14 lighting picks to brighten up your outdoor space

By Emily Myers | June 29, 2020 - 12:30PM 

A good string light mimics overhead lighting without a harsh, spotlight effect.


If you’re lucky enough to have outdoor space in New York City, chances are you are using it a lot more as a result of the pandemic, especially now that it's summer, and you may be wondering how to make it a little more enticing. Lighting is one way you can transform a small balcony or patio area into an oasis. 

"The best way to light an outdoor balcony, large or small, is by layering," says Nancy Mayerfield, owner of NM Design House. Using different types of lighting products will add more dimension and create different focal points. While this is more complicated in a small space, Mayerfield says it is still achievable.

Brick Underground rounded up some of the top lighting picks that can help make your outdoor space the place of calm, joy, or escape that you need.

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Pottery Barn

Globe string lights, $16-$79

A good string light provides a soft lighting option that avoids blinding spotlights in your eyes and gives you a sense of overhead lighting, Mayerfield says. She's a fan of these globe lights from Pottery Barn, which come in various length options, depending on the size of your outdoor space. 

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Sunthin via Amazon

Sunthin 48-foot LED Outdoor String Lights, $45

String lights certainly bring something festive to your outdoor space—and these Edison-style lights are vintage and atmospheric. They are also weatherproof and shatterproof so are perfect for all seasons. Jing Xue, co-founder of DecorMatters, recommends these as a durable option. They are also dimmable. 

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Gardener's Supply 

Plug-in fairy lights cascade, $60

If you're following along with the current home decor trends, fairy string lights are your go-to, Xue says. Hanging these fairy lights from your balcony or patio ceiling will add a dreamy feeling to the atmosphere. Your tiny space might even blow up on social media.

Copper solar string light, $38

For a string of lights that's decorative both day and night, Jennifer Jean Morris, owner of JMorris Design, recommends these copper or silver solar lights inspired by the bazaars of Morocco. They sparkle all day and give off a patterned glow at dusk. They charge up in direct sunlight and shine for up to 12 hours with no outlet needed.  

Bonbori outdoor table lamp, price on request

Once you've installed your string lights, adding a table lantern will give you the light layering effect, if there's space for it. Mayerfield recommends the Bonbori outdoor table lamp inspired by the traditional paper lamps that line the paths to shrines and temples in Japan during annual harvest festivals. 

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IKEA Solvinden LED solar-powered lantern, $18

For something more affordable, IKEA has lots of outdoor lighting options and plenty are also solar-powered, which is good for your wallet and the environment. Jing Xue, co-founder of DecorMatters recommends this mesh lamp.  It's reasonably priced, gives a warm glow and can be placed on the floor or table or suspended as a pendant.

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LED beach lantern, $199

Another option for layering is this table lamp which looks like a lantern. This easy-to-carry indoor/outdoor light from Lightology has an elegant nautical design. It includes a built-in rechargeable battery that delivers 55 hours of soft, warm light on a single charge.  

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West Elm

Flickering flameless pillar candle, $30

Sold individually, these indoor/outdoor candles come in five different sizes and give off a warm light. Battery operated, they have a five hour timer function and a dancing flame that casts a convincing faux candle glow. They'd work on the table or floor. 

Uma sound LED table lamp, $479

You want to avoid really bright overhead lighting because it can attract insects, says Jason Agee, owner of Jason Agee Design. He points out that thanks to new technology, you can have a portable, warm outdoor LED lamp anytime of year with speakers, surround sound, and no cords. He's a fan of the Uma sound table lamp, available at YLighting.

Skaal garden light, $300

If you're looking for indirect light, Agee recommends the Skaal garden light. Made of durable teak they are good around a backyard or along walkways. 

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Hammacher Schlemmer

All Weather Solar Garden Lantern, $40

Made of durable Tyvek, these 12-inch solar-powered lanterns can be left outside rain or shine. The LED light casts a gentle glow in an intricate pattern through the lanterns cut-out details. You can easily hang them on a patio railing or ceiling hook. A slightly more expensive version of the Mediterranean lantern is available over at Food52

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Fora outdoor floor lamp, $2,520

Depending on the size of your space, a floor lantern will give you extra out of the way lighting if it is slim and tall, Mayerfield says. She likes the Fora outdoor floor lamp with its woven shade, which gives a subtle diffused glow and a warm ambience. 

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Outsunny Lamp Stool, $102

If limited space means you need your furniture to be multi-functional, Morris recommends these ottomans that double as lights. They are festive and add fun, color and a party glow. They are also waterproof and cordless, light up for eight to12 hours on full charge and hold a weight of 285 pounds. 

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Christmas Central

Colored Sugared Ice Pop Outdoor Patio String Lights, $20

In the concrete jungle it is great to have some color. Mayerfield says adding a colorful table and chairs in an easy way to add what may be missing. We think it's hard to resist these popsicle shaped lights for summer nights from Christmas Central.


Emily Myers

Senior Writer/Podcast Producer

Emily Myers is a senior writer, podcast host, and producer at Brick Underground. She studied journalism at the University of the Arts, London, and graduated with a MA Honors degree in English Literature from the University of Edinburgh. As host of the Brick Underground podcast she has earned three awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.