15 Deck Lighting Ideas to Brighten Your Outdoor Space

Lisa Hallett Taylor
15 Deck Lighting Ideas to Brighten Your Outdoor Space
  • 01 of 15

    String Lights

    spa deck

    Herzen Stimme

    Herzen Stimme designed a wood deck, leaving a space carved out to insert an inflatable whirlpool hot tub. The result gives off relaxing spa vibes. However, the atmosphere is only heightened by the use of various string lights draped across the walls, as well as various handheld lanterns illuminating all the way around the hot tub.

  • 02 of 15

    Wall Sconces

    deck lighting ideas

    Design by Cathie Hong Interiors / Margaret Austin Photo

    This spacious and tranquil slightly raised backyard deck from Cathie Hong Interiors is lit with well spaced wall sconces that add balanced light throughout the open and covered portions of the minimalist structure. The deck itself has integrated spotlighting around the edges that helps to illuminate the backyard after dark.

  • 03 of 15

    Overhead Lights

    edison string lights above deck

    @kristina.roy /Instagram

    This cozy deck space from Kristina Roy has the perfect amount of seating and style. However, turn your eyes upward and you’ll see multiple rows of Edison bulbs casting an ideal glow for when the sun goes down. A few extended wood rods add some height to keep the lights of the way.

  • 04 of 15

    Pair of Pendant Lights

    wicker lanterns over outdoor dining

    Calimia Home

    While lampshades and covers can indeed change a space indoors, they also have their perks outside. Take this stunning setup from Camilia Home—while hanging bulbs hold their own type of elegance, the wicker shades take things to another level. And the good news is, shades like this can be switched out if you decide to change the decor.

  • 05 of 15

    Lights + Solar Shades

    deck with string lights and sail shade

    @ann.living / Instagram

    Don’t underestimate the power of well-placed lighting. This outdoor space from Ann living has plenty of light with glowing torches surrounding the decking border. However, the real illumination is thanks to the multiple rows of string lights placed directly under the sail shade. The sail shade keeps the sun from beaming down too much during the day, and at night it serves as a backdrop for the small lights to radiate off of—creating a well-lit space for everyone to enjoy.

  • 06 of 15

    Floor Lanterns

    deck with lanterns and candles

    Jess Bunge for Emily Henderson Design / Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

    Floor lanterns and pillar candles add soft ambient light to this rooftop deck from Jess Bunge for Emily Henderson Design.

  • 07 of 15

    Plant Lighting

    illumination from plant box on concrete patio

    @ladylandscape / Instagram

    Lady Landscape once again was creative with outdoor lighting by using a landscape light hidden behind a decorative plant. The privacy fence serves as a perfect backdrop for the light to cast an incandescent glow without drawing too much attention.

  • 08 of 15

    Edison Bulb String Lights

    deck with edison bulb string lights

    Design by AHG Interiors / Photo by Nick Glimenakis

    This A-frame cabin from AHG Interiors is lit like a fairytale after dark with Edison bulb string lights that outline the silhouette of the facade and line the railings of the wrap-around deck to add a complementary layer of ambient light that makes the space feel warm and welcoming.

  • 09 of 15

    Outdoor Fireplace

    deck with fireplace

    Design by AHG Interiors / Photo by Nick Glimenakis

    A colorful retro outdoor fireplace adds another layer of ambient light to this outdoor deck from AHG Interiors that creates a relaxing atmosphere for entertaining.

  • 10 of 15

    Oversized Pendant Light

    deck with pendant light

    Desiree Burns Interiors

    This outdoor deck from Desiree Burns Interiors is sheltered by a mature tree, with an overhanging branch that is used to suspend a lightweight woven pendant light. The oversized fixture helps to anchor the outdoor dining space during the daytime while providing light for late-night dinners that lends the space an indoor-outdoor feel.

  • 11 of 15

    Multiple Light Sources

    light posts and string lights

    @ann.living / Instagram

    This deck from Ann Living doesn’t rely on one light source—plenty of options are at play here. Solar lights surround the border while various candles are placed around the area. Different styles of string lights get plenty of use as well—mini lights draped across the furniture give a soft glow while larger bulbs above provide more overhead lighting when needed.

  • 12 of 15

    Cage Wall Lights

    mounted outdoor sconces

    Design: Emily Henderson/Photographer: Sara Liggoria-Tramp

    If you’re working with a smaller deck, you may not need a ton of additional lighting. Cue a set of wall lights, like this deck from Emily Henderson Design. The mounted cage wall lights are stylish and blend into the general scenery yet provide just the right amount of ambiance when needed.

  • 13 of 15

    Well Balanced Lighting

    lighting on deck

    @herzenstimme / Instagram

    This deck from Herzen Stimme has plenty of ambiances—a covered fire pit, candles, and hanging lanterns are placed in different corners. Framing the door with string lights adds an extra dose of whimsy to and space.

  • 14 of 15

    Cozy Lighting

    deck lighting

    Design: Emily Henderson/Photographer: Sara Liggoria-Tramp

    Sometimes, a designer can build upon a good design that’s already in place. This upper deck by Emily Henderson Design started off much smaller and uncovered, so the team went to work to extend the space and add coverage. The intimate space needed solid lighting, so they went with a few semi-flush light fixtures that Henderson says “lend an interior vibe that’s welcome in an outdoor room like this.”

  • 15 of 15

    Pillar Candles

    deck with string lights and candles

    @herzenstimme / Instagram

    Candles can feel like a bit of a liability when you’re using them for lighting—but Herzen Stimme proves that with some creativity, you can still make it work. Various sizes of candles are displayed in glass cups, small decorative cages, and candleholders that create a safe yet gorgeous display. Additionally, handheld lanterns and other variations of porch lights help bolster the lighting across the entire deck.

What to Illuminate on a Deck

Deck lighting can be practical and used for safety purposes, shine on an outdoor dining area, used at different levels–on steps, along railings–and to highlight landscaping, architectural features or a pool, spa or fountain. It can also create a certain mood or atmosphere for special occasions.

Step and deck path lights have a distinct function: to safely illuminate traffic throughout the deck and yard. They also help to enhance the view from indoors at night.

Call an Electrician or DIY?

Unless you have worked with lighting before, it’s best to work with an electrician. Most outdoor lighting is low voltage, using 12 volts of electricity. A transformer will be needed to power down the 120-volt current indoors to 12 volts outdoors. But before buying one, you will need to figure out how many outdoor lights will be attached, plus their wattage. A suitable transformer will be able to handle your current wattage needs along with an estimated 25 to 50 more so it isn’t operating at full capacity and it will be able to handle more wattage if you add more landscaping lights in the future.

Many modern fixtures use LED bulbs, which are energy and cost efficient. Solar lighting has improved but is usually not strong or reliable enough to provide adequate illumination.

Types of Fixtures

The most popular types of deck lighting and areas to illuminate include:

  • Steps: The best fixtures include surface mounts, flush mounts, path lights, and weatherproof LED strip lights.
  • Well, Spot, or Uplights: These can illuminate paths, create drama by highlighting plant forms, etc. 
  • Downlights: Designed to be anchored to walls, eaves, patio roofs, or trees.
  • Balusters: Illuminated balusters for railings (balustrades) designed to replace existing balusters or be installed during new deck construction.
  • Post caps and rail lights: Decorative lighting fixtures that can be attached to posts or rails.

Mounted and installed lighting are ideal options, but other light source possibilities can either bolster established light or create a more subtle approach, such as string lights, candles, tiki torches, lanterns, or solar powered lights.


While most landscape lighting is contemporary and works with a variety of architectural styles, specialty fixtures are available for certain types, like colonial, craftsman, Mediterranean, and midcentury modern. When it comes to lighting, resist the urge to go for an eclectic look, unless it reflects the character of your home’s interior and exterior.

  • How far apart should deck lights be spaced?

    Knowing how far apart to space deck lighting depends partly on the size of your deck. In general, lighting should be positioned at least 4-6 feet apart as space allows. You want lighting to feel balanced throughout the space so that you don’t have shadowy pockets that will make the space less comfortable and secure. When installing permanent outdoor lighting, be sure to check electrical codes and to consult a professional. 

  • What is the best way to hang deck lights?

    You can hang overhead string lights on your deck by attaching them to an existing anchor point such as your deck or house or to a purpose-built freestanding post, or with a combination of both depending on the layout and size of your deck.

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