Imagine a warm summer evening outdoors, your garden blooming around you, the sound of a waterfall in the background, and the scent of gardenia in the air. It’s an idyllic and almost perfect picture. But something is missing.
Can you guess?
Outdoor lighting! To truly enjoy your evenings outdoors, not just in summer but year-round, it would be nice to be able to *see* it. But lighting is for more than just seeing. Lighting can set the mood, create ambiance, highlight focal pieces and add a unique nocturnal beauty to your landscape.
There is a lot that you can do with landscape lighting beyond the merely functional. Here are some ideas to use outdoor lighting to create dazzling effects that will make you wish the sunrise would hold off just a little longer.
Functional Lighting: Walkways, Steps & Patios
Let’s start with the most familiar use of lighting – along hardscapes and walking surfaces. But just because it’s functional and familiar doesn’t mean it has to be boring.
Lights placed along the edges of your walkway, driveway and patio can take many forms, from simple enclosed floodlights, to elegant fixtures mounted on “arms”, low-profile strip lighting embedded in your mulch beds, or whimsical “mushroom” lights installed at intervals.
They can also take many colors! Choose a familiar white or golden glow, or add a splash of color like blue or red. There are plenty of color choices for landscape lights, and that includes color changing lights for a really bold effect.
Lighting serves as a visual cue to keep you safely on the path, can highlight hazards that you’ll want to avoid, and serves the role of evening guide, leading you along into whatever adventure awaits at the other end.
Underwater Lighting: Ponds, Waterfalls & Pools
If you have a pond or waterfall it would almost be a crime *not* to light it.
The sights and sounds of water have so many benefits, from blocking out unwanted sounds to creating a mood of serenity and harmony. Why wouldn’t you want to enjoy that for all it’s worth?
Adding lighting to your pond will allow you to appreciate it no matter the time of day, and in a completely different way. Watch the surface shimmer from below, see shadows play along the edges and on the sandy bottom, and appreciate koi and other critters (pardon our pun) in a whole new light. Moving water produces fascinating effects and lighting from beneath adds sparkle and depth to what would otherwise appear flat and dull.
Lighting in waterfalls will capture the movement and add a glittering, magical dimension. You can even choose whether to position lights under the water, along its edge, or both.
Lighting in pools serves a similar purpose to landscape lighting. There is a safety aspect, making your pool a center of evening enjoyment, and an aesthetic component. Much like landscape lighting, you can choose different styles of lighting, different colors and even color changing lights to create everything from ambient lighting to rippling, shimmering effects.
High Up Lighting: Strings, Hanging & Tree Lighting
Who says landscape lighting has to be on the ground? Hanging lighting can create truly unique and enchanting effects whether strung across patios, hanging low on tree branches, or placed high in the uppermost boughs throughout your yard.
Imagine tiny white lights criss-crossing whimsically above your patio; globe lights stung end-to-end around a cozy seating area; colored fairy lights dangling from trees; bold pendants handing from a pergola ceiling.
There are myriad styles of hanging lights, each creating a personalized effect, from elegant to rustic, adding warmth and personality to your space.
Tree lighting is yet another opportunity to set a mood and design a welcoming outdoor evening space. Lights placed strategically among tree branches can be designed to emulate moon lighting, casting a soothing glow that will do Mother Nature’s job on even the cloudiest night.
Lighting “high up” need not only be in trees. Fixtures placed under eaves, along the roof of a gazebo or pergola, or shining from the tops of walls and fences can cast a down-lit glow that highlights flower beds, doorways, seating areas or any other focal point you choose.
Consider not-so-high-up lighting, too – neither on the ground nor up above. Lighting can be installed at midway points such as under benches or outdoor kitchen countertops for added depth and spatial dimension.
Surface Lighting: Tabletops & Retaining Walls
You can be quite creative with surface lighting because it’s easy enough to change for a party theme or just according to your mood. Add clusters of candles to counters and tables, ensconced in unique or colorful containers. Place lanterns along retaining walls or even right on the patio itself to encircle your entertaining area.
Depending on the atmosphere you want to create, you can find lanterns that house either candles or LED lights, in myriad shapes and sizes, from squat, playful globes to tall, stately towers, and just about any size in between. Mix and match heights and styles for a unique visual appeal.
House Lighting: Spotlights, Shadows & Washes
Your house is filled with light on the inside, now it’s time to make the outside shine, too! Lighting can be placed near, on, or against your house for some of the most dramatic effects you can achieve.
The same way that you can place lights near the roofline of your house to create downlighting effects that highlight gardens and focal points, you can place spotlights at the base of your home’s exterior walls to create uplighting effects that highlight your house itself. This is a particularly effective technique for lighting the front of your home, making it visible from the street at night and adding extraordinary curb appeal.
Place lights strategically against walls, behind a uniquely shaped object like a sculpture, or a tree or shrub with interesting foliage. This placement will create an illuminated backdrop where mysterious shadows can dance.
Depending on your landscaping, you may be able to play with light and shadow at the same time, by placing a spotlight beneath a tall tree next to your house, for instance. The light will wash your house while the shadows created by tree branches will play out beautifully across its surface.
Extra Lighting Touches & Décor
With a little bit of imagination, landscape lighting can be placed just about anywhere. Consider installing individual mini-spotlights in planters on your porch, patio or deck.
Add lighting in front of special decorative pieces or artwork that you want to showcase. Take advantage of the other techniques we’ve discussed, like using light to create shadow, turning an art piece into something completely different by day and by night.
Even if you don’t have a pond or waterfall, you can take advantage of the dancing, playful, glittering effects of light on water by installing lighting within and around bubblers, fountains or other water features.
Landscape lighting holds so much potential for function and beauty. Why limit yourself to mundane installations or cookie-cutter kits when you can have something truly unique, enjoyable and creative, no matter the size, shape or style of your landscape? If you’d like to know more about how lighting can transform your outdoor space into a nighttime paradise, get in touch with us for a consultation. We’ll listen to your dreams, share our recommendations and together create a vision for how truly magical your space can be.