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How to Use Outdoor Cafe String Lights in Your Backyard

As summer comes to St. Louis, it’s time to put your attention on outdoor relaxing and entertaining. As you freshen up the deck, set up the outdoor kitchen, or create the perfect outdoor oasis to stay cool, think about the way lighting can make it even better. One of the most popular outdoor lighting choices is outdoor cafe string lights. Let’s take a look at what they are and how you can use them in your backyard.

What are cafe-style string lights?  

They’re different than twinkle lights.

Cafe-style string lights are a type of string lights that are associated with Parisian cafés and cute little bistros. Maybe that’s why they’re also called bistro lights. They have larger bulbs than holiday-style string lights (also called twinkle lights). Usually, the bulbs are Edison-style, and generally spaced about one foot apart. 

They have Edison-style light bulbs.

Edison-style light bulbs are reproductions, designed to look like the bulbs that Thomas Edison first introduced. They used to be incandescent bulbs with visible filaments. However, with cafe string lights, you’ve got better options than incandescent bulbs. 

They can be colored and programmable. 

New, outdoor cafe-style lights are adjustable. You can set them to different brightness levels and different colors. And they can also be programmed, using an app on your smartphone, to brighten or dim or change to different colors. 

They’re fun, cozy, and elegant.

Bistro lights offer a unique ambiance that other lights sometimes can’t provide. There’s a great association of fun nights out listening to music, cozy cafes, and elegant conversations tucked away with a bottle of wine. With the programming options, you can choose which vibe you want and adjust the lights perfectly. 

They’re great for special events. 

You’ll see all sorts of string lights used for special events from weddings to parties to corporate gatherings. And it’s easy to understand why: they’re versatile, adjustable, and beautiful. Plus, since you can hang them from a variety of supports, it’s easy for event planners to create the perfect lighting design with both traditional, smaller string lights and cafe-style bistro lighting. 

There’s no reason why event planners should have all the fun with bistro lighting. They’re affordable options for small cafes and restaurants, at-home outdoor dining spaces, and entertaining areas in your own backyard. Let’s take a look at some great ideas. 

Patio string light ideas for your backyard

While we’ve been focused on cafe string lights, or bistro lights, you can use these ideas for traditional string lights as well. Take advantage of the flexibility of string lights by hanging them in different patterns to suit the mood or setting. Their versatility allows for a lot of cool options, you just need to use some imagination. Go crazy! 

  1. Set up a bar cart and hang string lights over it.
  2. Wind string lights around deck railing.
  3. Attach string lights between trees to create an “outdoor ceiling.”
  4. Highlight the most magnificent tree with landscape uplighting and string lights wound around the trunk and/or branches. 
  5. Set up a small table set in a corner and hang bistro lights over it for a little café getaway anytime. 
  6. Hang bistro lights from corner to corner under the porch ceiling. 
  7. Tack string lights in a zig zag pattern on the side of the shed or garage. 
  8. Hang string lights near the pool and enjoy their reflection in the water.
  9. Let string lights droop gracefully under the eaves of a pergola.
  10. Have poles installed around your fire pit area to support string lights. 
  11. Put string lights along the top rail of a fence. 
  12. Highlight part of your garden with string lights for evening strolls. 
  13. Wind string lights over and around a trellis. 
  14. Create a “V” shape with bistro lights for large area coverage. 
  15. Set up an outdoor play area and designate the perimeter with hanging string lights. 

Important tips for backyard string lights

We work with cafe-style string lights often, for restaurant outdoor dining areas and for residential outdoor living spaces and entertaining areas. Here are a few important things to keep in mind.

Providing support for string lights

All types of string lights need support. For outdoor string lights, make sure that the support you choose is sturdy and you can provide enough tension to keep the string lights from drooping. 

  • Nearby structures: your house, garage, pool house, garden shed. Be sure that the structure itself is sturdy and choose a good mounting point that won’t be pulled away or broken by the pull of the string lights.
  • Trees: we use special mounting hardware that allows us to use trees as support points for string lights without causing damage to the trees or preventing future growth. 
  • Support poles: there are lots of times when a structure or tree just isn’t where you need it to be for support. When that’s the case, we measure for custom support poles, which we install on-site to provide durable support points right where they’re needed.

Thinking in patterns for string lights

One of the most recognizable patterns for cafe-style string lights is a zig zag. It’s a great choice to use across a corner, maximizing the area of coverage and providing visual interest. 

Look at the area you want to illuminate and think about what would work best:

  • Hang bistro lights over the entire area. 
  • Outline the area with string lights along the perimeter.
  • Create a grid of lights over the entire area or part of it.
  • Use an X pattern or zig zag pattern. 
  • Hang a couple of lines from the highest point down to the railing. 

Remember that you can start with just a line or two of bistro lighting and add more later. In that case, you might want to start with one corner. Then, when you’re ready to expand, fill in the other corners. Or you could do a simple X of lights across the area, then add more later to create a lattice of lighting overhead. Magical. 

Looking for help with your backyard lighting? We’re the go-to outdoor lighting pros for homeowners and business owners in the St. Louis area. Get in touch today for a free consultation. Let’s get your backyard lit up for summer!

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