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Lighting Ideas for Outdoor Rooms

Enjoy outdoor living long after dark with these illuminating ideas.

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    • Make an Outdoor Chandelier a Conversation Piece

      This funky chandelier adds unexpected character to a pitch-roofed pavilion built above a detached garage. Candle shades prevent glare, so at night the fixture sheds a warm glow over dinners.

      Be sure to choose a UL-rated chandelier approved for outdoor use. Even in a protected area such as this, the fixture will be exposed to wind, dust, and moisture.

    • Define Space with Outdoor Lanterns

      Craftsman-style lanterns mounted on fence posts provide general patio lighting at night. Positioned close to the sink and grill, the lanterns illuminate these two work zones. However, supplemental task lighting is advised for serious cooking after dark.

    • Choose Carriage Lanterns for a Traditional Look

      A pair of wrought-iron carriage lanterns provides general illumination for this breezeway. This lamp style is a good match for traditional architectural styles, such as country French, Georgian, and Colonial Revival.

      Consider wiring the lamps to a dimmer switch inside the house. It will allow you to control the brightness levels at different times of the day and night.

    • Bring Indoor Style Outside

      Now you can brighten your outdoor rooms with all-weather lighting that's as stylish as anything you'd have indoors. This weatherproof table lamp plugs into an external outlet for cozy illumination.

      In addition to a weighted weatherproof base that won't tip over in the wind, look for a shade that's covered with waterproof acrylic fabric designed to resist fading. Also, make sure the socket and switch are protected from the rain.

    • Go Low-Tech with Candles

      Candles offer the simplest way to bring mood lighting to outdoor spaces. Hurricane candleholders are a must to protect the flames from breezes.

    • Provide Light and Breezes with a Ceiling Fan

      In this sunken patio, an all-weather ceiling fan with a light fixture provides both air movement and general overhead illumination for outdoor gatherings. Because there is no overhead structure, the fan is suspended from a cantilevered arm securely attached to the framing wall.

      If your patio, like this one, is exposed to the elements, look for a wet-rated ceiling fan. That means it's designed to withstand exposure to rain. For energy efficiency, look for a model that's Energy Star qualified.

    • Include Wall-Mounted Task Lights

      If you'll be cooking outdoors after sunset, include task lighting for convenience and safety. These sconces focus light on the work surfaces, casting a soft glow that enhances ambience while helping the cook to see.

      When you're adding the electrical line required for this type of lighting, also include external outlets to allow for extra task lighting as needed.

    • Illuminate with Porch Lights

      For a small deck just outside the back door, simple wall-mount porch lights are a practical and economical way to illuminate the entry for safety and access.

      Creating mood is secondary, but if the lamps are on a dimmer switch, you can modulate the light for a softer effect when you want to sit outdoors in the evening.

    • Carriage Lamps for Patio Lighting

      Carriage lanterns mounted on stacked-stone pillars define the edges of this patio and light the way to the back door.

      Placing lamp fixtures above raised beds, steps, and other obstacles is good safety practice as well as an attractive addition to the outdoor room. Plan outdoor lighting so the fixtures tap into a conveniently located electric line.

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      Mix Different Kinds of Deck Lighting

      This multilevel deck uses several kinds of outdoor lighting to create a magical effect at night. Uplights in the planting beds spotlight trees and shrubs. Downlights on the wall of the midlevel seating area illuminate the steps and seating. Translucent panels attached to the steel railings diffuse light from hidden lanterns, and floor lamps shed light on seating areas.

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      Hang a Chandelier for a Formal Look

      A wrought-iron chandelier with candle lamps turns this covered patio into an elegant outdoor living room. Matching sconces over the fireplace complete the illusion that the living room has moved outdoors.

      For a covered outdoor spot, look for fixtures that are rated for use in damp areas. The shades don't need to be fade-resistant because they won't be exposed to the sun, but fabric that is moistureproof and mildew-resistant will keep their good looks longer than shades intended only for indoor use.

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      Create a Festive Mood with String Lights

      Decorative string lights come in a wide variety of designs and configurations. Their chief function is to add sparkle and mood to the outdoor setting, but you can also use them to outline pergolas, arbors, posts, and piers, guiding guests around the outdoor space.

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      Outdoor Lighting for Safety and Ambience

      Electrified lamps hanging from the eaves at each end of the walkway along the house ensure safe passage for family and guests. A matching lantern fixed to the railing behind the table serves the same purpose as a table lamp indoors—to provide general illumination for the dining area.

      For additional safety on a deck with multiple levels, it's a good idea to light the steps and railings with strip lights or low-voltage lighting. Low-voltage lights are energy-efficient and easy to install.

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      Light the Entry for Safety

      The wrought-iron lantern mounted high on the wall of this porch sheds enough light to show the way to the French doors after dark. Fitted with two candlestick lamps and flame-shape bulbs, the lantern has an understated traditional look that suits this country French exterior.

      An overhang (not shown) protects the area from direct contact with the weather, allowing the use of art and fabrics to bring a touch of interior-style decor to an intimate outdoor conversation area.

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      Outdoor Lighting with an Indoor Look

      Complete with draperies to soften the architecture, this outdoor dining area is furnished as if it were an inside room. A weatherproof lamp in the corner sheds warm, welcoming light after dark, and the strategically placed mirror enhances the effect. Overhead, a textured-glass lantern provides general illumination.

      To control the light level of overhead fixtures, wire them to dimmer switches located inside the house. If you want to access the switch from the porch, use a weatherproof switch rated for outdoor use.

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      Add Elegance with Outdoor Hanging Lights

      Wall-mount carriage lamps light the edges of this shady terrace, but it's the electrified lantern suspended from a massive tree that brings unexpected elegance to the outdoor living space.

      An installation like this requires running electrical cable underground from the fuse box to the tree. Consult a professional electrician to ensure all materials are UL listed and weatherproof.

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      Create Old-World Style with Sconces

      Wrought-iron sconces bring a touch of Tuscany to this sliver of an outdoor room. Choosing light fixtures with the same finish as the door pulls, fencing, and outdoor furniture gives your outdoor rooms a professional, pulled-together look.

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