Landscape Lighting 101: Planning Outdoor Lighting, Even If You’re Not A Pro
As a homeowner, you work hard to make the inside of your home reflect your own unique style and personality. Why stop there! Designing and decorating the outside of your home, even for night time, offers unique opportunities to show off your own style and personality.
A landscape lighting system can highlight the most unique elements of your home’s architecture, all while adding valuable curb appeal, security and even safety. But, form follows function. Take a minute to read through this list of things to think through before you jump head first into selecting fixtures.
Know what you’re looking for in a design.
How Will You Use Your Outdoor Space?
Before choosing any outdoor lighting designs, consider how you will be using your outdoor space. Do you only want security and safety lighting for your front walkway and entrance? Or do you intend to light up your back porch to BBQ diner and entertain family and friends? Some neglected areas are the front steps, driveway, patio or porch, backyard, pool, unique architectural elements. The lighting design you choose will reflect the way you plan to use your space, so be sure you’ve considered all the ways you’ll use your outdoor spaces at night before making a final decision.
Determine Lighting Style
Deciding on the needs of each area of your home helps streamline the decisions on what kind of lighting and lighting fixtures to use. You may want task lighting over the bar-be-que for instance. Maybe you want to brighten up the darkest parts of your yard for security, then strategic flood lights or uplighting of trees might be effective. If you want to illuminate a unique architectural feature on your home, you’ll want to use accent lighting such as spotlights. And you’re not limited to one style. If you want light to help bar-be-que, that same lighting doesn’t have to light up your dining area.
Let one style and brightness compliment another. This is where smart technology and creating zones for your outdoor lighting comes in!
Creating Zones With Landscape Lighting Maximizes Versatility
With LED technology, landscape lighting is available in a variety of colours, beam spread, and intensity. Zones signify a particular focus or intended use, each zone complimenting and blending into another. Smart technology allows you to control individual fixtures with your phone or tablet. You can have multiple electrical lines go to one transformer, allowing for individual control of each line or “zone.”
There’s never been more options for style and versatility.
Each zone is grouped on a single line from the transformer. Each zone then can be controlled independently depending on any number of factors. For instance, you’ll want lights used for security to come on at dusk and turn off at dawn – set it and forget it. Smart technology can automate that independent of the lights on your patio or pool for instance.
Need lights for special events or just while you’re outside on patio, set those to automatically turn of at 11PM. Create a timed light show to music if you want.
How To Determine The Best Zones For Your Outdoor Lighting
You might create zones based on the proximity of the fixtures to one another or a particular feature (a fence line, a building, a feature in the yard), or based on their function (security, pool, cooking). If creating zones based on function for example, you might want to create a design where you can leave your security lighting on all night long, but be able to shut off your garden lighting before you go to bed.
Draw a rough diagram of your yard and make note of any features you want to highlight at night such as a fountain, pond, statue, etc. Those individual items you want to light up at night will need their own electrical lines if you wish to control them separate from other zones. Identify which parts of the yard require specific kinds of lighting. Pathway lighting for safety. Downlights in the tree for entertaining. Uplights along the foundation to highlight the house façade. Spotlights for the garage for security. This allows you to conserve energy and only use the lights you want when you need them.
But where do you start when designing zones and choosing fixtures?
Basic Design Principles To Enhance Custom Landscape Lighting
Usually the home is the focal point of the landscape lighting design, but other areas of focus can be included. A good design will tie these separate elements together to establish a cohesive appearance.
Be sure to avoid a flattening effect by only adding outdoor lighting to the front of your home. Instead, create a three-dimensional viewing experience by adding depth and contrast.
Maximize your home’s nighttime potential! Many builders install minimal lighting so the effect is utilitarian rather than aesthetic. Instead, highlight the architectural features and landscaping to create a unique-to-you effect day and night!
Strategically placed landscape lighting aimed at the shadows in your yard can increase the security of your home. Don’t forget pathways, driveways, walks and stairs that also need adequate lighting to provide safety for guests and family. If you have a pool or some other feature that poses a safety risk, proper lighting is a must!
Never accept a light fixture that’s only functional, search for the fixture that’s functional, looks great, and provides just the right kind of light. Many of these fixtures can pull double duty and provide light for multiple purposes to maximize your investment.
Types of Outdoor Lighting in Oakville
In order to better understand your outdoor lighting design needs, consider the following outdoor lighting classifications:
Decorative Lighting: this will add to the overall value of your home by illuminating areas of your yard where you can socialize with family and friends. Our tiki lamps provide a nice downlighting effect and enhance the mood around the pool or near the BBQ.
Landscape lighting: if your garden is the envy of your neighbourhood, why not show off all of the interesting features that make your yard beautiful with a little lighting? Try our mini wash light for garden areas or our above ground well light for trees or fountains.
Security lighting: Use lights that illuminate a large area to discourage trespassers. Sensors or timers are also effective. Decide where there are “risk zones” in your yard. Pick areas that need to be lit up for safety reasons, such as steps, around the pool, dark zones, and other areas where guests may be in danger of tripping. This has the benefit of adding security from trespassers.
Think of the Effect of Your Landscape Lighting in Oakville
Rather than just considering what the fixture looks like, you should be thinking of what the desired effect is. What are you trying to achieve? Common techniques are grazing, silhouetting, spot lighting, moonlight effect, and cross lighting.
Consider factors such as the height of the feature highlighted, the type of feature (hardscape like fire pits, walls, and ovens, or natural landscaping), the colour of the feature, and the sort of texture. Texture can do a lot to enhance the effect of the lighting by creating shadows.
Consider the greener options to help out the environment, and your bank account. LED lights may be more expensive at the initial purchase, but will save you in the long run – especially with the many lights needed for landscape lighting in Oakville.
Hire a Pro
The best way to get landscape lighting in the Oakville area to fit your needs is to hire a professional. Seasoned experts can tell you exactly what fixtures will provide what effect, and how to enhance the usefulness of your yard, as well as the safety, security, and curb appeal of your home. The warranty is another huge benefit.
Don’t wait to enhance the night time beauty of your home. Contact Nite Time Décor Oakville for your complimentary quote today.
Outdoor Landscape Lighting Tips For Your Best Pathway
We want our homes to be welcoming places for our family and friends, even before they enter through the front door. Whether getting out of their cars or walking up your street, you can make your home look friendly and inviting with attractive outdoor lighting for your home, pathways and walkways.
But don’t settle for the ho-hum out-of-the-box look everyone else is using. Outdoor lighting is a great way to highlight the character and design of your home. From your front walk, the path to the pool, or the sidewalk to the back deck, all of these areas can come alive at night with effective use of pathway lighting.
Path lighting doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but you should consider a few things before you buy.
Tips For Pathway Lighting
When choosing what type of lighting best suits your needs, form should follow function as designers say. What do you need the pathway lighting to do? Are you lighting a path for aesthetic reasons or is there a safety element involved as well? Are there gardens along the path that could add diverse tones or shadows?
Glow Not Glare
You want to highlight the unique details of a stone path or the walkway garden you’ve spent so much time on, not blind your guests. Pathway lighting should provide subtle light to help people navigate the walkway easily. The walk to your back deck is not a crime scene so don’t light it like one.
Tip: Select fixtures that direct light at your feet not in your eyes. This might mean a cover, shield, or other decorative device that directs the light to the ground.
There are a wide variety of lights available on the market from whimsical to minimal to historic. Whatever you prefer, try to keep the same theme with style and materials throughout.
Avoid Row Upon Row
You don’t need to direct guests down a runway, so don’t light your pathways like one. Instead of placing your lighting row on row making sure each fixture is precisely the same distance from all the others in a straight line, why not mix it up? By alternating sides, you can guide guests down the path in a subtle way that lets you highlight the landscape elements you’re proud of. Use natural curves or angles as a guide of where to place pathway lighting instead a rigid design.
Tip: If straight lines fit the style of your home go with that, but don’t be afraid to hide a light in a bush or ornamental grass next to the path. Light the path from the side here and there. Mix it up.
Tip: Space fixtures as much as 10 to 15 ft apart, depending on the length of your pathway, to guide people instead of direct. Place a bollard, pillard or other type of light that’s brighter than the pathway lighting to provide a focal point.
Mix It Up
Mixing up the styles of lighting, three kinds of stake lights on a single pathway, is not wise, however mixing up the height of the pathway lighting is a great way to highlight details. There are three main types of pathway lighting: downlighting (stake lights are an example – the light is pointed down), recessed or paver lights (the light is mounted in the walkway or recessed on the edge of a pathway or other fixture), and pillars, bollards, or something similar. Use a low light to highlight your favourite ground cover plants.
Tip: Set lights slightly back from the edge to highlight plants along the walkway.
Tip: Adjust the height of the light in relation to the plants surrounding them. The light should be slightly taller than the plant.
Professional or DIY?
There can be a significant price difference between a professionally installed outdoor lighting system and one done DIY – with good reason. You’re not just paying for the better fixtures, wiring, timers, etc. but you’re also paying for the expertise of the professional designer and installer.
Purchasing a DIY lighting system, whether solar or electric will often be less expensive than hiring a landscape lighting professional – no question. But the lighting kits often aren’t as hearty as what the pro’s would use, leaving you in the dark after a season. The cheaper the kit, the less reliable the lighting will be.
The great thing about hiring a professional outdoor lighting specialist is that they bring top-quality fixtures, wiring, timers – everything you’ll need plus they’ll install the system. There’s no willy-nilly placement. A pro will create ambiance and mood and make the most of your home and gardens. They know all the products available and have an eye for perfect placement, not only to make it look beautiful, but safe.
How much maintenance?
Depending on how many fixtures you have, maintenance on a professionally installed outdoor lighting system could be minimal from replacing burnt-out bulbs to removing debris and leaves or trimming back bushes to keep your lights from over-heating. Replacing individual fixtures or the whole system will depend on the level of warranty your fixtures have and the quality you’re looking for. Cheaper ones made of plastic could last a couple of seasons, whereas high quality brass fixtures could last for decades.
Professional landscape lighting companies will often have maintenance packages so you don’t have to spend your weekends cleaning your fixtures.
If you’re thinking of going DIY with your outdoor landscape lighting for your pathways, here are some of the most common design faux-pas we see.
This is one of the most common DIY path lighting mistakes – assuming that it’s all about symmetry. Placing lights parallel to each other on either side of a path creates an unattractive landing strip effect. Not only does this lack subtlety, but it will cast shadows and leave dark spots that can be disorienting.
The Hollywood Premiere
With this outdoor lighting mistake, we’re never sure if there’s a movie premiere, a car dealership or someone signalling to extraterrestrials. Using lights that are too bright or beams that are improperly focused can cause unwanted light pollution for you and your neighbours, which is especially hazardous when the glare affects safe navigation of pathways.
Most outdoor lighting kits from your local hardware store are designed to catch your eye with a slick design and finish, and the actual quality of lighting and fixture construction is secondary. Also, kit lighting isn’t engineered to take into account custom power requirements or runs of various lengths, which means you will find yourself constantly replacing bulbs and fixtures.
With these kinds of path lights, you definitely get what you pay for. For some people, they aren’t able or don’t want to invest in quality outdoor lighting and are happy to replace what they have every year or two. Ultimately, the point is to draw attention to attractive lighting and not necessarily attractive fixtures.
Watch Your Step
Even if a DIY-er accomplishes an effective pathway lighting setup, we often see major safety issues when it comes to step lighting. Whether it’s at the front door or the deck area, steps are sometimes left in pools of shadow in between lights – or worse – they’re not lit at all. Improperly lit steps in a nighttime lighting design is worse than no outdoor lighting at all, since a person’s eyes become accustomed to a certain amount of illumination which makes unlit steps seem even less visible.
Set It and Forget It
We assume that the culprits of this mistake never have their chimney cleaned or their furnace serviced either. A lack of maintenance of your Oakville outdoor lighting will start to show in the number of burnt-out bulbs or in power lines that come to the surface of the soil or mulch. Plants and shrubs that border the pathway may grow over a fixture to the point that you forget it’s there.
All of this creates further hazards at night, and decreases the value of whatever investment you made in your system.
We love to hear our clients’ DIY design ideas and translate those into a lighting system that makes a home look spectacular at night. A professionally-designed system doesn’t have to break the bank to get the results that you want, and the added services available to keep your system humming will ensure that you will enjoy it for years to come.
We want your home to shine from the street – day and night! Why not chat with our expert team at Nite Time Décor Oakville for a professional evaluation of your home and yard. We’ll take care of the details to ensure everything is done right the first time, and you can sit back as the compliments from neighbours and guests pour in!