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When lighting up the outdoors, first consider your purpose. Outdoor dining areas have different lighting needs than areas for lounging and conversation. The right outdoor lighting helps you better enjoy and use your outdoor space, whatever its purpose.

Outdoor dining

Having an outdoor kitchen in summertime is optimal. Even a simple gas grill can go a long way in conserving the coolness of your home. No matter the scale of your outdoor cooking area, it needs task lighting. Recessed fixtures can be hidden in the beams of an overhead patio cover or pergola, or outdoor sconces can be mounted above the cooking surface for added safety and accuracy with food preparation.

Dining surfaces require less task lighting than cooking surfaces. Therefore, this light can be functional as well as decorative. For example, twinkling starlight pendants not only provide enough light to eat, but the glittery light they spray out of tiny holes adds a romantic feel to the dining experience. Or, hang string lights over your outdoor table like the roof of a tent – this will not only provide enough light to eat by, but also adds ambiance.

There’s never been a better chance that your get-together, and the food you present, will end up photographed and posted on the web. If you want those pictures to look great, lighting can help. Warmer colored light, that is light high in oranges, yellows and reds, makes food and people look natural. Cooler light, or blue-colored light, although great over outdoor kitchens for task lighting, can make people and food appear washed out.

Outdoor R and R

Like indoor lighting, exterior decks and patios are best lit in layers. For most of your exterior lighting, hiding the light source is best as it reduces glare and helps create a relaxed mood. Placing fixtures in landscaping, or overhead in trees or soffits will help conceal fixtures, cords, and wires. Post lights are concealed and decorative, and can even be made to cast patterns on the surface of your deck or patio – turning light to art.

A range of assorted products are available to meet all your outdoor needs. Rope lighting can be placed under railings, or along the edge of a wooden walkway or concrete path. Super flat rope lighting is so thin it’s practically invisible. Undercap lighting, a type of strip light, can be placed under the edge of a sitting wall or bench, or as stairway lighting when applied under the cap of each step.

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Installing hidden fixtures high over your outdoor area, or “moonlighting," will mimic soft, romantic moonlight even when the moon is nowhere in sight. Be sure to use LED lighting with anything high – it will reduce the number of times you need to climb a ladder, or hire someone with a lift, to replace bulbs.

Outdoor ceiling fans help maximize your R and R when the evening is a warm one. Before purchasing your outdoor fan, pay attention to its rating by Underwriters Laboratories. An outdoor fan that’s UL rated “damp” means the fan is well suited for moist locations where it won’t be directly exposed to water. A UL rating of “wet” means the fan will withstand direct exposure to water – snow, rain, ice, or even water squirted from a hose to clean it.

For those without clear purpose…

The answer to all of those without clear purpose is dimmers. Dimmers allow you to multipurpose, and offer forgiveness for changing your purpose. Dimmers can not only change the intensity of a light, but now they can change the color as well. When you’re cooking over the grill, use a dimmer to intensify the light and cool its color, but when it’s time to dine and relax, use the dimmer to lower the lights and warm the color.

No matter how you do it, you want to create a space that people linger in, that they are drawn to, and lighting can help. Lighting can and should be a weaving together of colors, wattage and fixtures to create an outdoor space that’s magical.

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