Shopping for String Lights

Outdoor string lights have surged in popularity, thanks to their ability to make a simple backyard or patio feel like a romantic outdoor cafe. And that makes them especially appealing during a summer of social distancing.

“Everybody loves the way they look,” said Jesse Terzi, the principal of New Eco Landscapes, a Brooklyn-based design firm that frequently uses string lights to cast a warm glow over outdoor spaces. “It makes for a different environment. When you have those lights on, compared to a single-source light, it feels a little more festive.”

It doesn’t hurt that most string lights are extremely affordable: Some barely cost more than a six-pack of craft beer. And if there’s an outdoor outlet available, installing them is a do-it-yourself project.

“It’s less of a process than installing most other lights,” said Mr. Terzi, who often attaches hooks for string lights to exterior walls or trees, or to steel poles secured to a fence.

That’s all it takes, he noted, to make it feel “like a party’s happening.”

  • How do you choose the right style? “The bulb matters a lot,” Mr. Terzi said, as it is usually exposed. “It’s about how vintage or modern you want it” — and whether you prefer incandescent bulbs or energy-saving LEDs.

  • Do string lights need a cable for support? Not necessarily, he said, but a steel cable or rope may give the setup a more polished, professional look.

  • How will you control them? You can simply plug string lights in when you need them, but for more convenience, consider adding a smart plug or timer. “A lot of people have them on timers,” Mr. Terzi said, “so it comes on at dusk and goes off at midnight.”

Rechargeable cordless outdoor lamp with silicone loop

$119 at Fatboy: 972.304.6020 or

Solar-charging string light with punched metal diffusers

$40 at Terrain: 877-583-7724 or

String light in 25-foot length with incandescent bulbs

About $18 on Amazon:

Commercial-style 48-foot LED string light

About $50 at Home Depot: 800-466-3337 or

Light string with 10 bulbs and brass, bronze or nickel sockets

$49 at West Elm: 888-922-4119 or

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