Garden lights: bright ideas for summer

Make your outdoor space more appealing by illuminating its best features

The advent of LED and solar-powered lighting has completely democratised garden design. Illumination using LED strips can underline all manner of architectural details.

But how do you know what works best in your garden?

Youghal-based Lucas LED sells a simple, off-the-shelf solution: waterproof strips, suitable for outdoor use, in a range of brightness options, from about €14.95 per linear metre. You can affix these using a clear silicone glue, or set them into an aluminium track in black, white, silver or gold options. This costs from about €16 per two-metre length.

A fancier way to light up your outdoor space is the use of multitasking furniture. Meridiano sells a seat that is also a side table and light source all rolled in to one. It comes in three colours and two sizes; 32cm high x 92cm wide (€1,779) and 64cm wide x 46cm high (€1,689) from French online shop Nedgis.

Rocky Wall of Wink uses light to inject personality into a scheme, however esoteric the association. In Dublin’s north docks, for instance, he has turned a bridge that will take trucks directly from the port to the tunnel into a tide clock. When finished it will glow brightly when the tide is full and will emit a weaker wattage when the tide is out. It’s a lovely way to reference the location. In Paris he implemented the same kind of creative thinking on another bridge, this time using it as a visual thermometer so that it emits cool-coloured lighting when the temperature drops and warmer colours as the mercury rises.

You can factor that same clever thinking into a garden lighting system, something he says you will spend most of your time looking out at it rather than being immersed in, as a result of inclement Irish weather.

In a Dunshaughlin garden he installed classic pendants by Bover, dimmable LED Nans Sphere PF80 (€910 each, excluding vat), over a dining space, but also added layers of surrounding light, to give further depth of field to the exterior. Spotlights amid the planting at bed level help bring the place to life.

He says portable lighting is a far easier way to add instant atmosphere. The rechargeable Quasar lamp by Petite Friture (€204), shown atop the beautifully royal blue Fromme table (€714) and matching garden chairs (€329 each), is one such example, and available through Dun Laoghaire-based Lost Weekend.

UK-based Iconic Lights, sells another. Its very sleek LED rechargeable touch lamp, Talance, cost about €50 each or €140 for a pack of three, and comes in either a silver or copper finish. It also sells Toka, a set of three colour-changing light balls, about €188, in ascending sizes, and warm white stars, about €38 each. At the affordable end of the market, Danish chain Sostrene Grene’s portable solar lamp (about €13.50) also spills out shadow light to create interesting pools of illumination, while Ikea’s LED Storhaga lanterns cost €55 each.

Festoon lights are charming and can be an affordable way to bring a garden to life after dark. Hang on a timber or steel frame above a beautifully dressed table for a large gathering and the effect still has wow factor, especially if it is surrounded by Eames plastic side chairs, supplied by Vitra. LED Lights Dublin sells a 15m long set of 15 Edison-style vintage bulb strings that are suitable for outdoor use for €109.99 excluding VAT.

Garden centre The Orchard sells a smaller string that is solar-powered, which you can wind around tree branches, a trellis or the edge of a porch. These extend to 3.8m and cost €27.95 per length. The same shop sells solar-powered lanterns, from about €17.95 each, and plug-in solar lights that illuminate the spokes of a parasol. The solar panel is affixed to the exterior of the parasol and charges once it is exposed to direct sunlight. A set costs €35.

Alanna Gallagher

Alanna Gallagher

Alanna Gallagher is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in property and interiors