Five Ways to Create an Inviting Nighttime Patio

Make the most of your outdoor space even when the sun goes down.

Warmer days mean the backyard is in bloom, the porch is the place for hanging out and the patio or deck becomes the spot to soak up the sun. So it only makes sense that everyone wants to spend as much time as possible outside. There's no reason not to enjoy your patio during the nighttime hours. Here's how to set up the perfect outdoor space to extend your enjoyment into an evening under the stars including helpful lighting tips, seating ideas, and ways to keep nagging pests at bay.

illuminated steps leading to back of house at dusk
Dustin Peck

Choose Seating with Staying Power

First and foremost, make sure there is enough comfy seating available to encourage friends and family to kick back, relax, and linger after hours. Cozy furniture that feels like it belongs indoors, such as a pair of armchairs and a sofa (like this five-piece Better Homes & Gardens set, $1,396, Walmart), gives off a family room vibe and can be arranged in a semi-circle to keep the conversation flowing. Look for outdoor furniture that serves multiple purposes—like a sectional/dining set combo or a sofa/loveseat pairing with side tables for drinks and snacks—to give you day-into-night flexibility.

galvanized beverage tub
Courtesy of Walmart

Better Homes & Gardens Galvanized Tub ($19, Walmart)

Keep Serving Simple

Nighttime entertaining is low-keyfood and drink should be accessible and easy to consume in the dark. Think no-fuss fun: platters of finger foods, grazing boards with cubes of cheese and fresh fruit, lightweight bowls of snacks like popcorn or chips to pass around. Chill bottles and cans in a galvanized metal tub ($19, Walmart) filled with ice. As the night wears on and the gathering gets going, accidents can happen so it might be smart to stock up on plates and drinkware in reusable, break-resistant materials like melamine, bamboo, or acrylic if you don't have them already.

Heat Things Up

If you have the space, consider adding a firepit to keep everyone comfortable on cooler nights when the temperature drops or the seasons shift. The warm glow acts as a natural focal point to draw people in and it's a great spot to gather everybody together with sticks and s'mores supplies for a favorite after-dinner group activity. Depending on your preference, you might choose a gas-powered style for quick-lighting ease (this propane Better Homes & Gardens firepit, $197, Walmart, has an electric lighter) or a wood-burning design for that classic campfire feeling (and scent!).

Light the Night

Don't keep everyone in the dark. Adding some kind of illumination is practical—you should be able to see each other and move about your outdoor space safely—but why not make it pretty, too. Ambient lighting sets the mood, and there are many ways to do it. Overhead, Better Homes & Gardens string lights ($40, Walmart) are easy to use along the edges of a porch roof or a deck railing. Globe bulbs are a timeless choice, while curtain styles can help you create a funky look or define an area of your backyard as an outdoor "room". To make the most of the sun's rays beforehand, choose solar-powered LED string lights that charge up during the day. Lanterns are a versatile option for bringing light right where you need it—on a table, in a corner, along a stairway, wall, or patio edge—and they are available in lots of different materials to blend in with your look, like wood, metal, or rattan. Light them up with standard pillar candles, or choose flame-free battery-operated LED candles as a stress-free option if you have kids or pets at play. At the end of the night, send guests off safely with LED lights along pathways.

Keep Pests at Bay

When dusk hits, the nighttime insects come out. To discourage these uninvited guests from crashing your party and irritating friends and family, make strategic use of citronella all around your outdoor area. Candles with the bug-repelling scent have come a long way from the big, gloopy tubs of the past, and are now available in decorative designs that look like hand-crafted pottery or modern, minimalist ceramics. Tabletop torches that can be filled with citronella oil have also stepped up their style game, with unobtrusive matte black designs that blend into the background or chic textural ceramic styles that are meant to be seen.

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