In the summer it feels like the days last forever. The sun doesn’t set until after 8 p.m. and the sky magically stays bright even later than that. Eventually, though, it does get dark—but that doesn’t mean the party has to stop. With the right backyard lighting, the conversation can keep flowing, the music can keep playing, and you can keep dancing into the night.
A well-lit backyard features layered lighting that’s strategically placed for ambiance and safety. Tricks like illuminating walkways accomplish both simultaneously, while clever DIYs like crafting glowing orbs bring a dynamic design element to your landscape. Firepits and outdoor candles provide organic light without any electricity at all.
According to Caroline Danielson, the director of showrooms at Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, it’s also critical to consider light pollution when lighting your backyard. She cites information from the International Dark-Sky Association, a nonprofit that advocates for decreased use of excessive artificial light, since it can disrupt ecosystems and wildlife, as well as cause harm to human health. Luckily, fixtures labeled “dark sky” and “good neighbor” can illuminate your backyard with limited light pollution.
“Using warmer lights and minimizing blue light emissions can help reduce the impact of your light pollution, as blue light brightens the night sky more than any other color of light,” Danielson explains. “Motion detector lights and timers are ideal dark-sky lighting solutions, as these lights only come on as needed. It’s also important that you shield outdoor fixtures so that the light shines exactly where it needs to: downward.”
Motion detectors and timers help preserve electricity too, as do renewable solar-powered lights. Sheva Knopfler, cofounder and creative director of Lights.com, recommends Harlow solar path lights that charge in the sun and automatically turn on after dark, so you don’t have to remember to flip a switch.
With this important information on light pollution and sustainability in mind, we came up with six festive lighting ideas that make the most of your backyard and keep your party going all night long.
For a safe backyard, invest in path lighting that helps people navigate routes in the dark. Knopfler’s favorite contemporary solar brick lights efficiently illuminate walkways and look aesthetically pleasing while doing it. “They’re easy to install and require no hardwiring,” she says. “Simply place them along the path, in dirt, or between tiles.”
Light.com’s lantern-like Burton solar path lights also charge in the sun and don’t require hardwiring, but they offer a more classic, farmhouse-style look. The weather-resistant glass, metal, and durable resin fixtures can be quickly installed with spikes that nestle into the ground securely. Most importantly, they emit a soft, warm light with a single LED. Just remember to stagger any path lights so your walkway doesn’t look like an airport runway.
Rather than focusing harsh lights directly on your patio, underlight your surrounding plants to eliminate glare and create sculptural shadows. Solar Avalon crackled glass globes are perfect for illuminating plants. Place them in your garden—they look like something chosen by a fairy—and they will charge during the day and illuminate with a soft light after dark. Round well lights work wonders for lighting small flora like shrubs, while bullet-shaped spotlights with adjustable heads are the best option for illuminating taller trees.
Highlight the architecture
Well lights and bullet-shaped spotlights can also be used to highlight key architectural features of your home while still illuminating the backyard. You can accentuate arches, columns, gabled roofs, and balconies for a dramatic effect. Lighting exterior walls is a great move too.
Create glowing orbs
If you’re feeling crafty, you can make your own glowing orbs in just five minutes for just $5. Karen Bertelsen, the blogger behind The Art of Doing Stuff, invented this hack using outdoor string lights and old glass shades from Goodwill or a flea market. She stuffs the glass shades with string lights, places them around her backyard, and hides the cords in the dirt. The result is a playful, ethereal look with diffused light.
Hang string lights
Not into the DIY vibe? Hang string lights for an exceedingly simple yet incredibly impactful effect. Whether you opt for classic white string lights or quirky colorful ones, they add a romantic vibe to any backyard. To avoid running extension cords across the land, seek out traditional battery-operated or solar-powered outdoor string lights.
When in doubt, stick to fire. Smoke-free fire pits like the Solo stove bonfire are ideal for entertaining, offering a gathering place with cozy warmth and dancing light. But if you like the idea of fire without actually needing to strike a match, Light.com’s Dionne solar-powered outdoor candles give off the warm glow of the real deal.