Whether its the deepest darkest month of winter, or a balmy summer evening, there’s one thing you can count on to completely change how you view and use your outdoor space: lighting!
Great landscape lighting not only makes your space more usable, offering you the opportunity to continue your favorite activities long after sunset, but it imparts an entirely different type of beauty into your space. Your favorite shrub, tree, or garden by the glow of some moonlighting placed in the treetops, or spotlights tucked below, is a wholly unique visual experience.
There are so many fun, beautiful, and interesting lighting techniques you can use to achieve different effects. Wouldn’t it be a shame to wreck your efforts with some completely avoidable mistakes?
Today we’re tackling a few of those mistakes so when you’re ready to plan your outdoor lighting experience, you’ll know exactly what not to do, so you can enjoy excellent lighting results.
Blinding Them With Light
Sometimes too much of a good thing is simply too much. In your enthusiasm to plan a beautifully lit space, be careful not to flood every square inch of your yard with light. We’re not trying to recreate daylight after all!
But even a tasteful amount of light can be blinding if it’s done incorrectly. Remember the “runway effect” we talked about in our previous post? (If not, better get over there and start reading!) Setting up a strip of spotlights or even stake lights can be fairly unpleasant to the eye. The regular pattern can be more dizzying than effective.
But when it comes to poor placement, the fixture most likely to be misused is the spotlight. Used wisely, spotlights can highlight a tree, shrub, or art piece, bathe the exterior of your home in a welcoming light, and create dramatic effects with shadow. But the spotlight itself should never be the centerpiece.
Be mindful when using spotlights to illuminate only the object of focus, and block the source of the light from the viewer’s eyes. And while you’re at it, be sure that you aren’t beautifully highlighting a tree but sending glaring beams of light into a bedroom or living room window.
Position lights so that they achieve their intended effect – and beware the unintended ones.
Telling Yourself You Don’t Really Need LEDs
Yes, LED lighting can come with a higher up-front cost than traditional halogens, but the long-term savings and benefits are too great to ignore. Traditional halogen bulbs last approximately 2,000 hours. Their LED counterparts live for 50,000 hours – and some as many as 100,000!
If you ran your lighting system for a mere 6 hours per day, you’re talking about replacing every halogen bulb at least once per year. By the same math, you could run your LEDs… well, probably for the rest of your life!
But that’s not all – from an energy perspective, they use a shocking 75% less energy than halogens, which is no joke when you start adding up the electric bills.
LEDs have some other perks, too, especially when it comes to design. They are available in a wide variety of brightness and directional options, can easily be controlled with smart devices, and come in an array of color choices, including color-changing styles.
Modern LEDs are far from the glaring, cold bulbs of the past. They can be every bit as warm, welcoming, comforting and charming as you want them to be.
Skipping The Plan
Lighting an outdoor space is much more than choosing fixtures, following a couple of best practices and calling it a day. Even if everything were to go right (and when was the last time THAT happened?) you might still be missing out on opportunities to create a truly unique and beautiful experience.
Having a plan will help you think through the possibilities, understand the space you’re working with, and integrate design with function in the most effective way for your unique needs.
Having a plan will ensure that you pay attention to – and account for – all the little nuances of your space that can derail your best efforts. For instance, you may have a particularly shielded area that needs more safety lighting than others. Or you may realize that your neighbor’s window is in just the wrong place for you to shine a spotlight on that one tree you love.
Having a plan means you can sketch out the spacing, the fixtures, and the effects you want to achieve.
It also means that you can plan forward, perhaps phasing in a bigger project, or thinking ahead to when your trees go through a growth spurt or your gardens fill in.
Planning first means you’ll know what to expect and how to get the result you want. Nothing is worse than spending money and time on a project only to realize it didn’t work out the way you imagined.
Could you plan and install your own lighting system? Sure. You could probably also tile your own bathroom, finish your own hardwood floors, and install your own kitchen cabinets. After all, a trip to the local big box store will turn up plenty of supplies!
But there are masons and contractors and designers for a reason. There is knowledge and creativity that comes with studying and practicing a craft, whether it’s painting the walls or choosing a lighting fixture.
A professional landscape lighting designer will know how to plan your project, how to select the right materials, how to create gorgeous effects, and of course, how not to make disastrous and disappointing mistakes.
If you’re thinking of installing or upgrading your outdoor lighting, book a consultation with us and let’s talk. We’ll work with you to plan a space that works for your lifestyle, one that you’ll enjoy throughout all four seasons, and one that might even make the neighbors a teeny bit jealous.