Building a beautiful outdoor living and entertaining space is exciting and fun to design.  You start to envision yourself, family, and friends enjoying this beautiful space after the sun goes down.  You spend time thinking about the hardscape features, plants, furniture, and more.  Something as a homeowner, there are things you may not be thinking of, such as, the outdoor patio lighting that will illuminate your patio areas after dark.  Consider, eating areas, conversation areas, cooking areas, spa areas, outdoor fireplaces, firepits, and paths to your yard’s prominent features. Great lighting design will show off these unique landscaping and architecture features.

Today we will focus specifically on patio lighting, which will be where you relax, entertain, converse, and share a meal.  Your priorities here are to have enough light to see your meal and be conducive to relaxed conversations but not overpower the intimate patio setting.  Remember, the goal of outdoor lighting is to “See the effect, not the source.”

Outdoor Lighting in Laguna Migel Home

Laguna Niguel CA home with patio downlighting and landscape lighting

Considerations to think of when selecting your patio lighting are:

  • Do you want a light switch or dimmer; on-off or varying level of light
  • Structural safety of outdoor lighting; DIY can cause safety issues here
  • Lighting positioning and bulb selection; prevent glare by positioning and using the proper bulb
  • Use warm LED lighting with a warm color, energy efficiency, and very low maintenance
  • Use a variety of outdoor lighting sources rather than 1 central bright light

Light Switch versus Dimmer

Often your go-to is a light switch, it’s traditional and what we’re used to.  Dimmers have been used in our homes over our dining tables and more recently employed in your home hallways and more.  Your patio is another great place to use a dimmer switch, this gives you ultimate control over the patio ambiance.

For dinner with friends, you power that dimmer switch to a medium intensity that can simulate a high-end restaurant. This lets you enjoy the beauty of your food and see your guests for conversation. Once dinner is over, you may shut off the BBQ task lighting and dim the lights for after-dinner drinks.  You can also dim the lights enough to keep visibility but allow for a firepit, fireplace, or candles to provide ambiance mood lighting as well.   At the end of the night, you may have the lights brighter for the end of the night clean-up. The more control you have in your patio lighting the more options you will have to create the perfect atmosphere.

Structural Safety of Outdoor Lighting

Due to outdoor lightings’ obvious use of electricity, you do not want to tackle a project like this as a DIY.  You want to ensure your patio lighting is safe for you and your guests. This includes wiring and any permits that may be necessary. This also covers the methodology you use to affix the lighting fixtures, conduit, or wire to your home or patio structure.  A licensed lighting contractor is the best way to ensure your work is safe and backed by a professional.  After all, this is your home, family, and friends we’re ensuring safety for. Also, a skilled landscape lighting installer will create a clean installation thus hiding the wiring and or conduit out of visual sight.

Lighting positioning and bulb selection

Lighting positioning and bulb selection

You want to keep positioning above head level – over the 6-foot mark. You also do not want to be focusing on fixtures that shine directly in your eyes. By correctly angling fixtures downward you can avoid direct glare. Also, the use of fixtures with adjustable glare shields helps to avoid this unwanted harsh glare.

Laguna hills CA estate with patio down lighting

Laguna Hills CA estate with patio down lighting, chandelier, and landscape lighting in the planters.


An expert lighting designer will take all the guesswork out of this type of decision. They will give you options for positioning as well as specific locations for the patio lights. They will also recommend correct bulb wattage and beam spreads. You don’t want harsh bulbs, if you put several low-wattage, low voltage fixtures pointing downward you can avoid glare while creating ample illumination in key patio entertainment areas. 

Use LED Lighting

The use of warm pleasant lighting is a very important key to proper patio lighting. LED lighting can provide a warm effect for outdoor patio lighting. The use of the wrong LED can emit a blueish white light that can often be considered harsh.

Incandescent and halogen bulbs (old school) are rarely used anymore due to the many benefits of LED landscape lighting.

Not only is LED a better-looking light, but they also last 25 times longer than their outdated counterparts, halogen, or fluorescent lights. Outdoor LED lighting is also eight times more energy-efficient, saving you up to 80% in energy as reported by the US Department of Energy.

LED lighting also comes in decorative colors. This is purely for design and not illumination. Be sure if you use these alternate colors that it is for creating a fun environment and that you still have your base LED illumination for entertaining.

Use a Variety of Outdoor Lighting Sources

Patio lighting lets you set the stage for your outdoor vibe.  There are many types of lights that you can use to give a different feel.  You may want to consider Bistro lighting, to give a warm party-like effect.

Variety of Outdoor Lighting Sources

Sconces can add style and their own contribution to the illumination effect you’re seeking for your private entertaining space.

Carriage lights and pilaster lights, much like color LED lights and are for decoration purposes and not illumination. Very important is not to have these fixtures with a clear lens. There is no better way to kill the intimate patio setting than looking directly into bright bulbs with a clear lens. If you use these fixtures, make sure they have a frosted or colored lens thus avoiding the obnoxious glare.

Your experienced lighting designer and licensed lighting contractor will have all the know-how to provide you expert advice on these considerations.  Though it is nice to have this reference handy when interviewing outdoor lighting contractors.  Be sure your contractor considers these elements.

For your free outdoor lighting consultation, call us at (949) 455-9914. We are serving Southern California since 1988.