Terraces aren’t just for sunny days—long nights lounging outdoors are just as much fun!
For safety and practicality’s sake, it’s important to thoughtfully choose and install a beautiful, practical lighting scheme for your terrace so you can use it round the clock. Decide which areas of your outdoor space you’d like to illuminate and what you’ll be using each area for. Do you cook and dine al fresco often, or do you prefer using your terrace for a quiet cocktail or cigar after dinner? Do you use your terrace for entertaining larger groups or is it usually just you and a few others?
Different usage calls for different lighting; where a few string lights or recessed ground spotlights may be suitable for some, brighter or more creative lighting solutions may be needed for others.
Thankfully, outdoor furniture and décor have made huge leaps in the past decade, and there’s a wealth of stunning options for making your terrace shine bright at night.
If you want to savor dusk and starlight without any bright lights to distract you, small sconces, mini LED fairy lights and recessed ground spotlights are your best bets. Your terrace is your quiet evening respite, so you want gentle lighting to keep the mood laid-back. Tiny, delicate LED fairy lights hanging from beams or trailing along railings and pergolas offer charming pinpoints of light that won’t distract or jar the eye.
A pair of wall-mounted sconces near the door to your terrace will light your path outside while offering muted illumination with hooded or frosted glass touches and dimmer, less obtrusive bulbs.
Strategically-placed recessed ground spotlights can emphasize footpaths through your terrace and keep you from bumping into edges or corners without illuminating the entire space in a wash of light.
As an accent piece to go with the gentle scheme, consider a diffuse globe light set on a table or near a chair—these translucent options provide visual interest without over-brightening.
With these three understated lighting schemes, you’ll be able to safely navigate your terrace without overshadowing natural moonlight and ambient city light. All of these lighting solutions are also excellent for smaller terraces that aren’t well-served by bulky lamps.
If you enjoy dining outside in warmer months, you want a well-lit space for preparing and eating meals—cutting food in the dark is never a good idea. Make the table a focal point by lighting it from above with an attractive pendant light.
Tables placed under overhangs, sturdy umbrellas or pergolas can all handle various types of pendant lighting, whether you prefer a few smaller pendants or one large outdoor chandelier.
If you don’t have a pergola or strong structure to support a pendant, consider this ingenious solution from Vibia: called the “Halley,” this arched, sculptural beam of light passes over diners’ heads like the titular comet, giving any meal a magical feeling.
Grills and outdoor kitchens call for bright lights—cooking in the dark is a recipe for injury. For outdoor chefs, bright wall-mounted lighting or sturdy standing lamps near grills and outdoor kitchens keep everything safe and delicious. A bright flood light or globe-shaped wall sconce casts a broad beam, and many sturdy standing heat lamps cast bright light as well, making your outdoor kitchen usable year-round.
To add ambiance to your table, consider adding a few glass lanterns with battery-powered flameless candles—the flickering (and safely electric) candlelight creates an ambiance that lends itself to leisurely conversation and shared bottles of wine.
When you’re hosting a big group on your terrace, you want everyone to be happy AND safe. By using a mixture of lighting styles to illuminate each part of your terrace, you’ll be employing maximum light for maximum safety.
Shining a bright spotlight on a large object (like large tree or wall) is an easy trick to make your lighting scheme do double duty. Accent walls and large plants will shine brightly and sometimes reflect the spotlight, giving a warm glow to everything in their vicinity.
Lighting the borders, railings and corners of your space is a tactic that emphasized both beauty and function. Inset stair lights help your guests avoid twisted ankles and stubbed toes, and LED strips under railings and edges illuminate corners and draw attention to your terrace’s design.
Standing bollard lights politely show guests how to navigate through any greenery or landscaping you may have installed.
For extra style, you can even consider side tables and stools that light up!
If your terrace is your urban jungle, show off your lush greenery with lighting solutions that draw attention to leafy textures and jungle vibes. Vines of string bulbs, reed-like sculptural bollards and even glowing flowerpots take your oasis from day to night.
Delicate hanging fixtures play off of larger globe-style string bulbs to give your outdoor space a lush, bohemian look.
Chihuly-esque spike lights look like a new and mysterious plant in your garden, and look fantastic with softly illuminated pots and planters.
When choosing and placing outdoor lighting, durability and functionality are as important as style and flair. Safety is also a priority—terraces are usually well off the ground and exposed to the elements, so it’s important to stay safe.
Recessed ground spotlights are a great option for almost every terrace—these minimal, protected lights won’t swing on windy days, get caught in branches or greenery, fall over during storms, or rust. When selecting these ground-level lights, always pay attention to the protection class of the light—not every ground spotlight is made for outdoor use. Well-made ones will protect against dust and water.
Mounted wall sconces are also excellent choices to place near doors connecting outdoor space to the house or apartment interior; while more specific and stylized lighting is suitable for the body of most terraces, entrances and exits should be well-lit with prominent, permanent sconces to avoid slips and more, especially on damp days or during inclement weather. Wall sconces have come far in the past few years; there are a variety of gorgeous options availble from most retailers.
Large, standing bollard lights are sturdy, come in a variety of styles and are perfect for safely demarcating even, safe paths through your space. Safety is one of terrace owners’ biggest concerns—think of bollards as design-forward safety cones helping ensure neither you nor your guests take a step out of place.
We recommend all lighting fixtures be installed by a qualified professional; we’ve also found that working with a designer or landscape architect is a great way to make sure your evening terrace lighting scheme is usable, beautiful and long-lasting.
Please contact The Terrace Experts with any questions!