Adding DIY Landscape Lighting to Our Chicago Front Yard

The landscaping in our tiny urban front yard is filling in perfectly so it was time to add landscape lighting to make it pop in the evening. Here’s how we did it!

Last fall, we removed all of the grass in our front yard in favor of a more wild and natural yard that better serves our needs. We love the new look and all of the plants are absolutely thriving! However, things were looking a bit dim in the evening hours so, much like we recently did at our Michigan Tree House, we were ready to add some landscape lighting!

our newly lit front yard at dusk // via yellow brick home
philips Hue 3 light set

Why Philips Hue?

Across our properties, we’ve used multiple different landscape lighting options for different reasons. For this compact application, we went with the same Philips Hue setup that we used in our Michigan front yard. We love the build quality and adaptability of the Hue system. With one power block (included in this particular kit), up to 5 different lights can be added. More robust power blocks can power up to 10 (!) lights from a single plug assuming the voltage draw checks out.

philips hue lily spotlight // via yellow brick home

We’ve started with the 3 included Lily spot lights for now, but could easily add a couple of path lights down the road if we were so inclined. We love the plug-in Hue system for its adjustability, timer settings and color changing ability. It also integrates seamlessly with our other Hue products and otherwise robust smart-home system.

Why Not Solar?

‘But wait!’ You might be thinking… Weren’t you just extolling the virtues of solar lighting last week?. Yes. Yes, we were. Here’s the thing, though. We try to use the right tool for the job. In Michigan, the detached nature of the shed and fence required the use of solar lights to avoid hiding 50 yards of wires and paying an electrician to extend electrical service to our shed.

philips hue lily spotlights blend right into the black mulch of our landscaping // via yellow brick home
philips Hue 3 light set

Here in Chicago, we future-proofed our home for this exact setup when we refreshed our exterior last fall. At that time, we added an electrical plug under the porch with the intention to use it with landscape lighting and outdoor Christmas lights, so we’re excited to put it to good use!

Choosing the Right Option

In summary, solar is a great option if:

  • The area in which you’d like to add light doesn’t have electrical service
  • The product budget is limited
  • Control of exact on/off lighting times isn’t a top priority
  • App control or and the additional control options aren’t necessary or desirable

Hue or a similar plug-in smart lighting system might be a better choice if:

  • Controlling multiple lights at once is beneficial
  • You’d like to schedule lights to turn on and off at a specific time (or even randomly)
  • Controlling the lights from inside the house or from a different location completely adds value

All told, we’re happy with both systems. They simply perform different tasks. Hue is smart and infinitely flexible with both indoor and outdoor options. Solar is tied to the elements and lacks much of the control that Hue offers. In some applications, the extra expense is completely justifiable. Other times, not so much.


The installation of the Hue kit is almost entirely tool free. Seriously, it’s almost as easy as screwing in a handful of lightbulbs. The only tool actually required is a screwdriver or drill to mount the power block up off of the ground. We chose to hide ours in the rafter cavity underneath the front porch. After spray painting the black power cord white with paint we had laying around, it’s almost impossible to see from the street. The only other tool that might come in handy is a trowel or shovel if you need to bury cable in anything other than mulch or gravel.

the power block for the hue system was tucked into the joist cavities of our front porch. we spray painted the cord white to blend in with the painted foundation // via yellow brick home

All of the connections between the power block and the actual lights are simple threaded connections. No tools needed! Simple T-connectors are provided so each light can be safely added to the system. Additional extension cables and T-connectors can be added as necessary.

the hue kit comes together with simple t-connectors and twist lock cables // via yellow brick home

We used the included ground stakes for our application, but the kit also includes sturdy mounting bases that can be attached to almost any surface with the proper fasteners.

we used the included ground stakes to mount our hue lily spotlights // via yellow brick home

All of the cables were buried under the top layer of mulch and could easily be relocated if we ever decided to add or remove plants in the future. The whole installation process took about 1 hour!

we buried all of the cables under a thin layer of mulch to make them almost invisible // via yellow brick home

Adding to Our Hue App + Additional Features

Adding the Lily spot lights to our existing Hue system was as simple as tapping the ‘+’ sign and allowing the app to scan for new products. We like to add the lights one at a time so we’re not confused by which is which. Once the physical system was installed, we were fully up and running in the app in less than 5 minutes. It’s simple and intuitive. The app also offers automations, randomization options, sun up/sun down control and even color and brightness adjustment. It’s quite the fun toy to play with!

the philips hue app allows for easy addition and customization of products // via yellow brick home

We hope this was helpful in outlining even more differences between the different landscape lighting options available! Any pros or cons to each system that we might have missed? Have you installed a landscape lighting system of your own? How’s it working out for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

PS: We love lighting! Talking about it, installing it, and sharing our favorite finds.

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