My husband and I are planning an open house/housewarming party for the end of the month. We want to celebrate finishing our renovation and, more importantly, finally settling down in a home with no construction. It’s been 4 years of power tools, contractors, renovation dust, loud noises, half-finished projects and incredible stress. We thought this moment deserved more than a little celebration…so we’re planning a BIG party! Which leads me to today’s post – how to nail the backyard twinkle lights look.
We were talking the other night about how everything was going to be set up, specifically how we’re going to handle the acoustics, flow and ambiance for our expected 100 guests. We only ever got to lighting before our conversation stalled. As it turns out, planning a twinkle lighting (or globe lighting, as some people call them) is more complicated than we realized. After discussing it (endlessly…) for the past two days, I have a few tips to share for anyone considering hanging backyard twinkle lights.
There are a few different styles, or layouts, you can consider for hanging your twinkle lights. I’ve covered some of the more popular ones below…
Back and Forth
By far, the most popular way to hang twinkle lights is the back and forth pattern. This starts with one strand plugged in at a corner and then strung across a space, in a zig-zag pattern, multiple times. Each strand is plugged into the one before it for a seamless look all the way down.
- Pros: You only need one outlet to make this look happen. You also don’t have to space each ‘turn’ at the same distance, part of the charm of this look is how the lights gather (which doesn’t need to be perfect). Also, if you’re illuminating a small or narrow space, you don’t need to go back and forth many times, as it will illuminate your yard/patio from above very well.
- Cons: You need multiple places to make each turn all the way down your space. As most fences aren’t high enough you will either have to install tall rods from which to hang the lights, or use other things at your disposal (a detached garage, a tree, a neighboring house, etc.)
- Best for: Large spaces that need a lot of light – long narrow areas – over tables.
Another layout to consider is the X pattern. This look simply takes two strands and crosses them in the middle forming an X shape from above.
- Pros: You only need two strands of lights. You also only need four points from which to hang them, making the installation much simpler. This is a good layout if you’re space is more square than narrow, or if you’re not looking for an abundance of light from above (like if you’re doing it over a fire pit or tables with lanterns/candles on them). Also, it illuminates the center a bit more than the edges, creating a nice focal point.
- Cons: It doesn’t produce as much light as multiple strands going back and forth, so if your space is large, you’ll need a secondary lighting source. Also, you will need two outlets (one in each corner) in order to make this work (or a really long extension cord!)
- Best For: Large areas – square spaces – good as a secondary lighting source.
The fan pattern gathers all of the lights on one side of the space, but connects them to multiple points on the other side, creating a fan shape.
- Pros: This look works if you only have one higher point from which to hang the lights on one side of your yard/patio. You can also plug in all of the lights from this one point. Also, like the back and forth pattern, it illuminates an area very well.
- Cons: Each strand will need to be a different length in order to make it work, as they do not connect to one another on the opposite side (unless they are fanning out from a central point.)
- Best For: Large areas – spaces that need a lot of light – awkwardly shaped areas – lighting over yards, pools, patios, etc.
The upper border layout simply creates a border around your gathering area that is above head height. Personally, I recommend this look for smaller spaces rather than larger ones.
- Pros: It’s relatively easy to envision and install assuming (like the X pattern) that you have 4 points from which to hang the lights. You also only need one outlet in one corner. Additionally, it creates an intimate, ‘enclosed’ space ideal for small gatherings.
- Cons: It produces less light because the main area being illuminated has no lights directly above it. You also need 4 points from which to connect the lights that are 7′ or taller.
- Best For: Small areas – intimate spaces (such as a dining table or fire pit)
This is the only layout that does not need to be above head height. It creates a border at chair rail height which is perfect for porches or small seating areas.
- Pros: Super easy to install in that you can simply attach it to a fence or side of your house (no poles necessary!) Also, since it’s continuous, you only need one outlet. Another bonus of this look is that it can be combined with any of the other patterns listed above for additional lighting a table height.
- Cons: It will not fully illuminate your space as it isn’t overhead. You also need a fence or railing to go around most of the space so you have something to attach the lights to.
- Best For: Small spaces – patios with a railing – fenced backyards – along the side of a house – good secondary lighting source.
There are other layouts to consider, like stringing all of the lights in a single, overhead tree or randomly throughout a porch or back yard. I’ve also seen them strung low to the ground to illuminate a walkway and it looks lovely. No matter what layout you consider, your backyard twinkle lights will make a cheerful statement and really add to the ambiance of your space.
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