Summer is a time for coaxing magic out of the otherwise mundane, and indulging in a bit of whimsical ambiance.
With those long, balmy evenings and the emergence of friends eager to open a bottle under the stars, the outdoor patio is no doubt your likely destination.
And what better way to bestow that aforementioned magic than patio lighting fit for an endless summer of splendor?
For all their simplicity and relatively budget-friendly accessibility, string lights are the designer’s go-to, if not the #1 mainstay in their style arsenal. These subtle stringed embellishments can transform any space in an instant, casting a spell of irresistible allure from their heavenly perch.
Best of all, there is every kind of imaginable style of string light, from bobbing Chinese lanterns to Edison bulbs; lantern or caged globe, simple or unabashedly decadent, the lights you string above your patio represent your summer soul. This is a man who knows how to entertain, as well as bask in the solitary glow of his star-strung constellations.
Longer days and warmer nights call for a certain kind of free-spirited calm. Summer is when the rhythm of the world slows down, and delights in the joys winter so cruelly deprives us of.
A dazzling display of these top 40 best patio string light ideas drop the firefly curtain down on your own Midsummer Night’s Dream, a veil that won’t soon be lifted until the first winds of an autumn blow–and perhaps not even then.
1. Patio String Lighting Ideas for Under Pergolas
You’ve constructed this beautiful pergola to provide you with shade and comfort while enjoying your patio or backyard during the summer. But the party doesn’t have to stop when the sun goes down. Your pergola provides you with the perfect structure for hanging string lights. This will double your use and enjoyment of your covered patio space.
Start by deciding where you want to hang your lights. If your pergola is a separate structure from your home, then you could string lights from the pergola to your roof. This will illuminate the patio or yard between the two structures. That way, you won’t have to stumble through the dark to get from one to the other.
You can also string them from the pergola to illuminate the space it covers. You could go for a minimal look by only having a few strands that follow the main beams of your pergola. Or you could string them around the outside edge for an all-over glow. If you love light, don’t be afraid to string them all over the place and crisscross your strings of lights.
The number of strings and bulbs you use will depend on the brightness of the bulbs and how much light you want to create.
2. Patio String Lighting Ideas for Around Fire Pits
Fire pits are a great yard feature to gather around with friends or share a romantic moment with your loved one. There’s just one problem: A fire pit doesn’t create a lot of light. The only area illuminated is the space directly around the fire pit. You’ll need to sit very near the fire pit to be illuminated. This can leave you and your company sitting in the dark.
Hanging string lights around the fire pit area can provide the additional lighting you need to make the space functional. This will allow you to enjoy the fire pit without having to sit on top of it. You can also use the string lights to define the space so that you have a room effect.
To hang your string lights, you’ll need to place poles around the perimeter of your fire pit area. You can either use a post hole digger to drop them directly into the ground, or you can use large planters to bury the poles with concrete. You need to use substantially sized posts so that they won’t tip or lean. They also need to be tall enough that you can walk under the string lights once they’re hung.
String the lights from post to post to create a perimeter of soft glowing light. You could also crisscross them across the fire pit area. Be careful with this; you don’t want the heat from your firepit to melt the lights above.
3. Patio String Lighting Ideas for Porches
If your porch has a solid roof, then it probably already has some form of lighting installed. The problem is this light doesn’t illuminate your entire porch. Or maybe it creates a harsh bright light. Give yourself another option with string lights.
String your lights back and forth across the shorter width of your porch. Make several rows until you’ve covered the length of the porch. You can do them throughout the entire porch roof to illuminate the entire space. You could only do a portion where you plan to hang out at night.
If your porch is narrow enough, you only have to attach them on the sides. This will give your light a droop effect. If you prefer them to be straight, you’ll need to secure them throughout the length of the light string. This will keep all of the bulbs tight against the underside of your roof.
If your porch roof is vaulted, then you may need to use support cabling. Mount the metal cables first, and then string the lights to the cables. You’ll do this at the base of the roof to create a false ceiling with the lights while retaining the vaulted ceiling above them for enjoyment during the day.
4. Patio String Lighting Ideas for Yards and Open Spaces
You have a big open yard that’s perfect for spending time in. Maybe you have a fire pit in one area, a table in another, a sitting area, and even a swing set. All of these features are useless once the sun sets if there’s no light in your backyard. Hang string lights and bring all of these areas together under one cohesive set of string lights.
If you have a privacy fence around your yard, you have the perfect setup for string lights. String them from your roof to the top of the fence. Do this several times and create a canopy of soft light. You could balance the light by adding more strings over high trafficked areas and fewer strings over less utilized space.
If your fence isn’t tall enough or if it’s too far away, then use posts. You can have them installed directly into the ground to give them stability. You’ll want to place them in strategic areas to give your lights the most support and the most freedom in how you string your lights. Most people choose to place them along the perimeter or have one centralized post.
5. Patio String Lighting Ideas for Dining Spaces
No one wants to eat in the dark. There’s something especially unpleasant and unnerving about not being able to see the food on your plate. Especially when you’re eating outside. String lights can eliminate this problem and make your outdoor dining area more inviting.
More is better when illuminating your cooking or dining area. This means buying string lights with more bulbs and hanging more strings than you would in other spaces. You can then supplement your string lights with other more decorative accent lighting, such as candles, lanterns, or smaller sets of string lights.
If you choose to hang your string lights over the dining space, make sure you cover the entire dining area. You don’t want some guests eating in full light while others struggle in the shadows.
If your dining area is near a fence or wall, you can hang several rows of lighting on it instead. Just be sure to hang it high enough that it isn’t in someone’s face and that the light can carry over the entire table.
6. Patio String Lighting Ideas for Lounging Areas
Your lounge area is the space where you’ve set out a few comfy chairs or couches. This is the area where you’ll sit back with a few drinks and relax with family and friends. You want the lighting to reflect this, so you need enough to see, but not as much as your dining area. Depending on the size of the space and brightness of the bulbs, you could get away with two or three strings throughout the area.
To go for maximum effect with your string lights, aim for a diagonal pattern where you start in one corner, string them out to a centralized point on the opposite side, and then back to the other corner. This should create a triangle shape.
String these lights high up so people can comfortably walk under them. The height will also provide maximum travel distance for the light. This way, you illuminate more with less.
7. Patio String Lighting Ideas for Around the Pool and Spa
A dark pool or spa area is unsafe. Whether you plan to use your pool at night or not, string lights can illuminate the area and make it a safer place. You only need enough light to see where you’re going, so a few strings placed high over the area should do the trick.
Get creative in how you hang your lights. You could create several rows, crisscross them, create a perimeter, or have several strings radiating out from a single point to create a fan effect. Make sure you hang them high enough over your pool that they won’t get splashed. You should always use lights that are rated for outdoor, which means they’ll be waterproof. However, your pool water has chemicals, and if your string lights get routinely splashed, those chemicals can corrode your string lights.
Patio String Lights FAQs
What type of string lights should I use?
The most popular type is globe string lights. They provide plenty of light and are easy to hang. For a unique look, try ornamental string lights, They can help you create a theme. For the most durability, purchase commercial grade string lights. These lights are waterproof, weatherproof, and durable enough to leave up all year long.
What do I use to hang the lights?
The method you use will depend on the material you’re attaching the light to. If you’re working with wood, then you can use a screw eye or cup hook. A cup hook will work fine for somewhere that doesn’t get a lot of exposure to the elements. A screw eye and carabiner will create a solid attachment that’s perfect for places that experience high wind.
Both of these methods will provide a long term and corrosion-resistant hanging method. Skip the nails that can damage the cable and rust.
Why do string lights look yellow?
Lightbulbs give off light that’s measured with a spectrum on the Kelvin scale. You’ll hear it referred to as the “light temperature”. This refers to the shade and not the actual temperature of the light. Most string lights are meant to provide mood lighting, so they fall in the 2,000 to 4,000 range on the scale. This is soft yellow-tinted light that’s perfect for creating ambiance. You may find some string lights that are bit brighter in the 4,000 to 6,000 range: This is a white light and better for performing tasks.
Do I need a permit to hang string lights?
You should be fine hanging your string lights without a permit. Since they aren’t a structure and you plug them in, they typically won’t qualify as a project that requires a permit. Before you hang your lights, consider how they might affect your neighbors. You may find that the additional light shines directly into your neighbor’s home, possibly upsetting them. Maintain a good relationship and keep your lighting relegated to your backyard only.