by Patrice Peterson
Warm evenings around the fire pit. Star gazing from the dock. Breezy nights near the lake. Embracing summer often includes the pleasure of outdoor nighttime activities.
As an increasing number of home and lakeshore owners follow the national trend of expanding and transforming their landscaping and outdoor living spaces, they are also seeking new and innovative ways to keep them lit up after dark.
A well thought-out and successful landscape plan can help create those desired spaces on almost any property. Adding the perfect mix of lighting to the plans can further enhance your satisfaction of the outdoors experience. Landscape plans can be incomplete until you’ve added lighting.
It’s more than functionality. It’s more than safety. It’s even more than beauty. The right kind of lighting can be functional, safe and attractive, but can also set a “mood” by turning a comfortable outdoor space into a stunning display of design and color.
“Sometimes it’s easy to ignore the lighting aspect when developing an outdoor area, but lighting is a significant element in a successful landscape design,” says Peter Boyle, founder of Boyle Landscape Architects in Fargo. “Even minor additions or changes in outdoor lighting can make a huge impact.”
New Uses for Standard Technology
One minor change Boyle mentioned came to him after many nights of being “blinded” by porch lights turned on following a fun evening of roasting marshmallows by the campfire. He now regularly suggests that customers add dimmer switches to control the brightness of porch lights. “When you want them to be blinding, you can,” he explains. “But when expecting guests or sending them home, you can dial it down. It’s a new outdoor usage for technology that’s been around for years.”
Light Years Ahead
Whether simple or complex, it’s important to figure out what kind of difference outdoor lighting can make and what kind of impact it can provide to the atmosphere of your outdoor living spaces. “We’ve come a long way from Pagoda lights,” Peter adds.
Solid advancements in LED technology and computerized smart-house systems make the future of lighting look even brighter for design versatility in outdoor living.
Trendsetting Light Bulbs
One reason that landscape lighting has become so trendy is the popularity of LEDs (light-emitting diodes that produce light from electricity). Compared to incandescent light bulbs, LEDs last a long time, do not break easily, and are ecologically friendly since most of the energy creates light, not heat. Although the upfront expense can be higher, they are a good fit for outdoor applications because of their high efficiency, longer lifespan, and lower maintenance. Their reliability has continued to improve over the years, and they are now available in a broad array of colors, shapes and sizes that can fit into any landscape lighting plan. It’s easy to see why LEDs are “all the rage” as outdoor areas are enhanced and illuminated.
LEDs also fit easily into the growing trend of computerized and programmable “smart house” technologies, or “intelligent” lighting systems. We are only beginning to see the direction and potential of these systems as more options become available and they are fully integrated to the point that the controls are hardly seen. All the lights still need to be wired, but with a transformer connection, there’s a module that communicates with a smartphone or tablet through an app. They can be programmed for both the inside of the house, along with the landscaping, and homeowners can control everything with the touch of a button. Even better news: It’s now possible for programmable remote systems to be added to existing systems.
Lighting from Down Under
Take underlighting to new places. Think under-cabinet lighting, but think about taking it to the outdoors:
– Under the deck
– Under deck benches
– Under deck steps
Or you could integrate it into an outdoor kitchen, where a fully developed lighting design should always be considered, but is often overlooked. (It’s not good to wait until you go to cook some dark night and realize there isn’t enough light.)
Add Drama on the Water
From a purely functional standpoint, a well-lit dock and boat lift area is important for coming and going on watercraft at night. By truly illuminating that area with LED lights, you can extend your sense of space out to the water all night long. Some great ideas to dramatize a shoreline area include:
– Installing high-powered LEDs
underneath the entire length of
– Placing colored LED lights inside the
– Creating a water wonderland with
colored, submergible lights
Lighting in Style
A functional light at the front door? A spotlight at the end of the dock? Outdoor lighting covers a broad range of options, but whatever lighting needs you are currently contemplating, be sure to consider the value it can add to your outdoor areas. Landscape lighting is a trend in itself as more homeowners see the way it can impact their homes, their landscaping, and their lifestyle. ~L&H