The demand for garden lighting has increased rapidly in recent years as we’re all spending more time outside. The trend for replacing back walls with plate-glass windows and bi-folding doors means that our gardens are now more integrated with our homes too. “Garden lighting prevents our outside spaces seeming like dark black holes when viewed from inside the house,” says garden designer Kate Gould (kategouldgardens.com).
When choosing a lighting design opt for something that works for you and your space. “Always err on the side of caution,” says Kate. “You can always add extra lights, but taking them away is more difficult. Adding drama where you have architectural plants or forms and contrasting those with spaces where there are no lights is a great way of enhancing the focal point.”
So whether you want to add discreet up-lights to enhance your plants, create an ambient living room vibe on your patio or opt for overhead pendant lights on a terrace, read on for our round-up of the latest ideas.
See these modern garden ideas for more inspiration
1. Choose on-trend concrete
“Concrete is a very fashionable material for contemporary spaces at the moment due to its versatility and the variety of tones available. It also adds an industrial feel,” says Christopher Wray MD Chris Jordan. Hanging shades like these Aplomb pendants need a structure to suspend them from, such as a covered terrace. Alternatively you can use a post or wall bracket with an extended arm but it needs to be able to withstand changeable weather scenarios as well as the weight of the light fitting itself.
2. Add a light and heat combo
This versatile Beem pendant light offers dimmable lights with a built-in heater too and comes in a range of sizes. Its slick contemporary look will add a stylish note to any alfresco set-up. The dimmable outdoor dining lighting idea comes with a remote and there are two levels of heating to choose from, so if things get chilly you can extend the time you spend outside. There is also a misting version available that you can control via a phone app if temperatures hot up.
3. Go for versatility
Why choose three different styles of lighting when one will do them all. This clever designer light can be used as either a table lamp, floor lamp or wall light, or all three if you opt for the accessories too. There are also electric or battery operated versions available so you can use it indoors or out. It comes in a choice of bronze lacquered metal or chromed metal, and is designed by Contardi, creators of bespoke lighting whose collaborations include the Giorgio Armani Group, B&B Italia and Giorgetti.
4. Opt for an easy solution
Soft, subtle lighting from festoon lights and outdoor table lamps adds an ambient glow for that indoor-outdoor living room moment. Designed by Edward Barder and Jay Osgerby for Flos, the minimalist Bellhop table lamp features an integrated LED with a 4-step dimmer function in the base and an integrated diffuser enhances the warm wash of light. The Festoon Outdoor Line Lights are 9.5 metres long, which means plenty for looping around a courtyard patio to create a magical touch at dusk.
Find more cool ideas in small backyard ideas
5. Illuminate the space
These flush contemporary bulkhead lights by Industville work for both interior and exterior spaces. Hand-crafted in aluminium with a smooth gunmetal finish for an industrial-style feel that blends both classic and modern, this style of vintage lighting has become a staple of current industrial design. Place them strategically to cascade light where you need it. Pair with LED Edison filament bulbs to enhance the vintage feel. Recent Industville collaborations include Liberty and Paul’s Parisian bakery.
6. Introduce a little Hygge
Outdoor spaces used for relaxation and entertaining can be lit in a similar way to indoors with low-level lamps. The calming ambient light of the Carrie lamp adds a little hygge to your patio space. Suitable for using both indoors and out, it comes with a USB charging port so you can move seamlessly around. Designed by Copenhagen’s Norm Architects, it’s made of blown opal glass and powder coated steel and comes in a range of finishes including burned red and brushed brass.
7. Create a relaxed atmosphere
“Treat the outdoors like the indoors,” says Christopher Wray MD Chris Jordan. “By using a combination of recessed lighting, decorative lanterns and free-standing decorative floor lamps you’ll be able to create a blended indoor-outdoor dining area that’s perfect for a relaxed atmosphere.” This overhanging Twiggy floor lamp features a round metal base, arched stem and height adjustable lampshade fitted with 2 LED boards and diffuser for dual effect - choose direct down-light or diffused up-light.
8. Enhance a dining area
Garden lighting has been revolutionized by improved LEDs, which are energy efficient and one of the safest options for outdoors. These warm white LED bulbs can be clipped to outdoor structures so you can make more of your space in the evening by creating a more intimate setting. They’re 9.5 metres long and the set includes an extension which allows up to 5 sets to be interconnected if you want an easy option for lighting a bigger party space.
9. Up-light plants for added drama
Discreet lighting can be used to create a showpiece and welcoming ambience for the evening garden. Plants take on architectural qualities when uplit, the angled lights enhancing the shape of leaves. Choose up-lights that are either recessed into the ground or set on moveable spikes for illuminating plants and the trunks of potted trees, as they can be shifted to suit the mood. Or choose modern planters with built-in LED lighting, like this one from Elho, which can be controlled with a phone app.
10. Pick warm metals for a hint of glamour
Decorative garden wall lights cast a cosy glow that illuminates an outdoor space and brings it to life. “This year has seen a transition into warmer metals such as rose gold, brass and copper for garden lighting,” says Jamie Moxie of Dusk Lighting. “These warm metals are perfect to amplify a ‘cosy glow’, and therefore ideal for creating a snug and welcoming garden setting.” This Harvard wall light in natural brass from Astro Lighting is also available in bronze as well as stainless steel.
How should a modern garden be lit?
LED festoon lights running from a transformer are simple to install, and look great woven through shrubs and trees in any garden setting. Floodlights are another way to add night-time drama to trees. Think about up-lighting architectural plants, water features, living walls and garden art. Low-level lighting in steps, walls and decks throws out a soft light without glare.
How do you illuminate a garden?
Draw up a plan, working out what each area needs, then talk through your ideas with an electrician. Unless you’re using solar-powered lights you’ll need a power supply which means outdoor sockets and a switch plus armoured cabling for safety. LED lights are energy efficient and there is now a huge range available to choose from. If your garden is sunny consider solar-powered lighting but remember it’s not such a good option in winter. Avoid flooding the garden with light as it looks too harsh.
How can I light my garden without electricity?
With the exception of solar powered lighting and candles, all other garden lights need to be connected to the mains. Solar lights can be used to edge paths and patios, and enhance planting. Some are suitable to use as spotlights too. They’re most effective in an open spot with enough sunlight and their performance is not as good in winter. There’s now a huge choice available and good quality ones can last up to 20 years. To create atmosphere also consider flameless electric candles or real candles in hurricane lamps.
What are the best outdoor lights?
The most practical option for garden lighting is electricity. It will illuminate your outdoor space at the flick of a switch and will last for years, can operate on a timer to enhance security and is a versatile choice in terms of the range of effects that can be achieved. It can be run off the mains power or via a transformer but you will need an electrician to carry out the work to a professional standard.
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Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about flowers, plants, and garden design and trends since 2015. Having already studied introductory garden and landscape design as well as a course in floristry she is currently adding to her list of qualifications with an RHS Level 2 course in the Principles of Plant Growth and Development. In addition to livingetc.com, she's also written for homesandgardens.com, gardeningetc.com, Modern Gardens and Country Homes & Interiors magazines.
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