20 Outdoor Holiday Lighting Ideas That Dazzle

Create a sparkling light display each night during the holiday season with these tips and tricks for bringing envy-worthy curb appeal to your front yard.

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June 01, 2015

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Lights on Timers

For a low-maintenance approach to exterior holiday lighting, consider timer activation. One of the most popular products available is a plug-in on/off module which can handle up to 1500 watts. Although there are many styles available, most options simply plug into an exterior outlet. An average-sized home will require between two and four modules to keep the exterior safely lit and perfectly timed.

Graphic Shape

Moravian stars are an excellent way to add both graphic shape and illumination throughout your front yard. For the best effect, consider grouping Moravian stars in odd numbers, randomly spacing them throughout the tree to create a gorgeous glow. The graphic shapes of the stars will break up the monotony of twinkle lights along the house and hedges. Get step-by-step instructions.

Consistent Branches

While adding twinkle lights to small and medium-sized trees may seem simple, there's more skill involved than one might think. Since most trees lose their leaves in the winter, it's much more difficult to figure out where to drape the lights for a balanced look. To add symmetry to exterior decor, create a consistent stopping point along each of the trees. Although some may be significantly taller than others, once wrapped at approximately the same height with twinkle lights, trees will appear organically balanced.

Colorful Holiday Lights on Antique Sled

Bring rustic appeal to your yard or interior by wrapping weathered architectural relics with lights. The contrast between the dulled, organic surfaces and the boldness of colored lights results in a conversation piece that truly pops.

See More Photos: 12 Different Ways to Use the Same Strand of Lights

Hit the Lights at Sundown

Although most homeowners plan their home's exterior lighting scheme to illuminate after dark, there's an entirely different vibe created when lights are turned on at sunset. After dark, the lights are the main source of illumination around the home, whereas during sundown, string lights simply add a subtle glow around the roof, eaves and railings. We love this!

See More Photos: 9 Festive Ways to Boost Your Home's Holiday Curb Appeal

Sophisticated Lawn Art

Bring a playful glow to your lawn with oversized ornaments made from globe shades, food storage bowls and string lights. For more curb appeal, cluster them together in odd numbers and choose extension cords that blend in with your landscaping.

How to Make Giant Christmas Ornaments

Mixed-Light Sources

Year-round exterior lighting such as sensory-activated motion lights, security spotlights and sconces can often interfere with the soft ambiance created by twinkle lights. The key to properly mixing different sources is overpowering year-round fixtures with twinkle lights. Consider changing year-round bulbs to those with lower wattage. This will allow twinkle lights to overpower year-round fixtures, resulting in a beautiful, soft glow along all exterior surfaces of the home.

Red Wagon With String Lights

Little red wagons are a great way to bring a playful, farmhouse touch to your holiday decor. Consider wrapping classic wooden wagons with lights as a decorative accessory, or use the light-wrapped wagons to contain and display gifts.

See More Photos: 12 Different Ways to Use the Same Strand of Lights

Brightly Lit Bicycle With Vintage Holiday Lights

Put a vintage bicycle on display inside or outside the home by wrapping the wheels, frame, handlebars and seat with lights. To keep necessary wires from interfering with the look, stick with black extension cords, which can wrap around black tires, minimizing their presence.

See More Photos: 12 Different Ways to Use the Same Strand of Lights

Lighting Walkways

Since holidays often attract more guests to the home than other times of the year, be sure to keep walkways brightly lit. An easy way to do this is to take advantage of any smaller trees or shrubs along or around the walkway and outfitting them with just a few strands of lights. Although they may be too small to properly read from the street, the subtle glow cast onto pavers, trails or concrete walkways will help guests make their way up to the house safely.

Unlit Structures

Lights are meant mostly for ambiance, but they can also serve double duty as backdrops for showcasing seasonal yard structures. When placing holiday structures in the yard, it's wise to keep them unlit, instead relying on the ambient glow of the house. Get step-by-step instructions.

Garden Statue With Holiday String Lights

Just a few garden sculptures wrapped with colored lights can instantly bring a holiday touch with minimal fuss. At night the graphic shapes of the garden sculptures are easy to read from inside the house, and the bold color casts a vibrant glow on the otherwise dark and dim area.

See More Photos: 12 Different Ways to Use the Same Strand of Lights

Wrapping Hedges

Wrapping hedges with twinkle lights may seem like a daunting task, especially when figuring out where to stop and start each strand. Eliminate all of the second-guessing by investing in net lights. Although net lights may cost more than standard strands, the amount of time saved on installation is often worth the investment.

Holiday Enchanted Garden

Put hefty benches and stools on display as focal points by wrapping them with lights. In addition to being decorative, this is also an excellent way to bring safety to dimly lit areas of the yard.

See More Photos: 12 Different Ways to Use the Same Strand of Lights

Recycled Decor

Give your guests a grand entrance this holiday season. Dan Faires created this chic arbor by painting three ladders with matte black paint, wrapping them with industrial globe lights and softening the overall look with garland. The tree is made from pieces of reclaimed barnwood.

See More Photos: Outdoor Christmas Decorating Ideas

Upcycled Wine Bottle Holiday Entryway

This entryway, created by Dan Faires, features candelabras made from discarded wine bottles, garland made from nautical rope and lanterns and evergreens placed in galvanized metal buckets. Once the sun goes down, the entryway instantly becomes more intimate thanks to the glow created by the candlelit wine bottle candelabras and interior and exterior lights of the house.

See More Photos: Outdoor Christmas Decorating Ideas

Kitschy Illuminated Holiday Wreath

Reinvent empty frames as illuminated sculptures with the addition of colored lights. For indoor use, standard vintage-style lights can be used to wrap wall-hung frames, placed near outlets. To help disguise extension cords, consider grouping several frames vertically, tucking the cord behind each frame, then into outlets near the bottom of the wall. For outdoor use, such as a repurposed wreath alternative placed on a front door, it's best to use battery-operated lights.

Backlit Christmas Tree Decorations

Dan Faires added a touch of modernity with a minimalist backlit plywood Christmas tree.

How to Make a Backlit Wooden Christmas Tree

Whimsical Twist on Holiday Decorative Lights

Put a whimsical spin on everyday lanterns with colored lights in place of candles. Used singularly, the lanterns can work as centerpieces by filling them with battery-operated string lights. Outdoor luminaries for steps or walkways can be made with groupings of lanterns placed along the perimeter of an area, with strands of lights running from one lantern to another.

Make it Glow

Skip the traditional candle and toss in a tangle of string lights or battery operated LED wire lights to amp up holiday lanterns.

See More Photos: 11 Ways to Give Your Fire Pit Holiday Flair

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