If you love to entertain outdoors during the evening – or you wish you could! – then the one thing you can’t do without is outdoor lighting. It’s functional – enhancing safety and providing light to cook, grill, serve cocktails and have conversations by, and it’s beautiful – creating ambiance, setting a tone and showing off lovely landscape elements that might otherwise be lost to the darkness.
To do your evening galas justice, your outdoor lighting should be more than a mere few lights along a walkway or just the ambient glow of an entryway fixture stuck to the side of your house. You and your guests deserve more! You deserve to feel enveloped in light, protected, energized, relaxed, and ready for an evening of enjoyment among friends and family.
Here are some ideas for lighting up your evening outdoor get-togethers, whether it’s for dining, playing, conversing, or just unwinding in the company of those you enjoy the most.
Outline Walking Spaces
Notice we said “walking spaces”, not just walkways. There are plenty of places to walk if you’ve got the right lighting. Lighting is especially important if you want guests to be able to move around the space because otherwise you risk tripping, falling, twisted ankles or worse.
Of course lighting should be used along walkways, whether they’re paving stones leading to your front door, pathways through your garden, or even natural stepping stones to hidden spaces.
Think beyond typical “runway lighting” – you know the kind, where tiny lights are spaced at perfectly equal distances along the straight edge of a walkway. Try something more visually interesting and aesthetically pleasing, like lighting embedded at variable intervals right within the paving stones, or staked just as asymmetrically throughout abutting garden beds.
In fact, you don’t even need to use the same kind of lighting throughout. You can use different lanterns, columns, or other types of fixtures as part of the art of your landscape design as much as its lighting scheme.
In addition to walkways and other paths, consider adding lighting beneath steps. That will make it easier and safer for people to walk, and show off your beautiful stone work.
Don’t forget patios, too. It’s easy to assume the kitchen window will throw enough light to see by, or the wall sconce next to your sliding glass door will do the trick. But your patio is likely to be a central gathering point, so do it justice with beautiful lanterns, delicate string lights, bold floor lamps, or any of the myriad lovely and functional options available.
Highlight Artwork Or Sculptures
Why hide your gorgeous landscape under cover of darkness? Lighting offers a way for you to showcase and enjoy focal points and other unique elements in a whole new light (yes, pun intended!)
Place spotlights strategically at the base of a beautiful piece of garden art to create a dramatic and eye-catching effect. Similarly, use lights at the base of a large tree trunk, oversized boulder, or a particularly unique planting.
You can even turn your house into a work of art with a technique called “washing”. As the idea implies, it means pointing lights toward the facade of the house to bathe it in light. Show off some great stone work, add a little drama to windows, and put out a huge welcome with a brightly lit front door.
House washing give you the added benefit of enhancing overall safety by illuminating the entire area. And just imagine how inviting your home will be to arriving guests when they see the area flooded with lovely light.
Create Shadows And Silhouettes
Don’t forget that Mother Nature creates art, too, and you can bring out her best with strategic lighting techniques. Nighttime is the perfect time to experiment with light and shadow and the pleasing effects you can create.
Place a fixture in front of a shrub, small tree or other interesting planting that has a wall behind it. That could be an exterior wall of your house, or a tall privacy fence. Then step back and see the effect of the shadows you’ve created.
This is a great way to add drama and visual interest. It’s also especially useful for creating a sense of height if you have small or immature plantings.
Or try the opposite – place a light directly behind an interesting planting to create a shadowy silhouette against a nearby wall or structure. This is a fantastic way to create a wholly unique beauty through sharp contrast between the focal point and background.
Try this with tall ornamental grasses, bold, leafy plants, or small trees with tight branching structures. Your guests will enjoy and appreciate the atmosphere you’ve worked so hard to create.
Add Your Own Moonlight
No moon? No problem! With outdoor lighting you can create your own moonlight nightly. You’ll need a few tall trees to pull it off, so if you live in a woodland area, or if you’ve got some old-growth trees in your yard, all you need are some lights placed high up among the branches.
Make sure they’re facing downward, and the light will filter through the leaves to the ground below, casting a soothing, dappled illumination just like that of the real thing. On a breezy evening, the light will appear to dance on the ground, adding motion to your space and creating a multi sensory experience.
Deck Out A Gazebo Or Pergola
If you have an architectural structure in your yard, whether a pergola, gazebo or trellis, it’s probably begging to be lit at night! String lights make a great option for highlighting, beautifying, and making these structures enticing to use during evening entertaining.
Wind lights among the structure, and remember to avoid being too symmetrical. Bonus points if you’ve already got climbing flowers or vines growing along your structure. Tiny string lights will add charm and even a touch of romance, in addition to providing an ambient glow that will make sitting and chatting over coffee or cocktails that much more enjoyable.
You don’t have to stop with string lights, though. If your dining area is beneath a structure, you can hang lanterns or pendants of many varieties. Imagine bold pendants made of rattan, or ethereal lanterns with faux flickering flames. Why not origami lanterns? Or a delicate chandelier?
You can even get just plain practical and install a light with a ceiling fan to keep summer parties cool.
Make Water Features Magical
Whether you have a pond, pondless waterfall, fountain, garden bubbler or other type of water feature, it would be a shame to leave it in the dark. Light playing on water can have an enchanting effect, and water illuminated by landscape lighting after dark is an entirely different experience than water under the sparkle of daylight.
Much like with shadowing or silhouetting, lighting along water features can create interesting and dramatic effects. Use it to highlight unique plant shapes, or to bring out the beauty of an architectural element like a bubbling stone column. Create shadows with lighting beneath a tall fountain, or a dazzling display with lights right in the fountain itself.
Ponds were just made for underwater lighting. Nest lights between stones to create a soothing glow, or place them beneath a waterfall for a mesmerizing and magical effect. Underwater lighting will highlight koi and fish so you and your guests can enjoy them during evening hours.
Water features not only make excellent focal points and provide visual beauty for your party setting, but they also help create privacy by offering a sound buffer between conversations, which can be especially helpful in a group of people.
While you’re at it, don’t forget your pool. If your guests will be swimming, then be sure they can do so safely and pleasantly. Light the perimeter of your pool as well as any steps or diving areas to make them easy to recognize.
And get creative with underwater lighting just for fun. Choose a color changing option to give your pool a really party feel.
These are just a few ways that landscape lighting can enhance your outdoor evening event, whether it’s an intimate party for two, or a grand family reunion. Good lighting will make your space safer, more useable, and certainly more beautiful.
If you want to impress your guests and create an atmosphere for evening entertaining, contact us for a consultation. We want to hear more about how you like to entertain so we can help plan the perfect space for you to do it in!