We’ve been waiting for this moment since November. But where do you start creating a space outside that is comfy and fun to use as your home inside? First decide how you’ll use the space: dining vs. cocktails, a fire pit vs. a café? Dive into MadisonLighitng.com, Pinterest, and Houzz for inspiration. Soon all the pieces will begin to fit. Here’s a start.

  1. Develop a “floor plan” for the outside of your home. It’s so often an afterthought. Make it useful, interesting, fun. Use your outdoor rooms the way you use your indoor rooms and you’ll be living outside all summer long.
  2. Start with the backdrop. Make sure the house paint looks nice, and that you’ve hosed the spider webs off the brick. Get the trim right. Could changing the color for your front door or shutters change everything?
  3. Scale is really important. Better to go up in size than too small when you’re designing spaces outside. When you are looking at lighting and furniture remember that.
  4. Multi-functional lighting helps friends find your door, discourages intruders because there is no place to hide. So when you incorporate lighting think about how it can/will work for you on summer evenings, and also long winter nights when it’s terribly dark out there.
  5. Pick a starting point: the front door? A fabulous walkway along the house to get to the door? Your screen porch? Your patio and door you pass through to get there?
  6. Connect spaces outside just like you do inside: from the back door to the patio, the patio to the lawn. From the front door to the walkways, to garage lighting, to the driveway. Lighting connects your spaces visually and makes a huge difference.
  7. Mix types of lighting to make it inviting- you’re not landing a plane here; you’re welcoming people to your door, or encouraging your family to spend time in outdoor living spaces. Gentle lighting mixes with utilitarian lighting.
  8. On the topic of avoiding the airport runway look on your walkway: When it comes to selecting light bulbs for outdoor fixtures sometimes less is more. You need far less light outdoors to make a visual statement than you do indoors, so consider dropping down a wattage or two particularly at the front door.
  9. Don’t create an irritating “glare bomb” to welcome your guests.
  10. Add lighting just outside a window and feature a lovely small tree, a planter, or sculpture, blurring the lines from indoors to outdoors.
  11. Embrace smaller pools of light out there, away from the house. Stringing a few together creates a destination and also helps to enclose the yard a space you want to be. Think bocce!
  12. Make it personal. Is that your favorite apple tree? Use up-lights to make it the crowning glory of your garden in the evening.