All Season Outdoor Lighting


One of Southern California’s best assets is the weather, allowing homeowners to enjoy many months of outdoor living.  Add an outdoor fire pit, and you can have smores nearly all year long.  While lighting is an essential necessity inside, it is an added benefit outside to increase the ambience of your outdoor space.

Having mood lighting installed is often an expensive endeavor, especially if you have a large area to cover;  but you can select a small social area and create your own lighting, if only around a small fire pit with some comfortable seating.

If you have an established patio area with covering, you are nine-tenths of the way there already.  All you need is a little mood lighting to finish the space.  A pergola can be fitted with a simple string of clear lights.   If set on a dimmer, they are especially useful for different activities; board games require more light than enjoying a glass of wine on a summer’s eve.  

Add some pendant lighting above a table, and you can add additional light and opportunities for capturing the right mood.  The example I have here is one that you can make on your own with a little skill and some caution while handling the sharp edges of the pressed metal.

Sheets of pressed metal can be easily obtained at your local home center, and you will find a variety of patterns from which to choose.  Again, I caution you to wear gloves when you are handling at these sheets as they are extremely sharp and cut like a knife with unless your hands are protected.

It is best to have a professional install an exterior socket unless you are experienced in working with electricity.  Once the electrical box is in place, it is fairly simple for a homeowner to purchase a pendant kit from the home center and hang them from the roof or ceiling of your pergola.

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Creating a metal shade requires cutting the metal sheets with an angle grinder or similar tool.  A rigid, 90-degree edge is necessary for the shade.  We created a shade using a piece of one-eighth inch thick, right-angle aluminum stock as a bending edge and anchoring it on the edge of a workbench with clamps. to form a sharp angle for the edges of the shade.  Then we gently hammered the material into a right angle bend.  Next, we determined the size of the shade.  We used three different sizes for aesthetic reasons.  Once you have formed three of the bends, we brought the two remaining edges together and clamped them.  We applied epoxy glue to  hold the edges together.  For the top where the socket goes, we used the metal frame from an off-the-shelf paper lantern from IKEA.  We discarded the paper part of the lantern and simply epoxied the metal shade to the lamp frame.  We used one-hour epoxy, and the shades have been in service outside for more than a year, with no problems.

Hanging or pendant lighting can be an asset outside in many places.  Think of highlighting an area under a tree--which might require some clever electrical work, and add a bench for seating.   A lantern overhead in an arched trellis at an entry to a garden would be particularly inviting to guests arriving or leaving your home.

All you need to do is take a walk around your property and see where you could imagine having a special seating area and add some light.