deep shadow. But best of all are the glowing bright green spots of translucent foliage.
Photograpy by Steve Wooster
When it comes to garden lighting, I like to keep it simple with a few bare bulbs to give the space a relaxed feel. Adding a few large lanterns creates a sense of warmth and cosiness too.
Outdoor lighting should add atmosphere to your garden. Use unique styles to create zones around your garden – decking lights can emphasise your decking area, whereas a statement piece like this lantern chandelier welcomes guests to your seating area. Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with different fixtures to find the one that works for your garden.
For a softer, more natural light, I love to use fairy lights strung up in the garden. For the warmer summer months they lend a flattering glow to any garden and a festival feel to any party. Cheap and easy to install, they can be used in many different styles of garden from chic contemporary to country cottage.
Garden lighting is an essential accessory to all of our garden designs, adding practical benefit and aesthetic appeal. Garden lighting not only extends available alfresco hours long into the evening; the shadowy glow it creates adds a sensual mood to the garden after dark and can be used to highlight features, sculptures and specimen plants which perhaps aren’t perhaps so prominent during the day. Essential for entertaining on a summer’s evening, or an evening glass after the children have been put to bed, the value that outdoor lighting adds to any garden space is certainly worth the investment.
My personal favourite choices when it comes to outdoor lighting are outdoor fairy lights, lanterns and candles, which all help to inaugurate a soft, almost magical glow in the garden. These festoon lights are a great choice as they can be placed almost anywhere (pinned against walls, draped over branches, twirled around tree trunks), their flexible/adaptable nature means they will work well in any space.
I love simple garden lighting, warm evenings spent outside are transient and as such should be enjoyed in their fleeting glory. Old glass jars, hurricane oil lamps and the like add a warmth and glory that electric can’t achieve. The most beautiful for me is always simple brown paper bags filled with the light of a tea light candle and it’s an easy look to achieve.
Our gardens should be a reflection of our homes, they should be an extension of our interior spaces and for me they should act as another room for us to escape, relax and enjoy life in. When it comes to outdoor lighting we often play it safe, but there’s no reason we can’t go glam and sophisticated. I love this up-cycled chandelier light from Lynne Lambourne of Love Nellie, it uses solar powered tea lights and just oozes garden glamour when teamed with these gorgeous light cubes and ‘hello’ sign.
Supersize fairy lights by upgrading to outdoor festoon lights draped around your garden, this outdoor lighting technique works perfectly in urban courtyard gardens with limited space, or for adding a modern touch to a country garden.
Up-lighting topiary in pots is a wonderful way of highlighting their sculptural form. Consider up-lighting a row of topiary to add depth to a garden. Or place the up-lit topiary pots along the side of a driveway to provide ambient and stylish outdoor lighting to welcome you home.
The advantage of up-lighting topiary in pots is that any untidy wiring can be hidden within the pot. But do consult an electrician or outdoor lighting professional for guidance, as the topiary will need to be watered regularly.
I wind lots of these solar light strings all around my garden, up through trees and over our lavender hedge. They come on automatically at dusk and twinkle on for up to eight hours in summer, with no need to worry about plugs, wires or batteries. I love them – they’re just brilliant.
Having your own garden is something magical. It is your own private little world, to which only you have access all day. But after sunset is where these beauties come in. I really love these garden lights, not only because they use LED bulbs (which means you save money and energy), but their wooden finish allows them to blend into the landscape.
When thinking about lighting this year, I’m considering ways to light our outdoor space without the use of traditional bulbs which can feel a bit of a mood killer. I want greenery and something more romantic or convivial, and I want to bring some of the spirit of winter hygge to my summer table. I’ve been particularly inspired by ‘Liquid Light’ by Norwegian designer Kristine Five Melvaer, which is both beautiful and very clever. The tea light itself sits to the side of the carafe which when the candle is lit acts as a lens, amplifying light. For my own garden, I’m thinking of a collection of tea lights in jars, decorated with single sprigs of tied herbs and foliage, or perhaps a few fern leaves in a DIY lantern. In the right setting with some plain tableware and simple linen, this should look effortless and charming, bringing a wonderfully lush atmosphere to the outdoor table.
Now that you’ve been inspired by a wealth of expert outdoor lighting ideas, it’s time to focus on your own garden lighting design and set the atmosphere for a series of cosy, well-spent evenings in the garden.