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Metal square arches following a grey tiled pathway with green foliage either side. Path lit up with various lights.
Design the perfect scheme for illuminating alfresco areas with these on-trend outdoor lighting ideas.

Light the night

Your home’s outdoor lights setup should be just as well considered as your indoor lighting scheme. When thinking about potential outdoor lighting ideas, garden designer Claire Talbot of Auckland-based Sculpt Gardens (sculptgardens.co.nz) says it’s helpful to think about different layers of lighting, using a range of sources. “Look at ambient lighting to create a mood, such as soft overhead lights on a pergola; task lighting for activities like cooking; and accent lighting to highlight specific features, for example stairs and sculptures,” she says.

Start with the essentials

It’s important to set a budget, advises Jane Wright, Bunnings trend and design manager. “Outdoor lighting can be more costly than indoor lighting, particularly if you want to use brass or bronze to withstand the elements,” she says. Consider practical outdoor lighting for your backyard first, such as low-level or inset lamps for garden pathways, and spotlights for the barbecue. Home security can also be thrown into the plans: sensor floodlights can be a good burglar deterrent, and can be used to light up your gate or front door when you arrive home.

Sandstone path with uplight lighting on garden hedges.

Make outdoor lighting interesting

Once you’ve got the basics covered for outdoor lights, you can move on to the fun stuff: fairy lights or string lights, feature lamps, festoon lighting and colour-changing illumination for special zones. Areas like the outdoor entertaining zone – especially during the festive season – are an opportunity to go to town with myriad sparkly lights and colour-changing fittings, which are growing in popularity. “Outdoor strip lighting comes in a range of colours and programmable controls, so you can change the mood to match the occasion,” explains Claire.

There’s also a growing trend for stylish fittings that not only make a statement in your outdoor space, but create an inviting, cohesive scheme. “In addition to portable lighting solutions, fixed permanent designs that echo indoor products are gaining momentum,” says Jane. “Stone-like ceramics, textural weaves and natural stone interpretations define this look. Decorative wall sconces echo their indoor counterparts, and go beyond function to provide a soft, summer evening cast.”

Middle deck at night, with lights illuminating the trunks of four pear trees

Use garden lighting to highlight features

Interesting textures in your yard, such as brickwork, rock walls and screens, can be lit from the top or bottom so the light floods down over the surface. And don’t forget outdoor tree lighting ideas either, says Claire. “Wrapping large feature trees – trunks and branches – with built-for-purpose fairy lights can create a real focal statement,” she suggests. Also consider the colour of your fittings. “If the walls are warm and earthy, look at bronze or gold detailing,” she adds. “If the walls are colder colours, then black or pewter would be better suited.”

Outdoor lighting musts

Outdoor lights can be hardwired – for which you’ll need the services of a licensed sparkie – or solar-powered, which won’t impact your energy bill. “Solar lights and motion sensor lights are trending, partly linked to consumers seeking energy-saving solutions and hands-free products to adjust brightness and colouring,” says Jane. Finally, do consider your neighbours. Avoid overlighting your space – shadows can provide an engaging contrast – and have your lights on a timer so that they switch off in the evening at a reasonable hour.

Uplights inserted into grey, outdoor stairs, lights up staircase leading to house.

Ready to light up your outdoor entertaining areas?

For the full rundown on all things bright, visit our lighting and electrical advice page.


Photo Credit: Natalie Hunfalvy, Gap Photos

Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.