Outdoor Lighting Overview - Part I
Concepts in Outdoor Lighting
Outdoor lighting can enhance both the beauty and the practicality of your outdoor spaces. It can guide visitors safely to your front door. It can turn the nighttime view of a backyard garden from invisible blackness to an attractive work of art.
On the practical side, outdoor lighting can mark pathways and highlight potential hazards such as steps, uneven pavement, and turns. And the same lighting that brings visitors to your doorstep can also discourage intruders.
Outdoor lighting also extends and displays the beauty of your home during the night. If the yard is dark, a look at the kitchen window reveals your own reflection. A well-lit yard can draw your view through the glass to what lies beyond. The lighting extends the space in which you live.
Well-placed lighting can throw a favorite tree into relief, showing you angles and shadows that are concealed in daylight. At the same time, this placement can conceal the features you might consider unsightly-an old shed or a doghouse.
The lighting can even draw attention to itself as something pleasing to look at in its own right.
Techniques in Outdoor Lighting
To plan lighting for your yard, first decide what you want to highlight. Imagine what you would like visitors to see first, what you would like to be visible as background, and what you might not care to show off at all. Seek to shed the most light-either through brightness or through number of lights-on the area you wish to draw most attention to. The pathway to your front door would be one obvious and practical choice.
You can help yourself visualize these plans with a scale drawing of the space you want to light. Include the location of the house, walkways, plants, and fences. Now consider how best to display the features you wish to show. Take into account not only where the light will fall, but where the shadows will be cast as well. Consider the pattern the lights themselves will make. Circles and curves with a few well-placed highlights can produce a pleasing effect. Picture yourself as a visitor approaching the area from different angles.
As you plan, remember to avoid light that will shine directly in the eye. Far from showing off your yard, such lighting will blind visitors to its beauty and put them in danger of stumbling as well! If you want the lighting to be bright, make sure it's shielded. And if you want it to be unshielded, make sure it's dim.
Finally, consider whether each light should be decorative or functional. Functional lights show off the beauty of what's around. Decorative lights draw the eye to themselves, adding to the beauty that is already there.