You’ve bought the patio furniture, accessorized your pergola and even added a small fire pit for late-night marshmallow roasting. But aside from some tiki torches and the security spotlight by your patio door, you’re in the dark about lighting your outdoor living space. Not to worry! The following tips will enlighten you—literally.
You’ve got to hide your light away
Since ambient brightness is low at night, visible light sources often can create glare that causes discomfort and reduces visibility, explains Will Lewis, IALD, MIES, LC, principal of Lewis Lighting Design and representative of the International Association of Lighting Design (www.iald.org). Because of this, Lewis says, “Concealed lights that illuminate surfaces are my favorite types of lighting to use outdoors. A soft glow on the patio from a light concealed in a stone wall or wooden post can go a long way toward setting the mood of a space.”
“When lighting an outdoor living space, you are trying to create an environment,” says Joe Zamore with LED Source (www.ledsource.com). To achieve this, Zamore recommends installing an LED light high in a tree, casting tree-branch silhouettes on the ground and providing enough general lighting for the area. “We might then add a layer of lighting that provides accents on foliage to create a visual boundary that gives the space some definition,” he adds.
Tom Nash, lighting specialist with Sea Gull Lighting Inc. (www.seagulllighting.com), offers the following ideas for illuminating your outdoor spaces:
• Light the way with subtle path lights for a safe yet soothing stroll.
• For outdoor kitchens, consider stylish, low-voltage fixtures to light the cooking areas. A flush-mount adapter allows you to plug in several varieties of fixtures and, when not in use, the lights can be unplugged and conveniently stored.
• Consider outfitting your deck with small lights that fit under handrails or steps, or lights that mount to posts or pillars, adding visual drama and an element of safety.
• Showcase gardens with area lights or well lights around shrubs to create artistic flair and add dimension.
• Capture the beauty of waterscapes with underwater lights that will keep you mesmerized long into the night.
LED is the way to be
Fixtures with the latest LED technology provide easy installation, require hardly any maintenance and are offered in a wide selection of colors and styles. They also consume the least amount of energy and can be left on for longer periods of time.
—LED Source, www.ledsource.com
Solar lights run on free sunshine, so they cost zero in electricity. They’re affordable, and because they involve no wires or plugs, they are easy to install. But before you get too excited, be sure to check the solar radiation map on the U.S. Department of Energy’s website (www.energysavers.gov/pdfs/130.pdf) to see if your home gets enough sun. If you live in an orange or yellow zone, you’re good to go.
—Marni Jameson, syndicated columnist and author of The House Always Wins and House of Havoc, www.marnijameson.com
feature the flame
“There’s no cooler lighting element than a roaring fire,” says Brian Powell, founder of Yardshare.com, a social-networking site for gardening and DIY outdoor enthusiasts. “Flames are as dramatic and as eye-catching as it gets.” Powell recommends a fire-pit centerpiece or cauldrons of fire along the perimeter of an outdoor-living area.
A pretty option for outdoor lighting—and a really cost-effective way of “lightscaping”—is to use strings of Chinese lanterns or “party lights.” Candles and torches can be used for interesting ambient lighting. However, [you should] add up the cost of candles and fuel for your torches over a summer [to see if] you might be wiser to invest in outdoor electric lighting.
—From “Outdoor Lighting: Creating the Perfect Landscape” by Tom Kraeutler for The Money Pit, www.moneypit.com