A Stylish Patio Lighting Alternative

Have you ever driven by a cafe or restaurant with patio dining and gazed at the tables of patrons conversing and eating into the evening? Have you ever wondered how to re-create the ambiance of a cafe patio in your own backyard?

Let’s face it: most patio lights are small, found near your back door, and provide little in the way of atmosphere for outdoor dining. Of course, there are plenty of citronella candles, heat lamps, and lanterns that you can use when eating outdoors in the evening. But I want to offer one more idea to elevate a simple strand of string lights and add extra lighting to your next dinner party al fresco, all the while channeling the style of an Italian trattoria.

I became inspired by this idea for alternative patio lighting after visiting friends last fall for a barbecue. They had taken a market umbrella [which fits into the hole in the middle of an outdoor dining table] and strung some large, round, clear outdoor lights through the rungs on the underside of the umbrella. Then, with the aid of an outdoor-safe extension cord and an outdoor electrical outlet, they had an easy lighting solution for the dining area.

The great thing about this idea is that it goes with any color scheme, because market umbrellas come in a variety of colors and patterns. Most of us probably already have one in our backyard. I happened to get one of my backyard umbrellas at a garage sale for under $10.

Also, the outdoor string lights are very affordable [under $10 at home improvement stores]. I found that a single box is enough to do the trick, but with a larger eating area and multiple umbrellas, more strands may be needed.

You can also use a string of outdoor lights with a canopy or trellis. Moreover, themed-lights abound in the marketplace – here, I am thinking of those red-hot chili pepper lights – so there are endless options for creativity.

I liked the simplicity and great light provided by the clear lights, but use whatever compliments your backyard or patio décor. When you’re done for the evening, just close the umbrella and carefully tuck the lights inside. You can leave the lights on the umbrella, rain or shine. Just remember to unplug the outdoor extension cord and store it safely away for your next party.