10 Ways to Amp Up Your Outdoor Space With String Lights

Light up your outdoor space with party-perfect decor.

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They’re versatile, useful and pretty darn fab. I’m talking about string lights, friends.

If you’re not yet using these workhorses in your outdoor patio design gameplan, then keep reading. Because I truly think that string lights are one of the easiest, quickest and least expensive ways to up your outdoor space in the blink of an eye. So before you start planning all of your spring and summer entertaining, it’s time to get real chummy with string lights.

Here are some of our favorite ways to incorporate them in your outdoor spaces:

Under an Umbrella

Inexpensive Party Lights Give Patio a Festive Feel

Inexpensive Party Lights Give Patio a Festive Feel

Decorative string lighting fastened inside an umbrella provides inexpensive illumination for outdoor entertaining.

Though you don’t need an umbrella for shade in the evening or at night, they do provide a great spot to add some twinkly string lights. You can simply string the lights around the perimeter of the umbrella, or for an extra pretty effect, line the inside of the umbrella by following the lines of the umbrella seams.

Across a Patio

Modern Seattle Courtyard

Modern Seattle Courtyard

A cozy outdoor seating area is illuminated by LED string lights in a modern courtyard. A high privacy fence creates a sense of seclusion under the shade of trees original to the space. The garden was installed in December 2014.

Photo by: Coreen Schmidt Photography

Coreen Schmidt Photography

This is one of the most common ways to use string lights, but that’s because it truly makes a big statement. Use anchor points such as a fence, rooftop or even some strategically added wooden posts to attach the lights in a zigzag pattern across your outdoor space. If you have a very large space to work with, consider using the lights to break up the space and create different areas.

On a Balcony

Modern Balcony and Garden With Metal Planters

Modern Balcony and Garden With Metal Planters

Metal planters overflow with a variety of flowers and plants on a modern balcony. A bright red watering can pops in the gray space, while a string of lantern lights adds a touch of whimsy.

From: Sean Kelley

Photo by: Chris Bradley

Chris Bradley

You don’t need a large space to rock some string lights — even a small balcony works! You can hang the lights along the balcony wall, or string them up around the ceiling of your balcony. You could also use them to outline your patio door by stringing them all the way around.

In a Gazebo

Brown Contemporary Deck with White Rain Curtain

Brown Contemporary Deck with White Rain Curtain

After the renovations by licensed contractor Josh Temple, what was once just a boring and underutilized upstairs deck is now a retreat with new seating, lighting and a rain curtain as seen on DIY Network’s House Crashers.

From: House Crashers

Photo by: Martin Klimek/Getty Images

Martin Klimek/Getty Images

If you have a gazebo or any sort of outdoor shaded structure, you can use string lights to further define it. Try lining the perimeter of the structure with lights, or do a combination of perimeter and zigzag strings of light. Depending on your structure, you can use string lights both across the ceiling and on the sides of your structure.

In a Lantern

Add Holiday Lights to Outdoor Lanterns.

Add Holiday Lights to Outdoor Lanterns.

For the holidays fill your outdoor lanterns with greenery,pine cones and battery powered lights. These are perfect for outdoor entertaining.

Photo by: Melissa Caughey

Melissa Caughey

If you’re very limited on space, get creative and use items like lanterns to bring some string-light loveliness to your patio. Both colorful string lights and white string lights work great for this. Add additional elements to the lantern depending on the theme of your party. For a summer BBQ bash you could add mini blowup beach balls; for a Fourth of July party you could add small flags; or for a luau you could add some faux fruit.

Around a Tree

Deck With Tree and String Lights

Deck With Tree and String Lights

Inspired by the beautiful trees on the property, the designers dubbed this home, "The Treehouse" and used the tree-theme throughout the house. This particular tree was extra-special as its shape makes it ideal for sitting (one branch in particular is at perfect sitting-height) and its size provides tons of shade for the outdoor living area.

Photo by: Tre Dunham

Tre Dunham

Wrapping trees with string lights is another great way to incorporate some sparkle into your outdoor space. You can keep things simple and wrap just one tree, or go all out and wrap a number of trees on your property. Try to stick with white lights to keep the look elegant. Once the tree is wrapped, you can use the strings to hand additional elements such as signs or other decor.

Make Artwork

String Lights and Lanterns Illuminate Garden

String Lights and Lanterns Illuminate Garden

String up lights and lanterns around your outdoor space to give an enchanting twinkle to any garden party. The soft glow will invite everyone to linger outside in the nighttime summer air. Line lanterns and smaller string lights around your seating area, and hang a few off tree branches for a touch of ambiance.

Consider grouping the lights together and hanging them all in one spot to create a mini piece of art. You can use the lights to create a pattern, or simply line them up in rows for a big visual impact. If you want to get super creative, you can even use the lights to spell out a message or someone’s name.

Hang From a Window

Traditional Pool With Poolhouse and Twinkly Outdoor Lighting

Traditional Pool With Poolhouse and Twinkly Outdoor Lighting

Strands of outdoor lights cross over the pool in this traditional backyard, giving the space an ethereal quality and inviting nights of outdoor entertaining. A cozy conversation area includes plush seating and a table that does double-duty for dining or cocktails.

Photo by: LGB Interiors

LGB Interiors

Use a window to hang string lights. Second-story windows will allow you to create height and drama with your lights. However, you could also consider wrapping the lights around a bunch of different windows.

Create a Chandelier

Outdoor Lights Look Like Snow

Outdoor Lights Look Like Snow

To make it snow with lights, route an extension cord up the tree and hang strands of lights from the canopy of the tree. Each snowfall is created from a single strand of lights that come from the center of the tree like spokes on a wheel.

Photo by: Melissa Caughey

Melissa Caughey

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your string lights. Try hanging them from a tree, an awning or even a gazebo in straight lines to create a chandelier look. You can hang each line of lights at varying heights to create a much more dramatic feel. This would look especially fab over a dinner table or above an outdoor seating area.

11 Easy, Breezy Patio Decorating Ideas for Spring

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Use Indoor Accessories

Don’t limit yourself to just outdoor furnishings when it comes to making your outdoor spaces comfortable and inviting. Bring out your favorite throw pillows and blankets when you’re ready to entertain.

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Opt for Weather-Friendly Faux Finishes

Keep an eye out for furnishings with attractive faux finishes that will hold up to the elements. This table looks like weathered wood, but it’s actually a lightweight metal.

Photo By: Tomas Espinoza

Paint Dated Brick

Even the ugliest brick, whether it’s on the wall or a patio floor, can be dealt with quickly and affordably. Go with a high-quality paint in a classic shade, or try something new with a bold, fresh hue. You’ll be glad you did.

Photo By: Tomas Espinoza

Ground the Space

Nothing defines and grounds a space faster than a rug or two. If you have a large area and your budget is tight, consider putting two rugs together.

Add Privacy + Shade

Whether you have neighbors right on top of you or you live on a five-acre lot, outdoor curtains are always a good idea. They provide privacy and shade so you can enjoy your outdoor living areas without having to endure the sun’s scorching rays.

Photo By: Tomas Espinoza

Create a Focal Point

Consider creating a focal point on a patio wall or fence. Blank spaces are nothing more than an artist’s canvas, so do your thing! We used four quarts of paint and a template; the funky design of the mural really helped renew an aging fence. Get the How-To >>

Photo By: Tomas Espinoza

Give Old Furniture New Life

Before you put an old dresser or console on the curb, consider giving it new life as a hard-working piece of outdoor furniture. A fresh coat of exterior paint, new rope pulls and affordable pegboard transformed this castoff into the perfect spot for mixing up a cocktail or potting spring florals. Get the How-To >>

Photo By: Tomas Espinoza

Add Ambient Lighting

When it comes to outdoor entertaining after dark, ambient lighting adds sophistication to any get-together. Sure, real candlelight is nice, but the convenience and safety of today’s programmable battery-operated LED candles are hard to resist. 

Photo By: Tomas Espinoza

Go Vertical With Greenery

If you don’t have a lot of space to work with, consider going vertical. Whether it’s faux or real, going up the walls with greenery is a great way to soften hard surfaces and add a “living” element to your overall decor.

Photo By: Tomas Espinoza

Mix in Mix-and-Match Planters

Upgrade your planters, and be sure to mix and match colors, shapes and sizes. The key is to keep all the planters in the same general style or color family for a cohesive look. Groupings in odd numbers look best.

Photo By: Tomas Espinoza

Go With a Bold Palette

One way to give your patio or porch some instant personality is with bold color. For example, mix similar shades of blues and greens; it will give you a layered look that’s vibrant without being too busy. Spring Colors to Try Now >>

Photo By: Tomas Espinoza

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