At first glance this post might seem like a regular DIY backyard makeover. Yes, you will learn how to create an amazing DIY outdoor string lights project. But you are in store for much more. This really is more of a Cinderella story! Transforming my backyard turned out to be huge life lesson for me, and it proves once again that attitude is everything.
This post is sponsored but contains our honest views and opinions.
Why This Project is a Great Solution for Outdoor String Lights
Outdoor string lights are a fun & festive way to add ambiance and of course LIGHT to any outdoor space. The challenges of hanging lights outside are 1) where/how to hang them and 2) how to get electricity to your lights. This project solves both problems…beautifully. We had seen plenty of solutions and easy DIY projects, but we really wanted our solution to add beauty! Also, we had seen solutions using cement but not only were they not beautiful, they would be really heavy to move around our backyard. Finally, this solution uses solar outdoor string lights, completely solving the electricity challenge.
For more outdoor decor and entertaining ideas be sure to read our 12 Easy Inexpensive Tips for Outdoor Entertaining and How to Create a Fresh Budget-Friendly Outdoor Oasis.
The story of my backyard makeover….and how striving for perfection made me miss the beauty that was there all along!
When we bought our home 9 years ago the house had been completely remodeled and we felt like we were moving into our dream home. Everything was shiny and new and perfect. Everything, that is, except the backyard. The backyard had been left undone and was little more than a fenced in area with a few trees and a lot of dirt. We weren’t really upset by this. We had remodeled our last house and had planned and planted our own backyard so we looked forward to being able to do the same to this space. Little did we know that my husband would lose his job 6 months later, and we would be dealing with financial struggles that would prevent that from happening.
Next, flash forward 9 years. Our backyard is still dirt. We still haven’t had the finances to make any changes. Our boys play in the front yard when they want to kick their soccer ball around or play with the dogs. We have a beautiful home and are so grateful for the space we have….but we pretty much live inside year round. This is significant especially since we live in California climate where outside living is possible 3/4 of the year!
Oh, the plans we had! Big plans! We wanted to create pathways, different patios, a deck and a covered pergola. We wanted to landscape with tropical plants and create a lush oasis including a fountain….in fact, they were such high hopes and such grand expectations that we became stuck. Without the finances for our grand project we became paralyzed to do anything. We couldn’t envision any compromise and were lost in self pity.
What Changed…My Attitude!
I spent 9 years looking outside at the dirt and feeling sad. All I saw was what wasn’t there….I was looking at the situation with a “glass half empty” perspective instead of a “glass half full” one. That was all that needed to change!
I finally realized that I could apply the same determination and DIY ingenuity that I had on the interior of my home to my exterior spaces! The same can-do spirit, determination and creativity which had transformed the interior of my house could be used for our back yard! Inside I had taken much of what I already owned and applied my creativity. With projects like my drop cloth curtains, painting my walls and chalk painting old furniture I had breathed new life into my home. All was achieved with hard work on a minimal budget. Thinking about my inside success I asked myself, why can’t I do this to my backyard?
Project “Backyard Makeover” Begins
First, I located some outdoor furniture that my neighbor had gifted me last year that was still sitting piled up in our garage. I brought it out and placed it on our little stone patio where our outside table had been. Next came a wicker trunk that we weren’t really using inside to serve as a make-shift coffee table. Again searching through my storage I found some faux plants…..and all of a sudden it started to look like a destination. I began to imagine that this space could actually be a place we could enjoy. Yes, it was still in the middle of a dirt yard…..but I started to see past the dirt to what was possible. And I was getting excited!!!
I had seen pictures of outside lights hung to create beautiful magical settings, and I got an idea. Actually it was Julie’s idea. Here’s what I did:
DIY Barrel Planters with Posts to Hang Outdoor String Lights
- 4 strands of Moonrays Solar Powered LED Globe String Lights
- 4 Barrel planters or similar container
- A variety of plants to fill planters
- 4 1″ x 1″ square posts (if you can find round ones you like those would be great too)
- Nuts and bolts to fit and secure
- 4 1.5″ plumbing pipes about 10″ long
- 4 base fittings for the plumbing pipes
- Small plywood scraps to secure to the bottom (to add strength)
- 4 hooks to hang the lights from and wrap the extra wire around
- Planting soil
Watch my video to see how we secured the outdoor string lights poles into the planters….
Add Your Outdoor String Lights
- Secure your hooks on the top of the posts with screws (use and electric screw driver if available.)
- We linked two 15′ light strands together using green floral wire to extend the length of the distance between the posts.
- Attach the lights to one side leaving just enough wire to attach the solar panel to the top of the post. Wrap the extra wire around the hook.
- Place post into the plumbing pipe to stand it up in the planter barrel.
- String lights across the area and attach the other end in the same way.
Choose Your Outdoor String Lights
Researching outdoor string lights we quickly realized solar was the way to go. Our criteria were:
- fun style
- good quality/durable
- reasonably priced
- respected brand
At last, we found Moonrays brand solar globe lights and knew we were done looking.
- Moonrays has a great reputation (probably why they are carried by most major stores).
- They are very reasonably priced.
- The globe lights are plastic which makes them safer and more durable than glass.
- The cute style has a nostalgic feel but blends easily with any style.
- Solar means inexpensive, environmentally friendly, easy to install, and can be hung anywhere! You just put the solar “catcher” in the sun nearby.
Moonrays solar globe lights meet or exceed all of our criteria. Consequently, it was an easy choice and one we are very pleased with. In addition to this product which was the perfect choice for our project, they have a large variety of string lights that suit different styles and purposes. They also have an incredible array of products to beautify your outdoor spaces, from solar walkway lighting, to garden accents, to lanterns and so much more. Quality, durability and style are their hallmark. When you see them in the stores you can know you are purchasing a great product.
Add Outdoor Lanterns
So I had the furniture set up, and the lights created a type of visual frame for my patio. The final step was adding the all-important details. I had pillows, but the 2 key elements I added to complete the picture were lanterns and plants. I mentioned I added a few faux plants I had in storage. Next I added a few real plants in fun basket planters. These really helped add to the tropical feel.
Finally, I added a whole bunch of lanterns. These lanterns also came from Moonrays. I ordered 2 kinds…large mission style black lanterns. They are Moonray’s faux flickering flameless candles that are plastic (designed for the outdoors so they don’t melt in heat.) I filled each lantern with a trio of two different size candles. They look great during the day and add to the lighting and ambiance at night. It’s a win/win! Shop the exact products we used below.
I also chose 2 darling smaller vintage white-washed lanterns that are solar powered. You don’t have to add candles to them. The glass is tinted, so at night the whole lantern just glows. They are the perfect finishing touch to my new backyard oasis. Day and night my family is enjoying this space and incredibly grateful.
Some lessons are hard to learn
Wow! It had been 9 years…..and our backyard had been a source of sadness to me. I would look out the window and see the dirt and think of the dreams we had that were still out of reach. I would think of what couldn’t be. And I would turn away. My only coping strategy was to try not to think about it. I would try to focus on what I did have, but that was always limited to inside.
Finally, my project was complete, and I was tired. It was at the end of a long day of solid work carrying dirt and planting flowers….and I sat down on my hand-me-down furniture in my backyard for the first time…
And I looked around…
There were flowers, there were outdoor string lights, there were bright colored pillows. As I sat down I realized I didn’t even SEE the dirt anymore. What I saw was a beautiful canopy of trees. I felt the soft breeze and enjoyed the wind blowing through the palms around us. The only sounds were the birds and the breeze through the trees. The space around me was so comforting….it was so private and cozy. I was surrounded by trees and by and old fence but with enough space to feel actually….spoiled.
In the end it’s hard to believe it took me 9 years to stop feeling sorry for myself and just enjoy what I had. I was so consumed with wanting it to be perfect that I missed out on all those years of just appreciating the beauty that was there the whole time.