Outdoor Lighting Ideas For Summer

Hot nights mean you’ll be spending more time outdoors, and strategic lighting is the best way to give an entertaining space a welcoming atmosphere.

A well-lit backyard, balcony or deck is more likely to be used over summer than a gloomy one, so getting the lighting right is essential to make the most of it.

Recent advances in lighting technology have made it more affordable than ever, with LED and solar options to suit any budget.

Choose a theme

Lighting has a major effect on the mood of any space, with too much feeling harsh and too little being impractical. Strike a balance so that the lighting complements the theme of your outdoor living areas.

Install direct lighting above barbecues and in other places where bright light is needed, illuminating areas for relaxation with softer, indirect lighting or candles.

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Pendant lights give an outdoor space a subtle glow. Image: Thinkstock

Exotic oasis

Create an opulent space in your yard by using lanterns as decorations and drawing attention to ornamental and architectural elements with spotlights.

Moroccan-look lighting often incorporates intricate filigree patterns, and lanterns and candle holders in this style cast beautiful shadows on walls and tables, filling the area with soft diffused light.

This style works especially well in backyards that are landscaped with stone and decorated with colourful furniture and succulent plants reminiscent of a desert oasis.

Spotlights can also be used to highlight garden features like sculptures and fountains.

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Decorative lanterns are an affordable way to add a striking design element. Image: Thinkstock

Tropical hideaway

Strategically positioned lighting creates a calming atmosphere and adds a lush, resort-like feel to a backyard.

A water feature is always an essential inclusion when designing any tropical-style garden, and spotlights can make it appear more dramatic by lighting up the cascade from behind.

Reflect lights off the surface of the water by setting them up under bridges and overhangs.

Conceal lighting behind rocks, plants or structures to give an appealing glow while avoiding the harshness of direct light. Position spotlights at the base of trees to illuminate them from below.

Warm-toned solar lights are ideal for this type of area, especially when used along a pathway. Lanterns and oil-burning torches are also very effective in adding character and warmth.

Setting up spotlights

To illuminate outdoor features, use a 12V lighting system to strategically position lights around the backyard to highlight pot plants and ponds.

Wire 12V lights DIY to a transformer that plugs into an outdoor 240V mains socket.

Hide the cables under plants, pegging them to the ground with stainless steel stakes. If the lights are to remain in a set position, bury them in the ground about 150mm deep.

Special pond lights with weighted bases can also be placed underwater to shine out of a water feature.

To set up the lights, secure the 12V garden cable to the transformer using a screwdriver, then connect the lights to the cable and position them around the garden. Plug the transformer into a socket and switch on.

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Reflected light from spotlights is less harsh than direct light. Image: Rob Reichenfeld