Lighting The Outdoor Patio Eating Area


Summary: Lighting a patio for outdoor eating can make for a very pleasing nightime effect, the light should originate from overhead and be soft and flattering, free from objectionable glare and bright spots. Read more…

Question: During the summer months we want to have some outdoor dinners with friends and family. What is the best way to light the patio but not have electrical cords spread out all over the patio. JoAnne, Wayne, NJ

Answer: JoAnne, no meals are quite so tasty or partylike as those served outdoors on a balmy summer evening, on the patio. But to savor fully the pleasure of such meals, you must provide adequate light to eat by.

For the most pleasing effect possible, the light should originate from overhead and be soft and flattering, free from objectionable glare and bright spots. Here, too, the use of spill light and reflected light can provide most of the necessary background area lighting.

More light, however, is needed on the table itself (10 to 20 foot-candles). There are many satisfactory ways of accomplishing this.

If the table is to be under or near a roof or overhang, try using overhead floodlights in the same manner as described for general terrace lighting. These should be at least 5 feet or more above the table in housings to eliminate glare.

Lightweight “bubble” units, are a pleasant method of lighting the table for evening refreshments. Hang these overhead from a porch ceiling, overhang, large tree branch, or guy wire.

Two units containing bulbs of 40 to 6o watts will light most rectangular tables, while one larger unit containing a 100-watt bulb is better for round or square tables.

These bubble units also can be purchased with their wires on an adjustable reel pulley for raising or lowering to any convenient height, thus varying the amount of light provided.

If your table is equipped with a large umbrella sunshade, it can be converted easily into a pleasant source of indirect canopy lighting by the simple method of an upturned reflector bulb or specially designed decorative lamp to the umbrella pole.

The effect will vary with the size of lamp used and with the reflectance and color of the underside of the umbrella.

It works best when the fabric is white or at least light in color, and gives a very pleasant effect when used with amber or yellow bulbs or with a translucent type of plastic shield.