Holiday Lights: Unique Outdoor Decorating Ideas

While it’s easy to buy a few boxes of lights and frame your porch or drape them over your shrubs, why not -- ahem -- branch out and try these clever decorating ideas with exterior lights? We rounded up our favorite outdoor home décor ideas for the holidays.

Look Up

Get creative with where you hang your holiday lights. Have a garden trellis? Let the bare stems of your climbing plants take center stage for another season by weaving strings of outdoor LEDs through the branches and trellis. Also consider welcoming carolers with a festive garden arch decorated with strings of snowflakes or stars.
Best lights:
Traditional cone-shaped or round C7 or C9 holiday lights rated for outdoor use.

Take New Forms
Usually, once fall comes, sculptures and tuteurs (those teepee-style climbing plant supports) are packed away. Keep them out through the holidays and wrap them in lighted poinsettias or snowflakes. Your garden or pathway will bloom again!
Best lights:
Mini holiday lights rated for outdoor use.


Photo: Pottery Barn

Create a Canopy

This idea is perfect for warmer climates because you can host a holiday party outdoors under the twinkling strings. If you have an arbor, wrap the beams in star lights. Hang a few larger stars too. No arbor? Get the same effect by attaching lights under your home’s soffit, then run the strands to a tree or a support made from fencing or lattice. Anchor the support to a sturdy base or sink them in planter boxes filled with sand or gravel.
Best lights:
Traditional cone-shaped or round C7 or C9 holiday lights rated for outdoor use.

Bring the Vignettes Outside
Let your imagination soar: Hang a lighted Santa and his eight tiny reindeer on your clothesline or string a toy train light set from bare branches. Anything that’s flat is perfect because the straight lines give the illusion of movement through the sky.
Best lights:
Lightweight novelty characters or sculpted lights designed for outdoors.


Photo: Plow and Hearth

Decorate the Pool

If you’re going to entertain outdoors, the pool is the perfect place for floating solar lights. You can even put some around the deck. Even if it’s too cold to entertain outside, if you can see the bobbing lights from indoors it will tie the two spaces together.
Best lights:
Solar waterproof lights designed for pools.

Perfect Your Pathways

Don’t want to electrify? Go natural with votive luminaria to line your driveway and path to the front door. Fill paper bags -- either brown sandwich bags or decorative bags with cutouts -- a quarter full with sandbox sand or kitty litter. Place a votive in and light it. If you prefer no mess, use battery-operated candles that can be recharged during the day.
Best lights:
Either candles or rechargeable versions.


Photo: Pottery Barn

Remember to Stay Safe

No matter what you do with your outdoor home décor for the holidays, always use waterproof or water-resistant lights with an underwriters lab (UL) tag. Always use lights and extension cords rated for outdoor use.

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Main Photo: Corbis Images