DIY Projects | Outdoor Lighting | Outdoor Living

Backyard Lighting Ideas: A Simple Guide for Outdoor Living Spaces

These simple DIY backyard lighting ideas are perfect for patios, decks, pergolas, and parties! String lights, tiki torches, chandeliers, and more!

Backyard Lighting Ideas: A Simple Guide for Outdoor Living Spaces images of candle lanterns, a playhouse illuminated by string lights, and a balcony with string lights

Lighting is a high-impact way to create ambiance in your outdoor living spaces. And of course, it’s nice to be able to see where you’re walking too! Here are some ideas to give your space the gorgeous glow you’re looking for:

Backyard Lighting: Before we begin…

I approach lighting an outdoor space the same way I would an indoor one. Here are some questions to ponder before you get started:

  • What is the purpose of the light? (Set the mood? Light a path so no one trips?)
  • What activities do you need light for in each area? (eating, playing, mixing drinks, assembling s’mores, etc.)

I love the way Daune at Cottage in the Oaks used string lights to light this walkway.

backyard path lit by string lights suspended from poles

Consider the amount of light you want for your space. Do you just need a light glow for ambience? Are you eating and need to see that fresh-from-the-garden salad to be sure there’s not an inch worm crawling up your fork? (My folks have a yucky story about this and I still can’t bring myself to eat lettuce from my own  garden!)

You can create layers of light with multiple sources to add depth and interest as well. For example, you might have a main light source (fireplace, string lights, chandelier, or tiki torches), and then add tabletop candles or lanterns. Here’s an example. The fireplace is the primary light source, then the outdoor chandelier, and finally, candle lanterns are placed around the space.

outdoor living room in a gazebo with outdoor chandelier, outdoor fireplace, and candle lanterns

Try to place lights at different heights and intensities for maximum effect. Don’t overdo it- remember that lights attract bugs. And please please please stay far away from fluorescent bulbs or anything that has a cool or blue cast! My friend Eric at Lighting Tutor explains the Kelvin color temperature scale for lightbulbs in detail in this great article!

String Lights

It’s hard to resist the lure of twinkling globe string lights on a summer evening. They’re relatively easy and inexpensive, and they add a festive charm to your outdoor space that’s hard to beat. No wonder they’re everywhere these days! Check out this post for an in-depth look at how to hang string lights from trees, DIY poles, roofs, fences, and more!

I recommend the pricier industrial ones for most applications. A few years back I bought the cheapo ones, and we’ve broken so many of the bulbs just getting them out of the box! I do have these up in the kids’ playhouse, but I wouldn’t buy them again.

balcony with two chairs and a small table lit by string lights and candle lanterns

I chose string lights for our recent patio makeover (below)because I wanted the area to be well-lit and festive. It seriously feels like a party all the time now!

We also put in these Easy DIY String Light Poles, since we don’t have trees or fence posts to attach the lights to.

outdoor dining patio with string lights and candle lanterns
children's playhouse lit with string lights

You can see the rest of our Playhouse Makeover here!

outdoor living space lit with an outdoor chandelier and glowing candle lanterns


There are some gorgeous outdoor chandeliers out there. If you’re going to wire one in, remember to consider the wind, and whether it will need to come down in the winter. For my gazebo, I wanted the look of a chandelier, but knew it would need to come down at the end of the season. I opted for hanging battery-operated remote-controlled lights. And I found these at Costco, believe it or not! I like to use candle lanterns in this space too- and we don’t need a lot of light here.

Hanging Lanterns (with remote-controlled candles)

Hanging a few or several lanterns at varied heights can be absolutely gorgeous! You can get sets of inexpensive remote-controlled candles on amazon. I’ve had good luck finding cool and inexpensive lanterns at HomeGoods and World Market. This can be a more cost-effective alternative to an outdoor chandelier.

a group of mini candle lanterns suspended from a tree branch

I love this simple idea from Sunset!

Candle Lanterns

I love love love candle lanterns! They’re the finishing touch in most of my outdoor spaces, but never to be overlooked. I try to spread them around the space, and layer them on end tables like the one below in my outdoor living room.

end of outdoor sofa and end table with glowing candle lanterns


Tiki torches are a very easy and inexpensive option for lighting your outdoor space. Here’s a fun idea from Yvonne at Stone Gable.

patio with tiki torches in planters


A fire pit or outdoor fireplace adds a nice glow to any space! It should be used in combination with other light sources.

outdoor fireplace with papasan chair in the foreground

Check out my outdoor living room reveal here!

In Conclusion…

You will most likely want more and/or brighter light for a dining area, lots of light for a playhouse, a little bit of light for a fire pit area where the fire is the main light source, a medium amount for an outdoor living room, and make sure your paths are well-lit!

Happy lighting! I would love to see what you come up with!

Outdoor Lighting 101: balcony lit by sunset, string lights, and candle lanterns

What’s Next…

Outdoor Living Room Reveal!

image of outdoor living room with fireplace and chandelier

One-Weekend Patio Makeover

Easy DIY String Light Poles

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  1. I really appreciate you talking about how you can approach different kinds of lights with different methods for the outdoors. String lights and other similar installments could help illuminate this place with a lot more gentle light rather than relying on large lightbulbs all the time. I’ll take this idea into account and look for an electrician in the area that can help me install some.

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