After Linda Gooding updated the landscaping at her North Decatur home, her landscaper suggested another project: add outdoor lighting.
On a referral, Gooding called Dave Parks at Lightscapes of Atlanta, a landscape lighting firm in Marietta. After a visit, Parks came up with an outdoor lighting plan for Gooding’s L-shaped house and yard.
The project included path lights around the patio and ground-level accent lights under some large trees. To create visual interest at night, a Japanese maple was lighted from the inside.
Before the outdoor lights were installed, Gooding’s yard and patio were dark and non-existent at night. Now, she can enjoy her back yard even when she is inside. Gooding also feels more secure since she can see outside.
“It is the best design thing I have ever done,” said Gooding,
Adding a few, well-placed path or accent lights can be a relatively easy and inexpensive update to your home.
But outdoor lighting can do more. It provides safety, security and a sense of beauty to your home and yard, said Parks. And it also allows you to take advantage of outdoor space after dark.
According to a 2013 survey of landscape trends by the American Society of Landscape Architects, outdoor lighting is becoming more popular.
Across all categories, 97 percent of respondents rated fire pits and fireplaces as somewhat or very in demand for 2013, followed by grills (96.3 percent), seating/dining areas (96.3 percent) and lighting (95.1 percent).
Whether you plan to do the job yourself or hire an outdoor lighting pro, consider these tips from Parks and the Dallas-based American Lighting Association (ALA), a trade group.
What’s the plan?
- Define priorities. “It is generally better to begin closest to the house since that is where most activities take place,” said Joe Rey-Barreau, education consultant for the ALA and an associate professor at the University of Kentucky’s School of Interior Design.
- Don’t over light. When laying out a project, keep in mind that a little light goes a long way outdoors. Consult a lighting designer or visit a lighting showroom for advice that can help you avoid making the common mistake of too many fixtures in one area.
- DIY. If you are installing a low-voltage lighting system, buy a transformer that is larger than you immediately need. That way you can start small and add fixtures as you go. This summer, you could start with illuminating the deck area and provide task lighting for grilling. Next year, you might want to add light to your entry or highlight a favorite tree in your front yard.
- Hire a pro? An experienced outdoor lighting designer or outdoor lighting company can customize your lighting system to your house and yard. Landscapers and contractors have added landscape lighting to their list of services. Often, the lighting is offered in packages.
Areas to light
- A well-lit front entrance enables you to greet guests and identify visitors. Wall lanterns on each side of the door give your home a warm, welcoming look. Under a porch or overhang, use recessed, chain-hung or close-to-the ceiling fixtures.
- Outside the garage, mount lanterns on each side or install a single fixture above to provide lighting for safety and security. To conserve energy, install a sensor that will switch on the light only at night or upon motion.
- Steps, paths and driveways should be illuminated for family members and guests to move around safely after dark. Low-level path lights, which spread circular patterns of light, will brighten your walkway while highlighting nearby flower beds. Low-level path lights also can used to define the boundaries of long driveways.
- Decks, porches and patios can be converted into evening retreats by concealing low-voltage mini-lights under steps, railing or benches.
- Pools and fountain lighting provides beauty and safety for evening entertaining and swimming. Low-voltage and LED lighting are popular sources for ambient pool lighting. Floating and solar-powered lights are also available.
- Grills and serving areas benefit from bright task lighting. Mount lights on a railing behind the grills or use a portable light fixture approved for outdoor use.
- Place fixtures to avoid seeing the actual bulb. With a good landscape lighting design, you should only see what is being lighted, not the light source.
- Most things look better from an angle, said Parks. “We light homes from about a 45-degree angle.” It looks more natural and creates shadows on walls, for example, that add depth and texture.
- If you have cylindrical items, such as specimen trees, fountains, urns or large vases, light them from one side on a 45-degree angle, said Parks.
- When possible, hide fixtures so that they are not noticeable during the daytime.
- The best time to install lighting is when you are landscaping your yard.
- Your landscape changes constantly. Down the road you will need to adjust your lighting as plants and trees mature or are added.
- Good-neighbor lighting. You can have safe and effective lighting without becoming a nuisance to your neighbors by controlling the direction and using the right amount of light. Don’t be a lighting trespasser.
- Natural, softer, ambient lighting is replacing glaring porch or spot lights
- Outdoor lighting options that resemble the style and sophistication of popular indoor fixtures, including chandeliers
- Improved LED technology in terms of fixtures, cost and color rendering