1. Keep it low.
At night, any bright light that’s shining in our eyes will cause glare and make it harder for us to see. Light your deck and patio floors with step lights or rail-mounted lights to keep the light low and discreet. You can install lights directly into the deck or patio or get creative with continuous LED strips hidden below steps and platforms.
2. Hide the bulbs.
Outdoor wall sconces or hanging lanterns with clear glass — which allow you to plainly see the bulb — can cause major glare issues at night. For usable light, choose fixtures that hide the bulb deep inside the fixture or have frosted glass to help diffuse the light.
3. Bring back the stars.
In rural areas with limited light pollution, you might be able to gaze at plenty of real stars. In brighter urban and suburban environments, try mimicking the look of stars with hanging string lights. The small bulbs will add a soft glow at night without too much glare.
4. Light the fire.
Our attraction to flame is strong, some might even say primordial. Outdoor fireplaces, kerosene lanterns and even grouped candles will delight family and friends with their mesmerizing flickers.
5. Make it bigger.
You can expand the visual space of your patio or deck by selectively illuminating nearby features such as trees, landscaping and walls. This allows you to see past the edges of the patio or deck, making the space feel larger. Limit light pollution by using the lights only when you’re outside to enjoy them.
6. Enjoy the dark.
To really experience the night, leave some areas of your patio and landscape dark. I try to avoid placing lights in a “dark zone” from about waist-high to just above your head. This keeps offensive light out of your eyes so you can better enjoy the fire, gaze at the landscape and linger long into the night.
The illustration above visually recaps the six lighting tips discussed here. Consider pulling all them together to create the perfect nighttime patio experience.