Lighting for outdoor entertainment

As we get back into the swing of having guests in our home, it’s an ideal time to think about how to make the most our exterior spaces. Balmy evenings facilitate great conversations and they don’t have to end simply because it gets dark. Find the right balance for an uplifting mood combined with practicality by introducing layered lighting to your backyard.

Ambient lighting: See what’s on your plate

Enjoy your alfresco areas long after the sun has gone down with general illumination. If you’ve got a pergola or patio cover, consider ceiling lights. These are sometimes combined with fans or heaters and are made from weather-resistant materials. Look for an ingress protection (IP) rating of at least IP44, which indicates it’s appropriate for exterior use. Note that the IP rating must be in accordance with whether the fixture will be under cover or exposed to the elements.

For open yards without cover, this is when exterior wall lights really shine. They are an efficient way of providing illumination to large areas and come in an assortment of styles. As a general rule of thumb, install exterior wall sconces at eye level (around 160cm to 170cm high) to avoid glare. Additional ambient lighting around a dining table can be set up for dinner parties, such as portable table and floor lamps. Before buying extra products, locate power points and be mindful not to overload power boards.

Recessed Lumi Lighting Designer 2 downlight and Falun exterior wall lamp.

Left: Recessed options blend in with the ceiling such as the Lumi Lighting Designer 2 downlight. Middle: Go Modern Furniture shows how portable lamps can provide ambient illumination. Right: Pick a sconce that will complement your home’s design. The Falun is a Lumi Lighting team favourite.

Task lighting: Make sure the sausages don’t burn

Focus lighting on key locations such as doorways, pathways, pool zones and the outdoor kitchen for safety and practicality. Spotlights are ideal for directing light towards a specific place without distracting from the overall ambience. For example, brighter spotlights can illuminate a BBQ for functionality, while leaving the dining space to be bathed in gentler ambient light.

Safety is another important aspect of lighting design. In-ground lights, deck and step lights installed along pathways will help guests avoid tripping over the garden hose. Hurricane lanterns are a good temporary alternative. Path lighting doesn’t need to be as bright as lights that illuminate tasks. The brightness required will hinge on various factors like the distance between each fixture or the overall mood desired.

Lumi Lighting Blume pathway and landscaping light

Left: Bradley Landscaping demonstrate how to navigate your outdoor oasis with path lights. Middle: Lumi Lighting Blume 13 in-ground landscape light. Right: Avoid falling into the pool with low-level lights. Image courtesy of In-lite Design.

Accent lighting: Create a relaxed vibe for your guests

Use a final layer of lights to set the tone for your gathering. Accent lighting is typically subtle and not as bright as ambient and task lighting. It’s possible to achieve different moods with well-placed accent lights. Tea lights on the dining table and fairy lights strung on trees bring a sense of whimsy and intimacy. Festoon lighting with coloured globes scream “let’s get this party started”, whereas uplighting onto trees, sculptures or water features to cast shadows evokes drama or mystery.

Integrating landscape lighting with the entertainment area means you’ll have year-round fixtures ready to go for the next event. Warm tones (2700K or 3000K) tend to be more relaxing than a brighter white light (4000K upwards) and work well for exteriors. Ultimately, conscious layered lighting allows for the most important aspect of outdoor entertainment spaces; enjoying good food with good company.

Lumi Lighting Elena landscaping spotlight for uplighting in garden

 Left: Artfully-draped fairy lights from Target USA. Middle: Lumi Lighting Elena 7 landscaping light. Right: For an architectural approach, Majestic Outdoor Living chose a small spotlight nestled into the garden. 

Cover image by Taryn Elliott from Pexels