OUTDOOR LIGHTING TIPS

Outdoor lighting does more than provide extra safety and security. Used well, it can extend the space in which you live, blending inside and outside into a unified whole. During the day, you can't choose which parts of the outdoors get lit. The sun falls where it will. But at night, you become the artist, choosing which parts of your yard should get the most attention.

In the Zone

Divide the area you want to light into zones-foreground, middle, and background. These zones will have different intensities of light. The brightest zone should be the background, drawing the eye through the space so that the area seems unified and whole. The middle ground should have the weakest light. You don't want it to disappear or seem empty. But you don't want the eye to stop there either. That leaves medium intensity light for the foreground.

Differentiating the intensity of light will help the viewer distinguish the various spaces within the space, will add depth to what might otherwise seem two-dimensional, and provide boundaries for what might otherwise seem borderless.

Using Your Techniques

To downlight an area, you need to have somewhere to mount the fixture. Perhaps a tree, a wall, or the eaves will provide the place. Choose a beam pattern that will accentuate what you're lighting. A broad area should have soft light, but a single bush or statue may benefit from more focused beams.

If you are planning to uplight a tree, make sure its branches are not too dense. You want the light to be able to go up through the tree, not merely around the outside. Position two or more lights near the base of the tree pointing up.

Less dense trees can also benefit from shadowing if they are near a fence or tall wall. Place a spotlight directed at the fence or wall with the tree in between. The branches and leaves will cast well-defined shadows that move with the breeze.

Less dense trees can also benefit from shadowing if they are near a fence or tall wall. Place a spotlight directed at the fence or wall with the tree in between. The branches and leaves will cast well-defined shadows that move with the breeze.

If the tree is very dense, consider silhouetting it instead. A bright light positioned behind the tree (or any other object) can give it a halo that emphasizes its outline.

For path lighting, use fixtures that have a cap on top to shield the walker from glare. The pagoda-style, while popular, is not optimal for this purpose. Put the fixtures in a flower bed if possible, rather than on the lawn. That will give you less to mow around. Remember to choose these lights for daytime decoration as well. They're meant to be seen even when the sun is out.

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