Where to start when you are wanting to illuminate your home / property

First and Foremost to Illuminate your Home, Always Start With A Good Landscape Lighting Design Plan:

When you want to illuminate your home and you are in the market for an outdoor lighting system, always start by consulting your landscape architect and/or landscape lighting design firm.  Have in mind what you intend to use each space for and at what times.  Some questions that might help you to prepare for your meeting with your lighting professional are…Do you like to entertain and need good lighting on pathways, patios and decks/docks? Do the kids want to play soccer on the lawn after dusk? Or do you simply want to enjoy a beautiful view as you drive up to your home each evening?  Do you like your lights to stay on all night or do you only want certain areas to be turned off? By answering these questions you will be better prepared for your meeting and create a direction for the lighting design professional to follow to help give you exactly what you are looking for.

Below are a few tips for helping you get started with your landscape lighting design plan.

Layout considerations:

In addition to thinking about how you plan to use the space, there are design considerations as well. Lights can help you safely travel down a pathway, but they can also provide a gorgeous view and allow you to enjoy your landscaping even after dark. The design elements of your layout are every bit as important as the function of your layout. When you are thinking about your space keep in mind:

  • Views from Indoors – Sit in your most popular/favorite places in your home and make sure that the design is integrating the lighting with the landscape.  You want to make sure that the lighting plan is capturing a beautiful scene from every window so that you are not only enjoying the system outside but inside as well.
  • Focal Points – Choose one or two elements in each area that you would like to draw attention to. River Birch trees, with their reddish-brown, flaky bark and light green foliage, make a great focal point when lit from below. Also water features, statues and other ornamental objects can often times create a great lighting focal point.
  • Sense of Depth – Think of your home or property as a layered cake.  Each layer will give you more and more depth and richness.  But just like a cake if you add too many layers you can over do it ruining the entire project. By placing some lights along pathways, some on the house, and some within landscaped beds help to provide a feeling of depth in the landscape.
  • Ambient vs. Spot Lighting – Ambient lighting creates a peaceful atmosphere by gently lighting an entire area, while spotlighting draws strong attention to a particular feature. By using both broad and focused beams within the landscape you can create an atmosphere that gives you that perfect nighttime scene.

Lighting strategies:

There are three main ways you can aim lights to get a particular result in the landscape.

  • Down Lighting creates diffuse, gentle light by aiming lights downward, usually from a tree.  It helps to give you that feeling of a full moon each and every night.
  • Up Lighting is all about the drama of bold shadows and strong effects. By aiming the lights upwards into a tree or onto an architectural feature, you emphasize the contrast of dark shadows with bright light.
  • Cross Lighting is when you eliminate shadows by lighting a focal point from both sides. Large features like rock outcrops and boulders look incredible when crosslit.

Most common areas to light:

  • Pathways are important both for safety and for beauty, but they are not always needed if the pathway is right along the side of the house. Many professionals will suggest that you mix directional path lights with ambient lighting within the landscaped bed for a more natural look.
  • Patios are where most of us spend our time outdoors with family and friends.  Moon lighting with diffusion lenses are a great way to provide a soft moonlit effect without blinding you while you are enjoying your time outdoors.
  • Large Trees are an ideal candidate for up lighting and/or cross lighting. When picking out which tree to up light look for trees that have unique features that will really stand out at night.  You can also create down lighting effects by placing lights within tree branches and aiming them downwards at a patio or garden bed.
  • Water Features are great focal points as well when designing your lighting system. By placing underwater lights in water features the rippling effect of the water gives you a “motion” ambiance that is being reflected off of the moving water.
  • Architectural Elements on the home can also be lit to great effect. Pillars, stacked stone, or other architectural features can make a big statement when illuminating your home.
  • Driveways usually do not need a lot of lights (runway effect), as most people using a driveway will have their headlights on. But you can beautify the journey to the home by lighting the landscape nearby or using a low lying fixture like ClaroLux’s SWL1-III.

Special effects with lighting:

As you can see there are numerous ways to play with light and shadows to create special effects in the landscape. Whether it is filtering the light downwards through the canopy of a large tree to get a lacy shadow effect on the patio or aiming lights to create shadows from palm trees or fireplaces onto the rippling surface of a water feature. The effects you create will depend entirely on your own landscape and architecture.  These are just a few areas where you can better prepare yourself for your meeting with your lighting design professional.