Outdoor Lighting Design Guide

Outdoor Lighting Design Guide

Tackling an outdoor lighting project can be intimidating. From what kind of lights to buy, to what features to highlight, to where everything should go – there’s a lot to consider! If you’re not sure where to start with your outdoor lighting project, we’ve got you covered. In our Outdoor Lighting Design Guide, we’ll go over:

  • – Different kinds of outdoor lighting
  • – Placement of lighting features
  • – Ways to illuminate your home and yard
  • – Other helpful tips and tricks

With our team of experienced lighting professionals, Livewire is here to ensure your home and yard look incredible, day or night.

Types of Outdoor Lighting

To properly tackle any landscape lighting project, it’s important to have the right tools for the job. Different types of outdoor lighting have different benefits and uses, and it’s important to consider each of them when choosing the best lighting option.

Post Lighting

Post lights are a great way to accent the pathway to your home. They provide a more ambient setting than powerful floodlights and can give your home a nice aesthetic. Tall posts are great for lighting significant stretches of space that get lost in the dark, like driveways or long paths. Shorter posts, also called path lighting, work well for small alcoves and walkways.

Livewire Tip: When using several post lights to illuminate a path, measure the diameter the light encompasses around the post. This will help you plan the layout of your lighting path and decide how many posts you need. Consider placing the fixtures on either side of the path, working back and forth to create an effective and inviting entry.

Well or Inground Lighting

Well lights, or inground lights, are circular fixtures installed directly into the ground. This means the lighting effect is what stands out as opposed to the fixture itself. They are best used to light up a strong presence in your yard; think trees, garden walls, or the sides of your home. Mix well lights with spotlights to create a dramatic atmosphere, if and when you can blend them.

Floodlights and Spotlights

For when you need to bring out the big guns. Floodlights and spotlights are typically used to highlight visual interests in the yard, like statues or trees. The different between the two comes down to the beam spread.

Spotlights are more concentrated and used to draw attention to specific details. Normally around 45 degrees wide, they’re excellent for highlighting specific display points and are easy to adjust. Floodlights have a much wider beam spread, up to 120 degrees. They’re better suited to highlight general areas like a driveway or backyard, providing higher visibility and safety.

Livewire Tip: Make sure your light illuminates what you need it to. It’s important to know the beam width in feet so you can plan accordingly. A lighting expert can provide more details on what lights are best suited for the job.

Spotlight

Deck Lights

Used to help navigate dark stairs and accent architectural details, deck lights are installed directly into a yard’s hardscape or decking. They’re great for use in spaces where you’d be entertaining guests and can also be used for washing light down stone walls.

Location, Location, Location

You might be tempted to light up your entire yard for high visibility, but doing so can be very expensive and ultimately washes out the space. It’s important to be strategic in what you choose to illuminate. The right blend functionality and aesthetic can create a welcoming environment for your family and guests.

Path Lighting

Make your landscape easier to navigate with path lighting! Particularly for obstacles such as stairs or inclines, highlighting paths can make your space safer for you and your guests. We recommend staggering the lights to illuminate entire paths, giving your walkways an element that’s almost romantic.

Deck and Patio Lighting

We love our decks and patios; relaxing outdoors with friends and family long into the evening. It’s important to keep areas you’ll spend a lot of time entertaining or with guests well-lit. Strategic placement can help define the area in a comfortable manner. It also makes the space easier to  maneuver around in, and bathes the space with a nice ambiance.

Deck Lighting

Garden Lights

Lighting up gardens creates an appealing atmosphere and enhances the beauty of the plants and surrounding yard. This allows you to spend more time in nature and enjoy your glowing garden at any time. As an additional practical benefit, LED lights can stimulate plant growth.

Hardscape Lighting

A hardscape refers to the non-living elements that go into landscape design. Retaining walls, rocks, wooden arbors, and fences are all examples of hardscapes found on many properties. Make these features come alive at night and add a dimension that is unnoticeable during the day.

Yard Lights

Proper lighting in your front and back yards have a variety of benefits. Not only does it help your home look inviting to welcome guests, but the increased visibility helps deter any potential intruders. Well-placed lights will showcase your home’s landscaping and increase curb appeal.

Choose Your Features

Along with the various types of yard lights and placements for them, there are a number of different strategies used to highlight certain areas or features. Like so many things in life, less can be more! The effects of outdoor lighting design can create set a particular mood or ambiance in any given space.

Highlighting

Illuminate the shape, color, and form of interesting features around your home or yard with highlighting. This is typically achieved through uplighting, which requires installing lightings at the base of the features you want to highlight. Make sure to adjust the distance and angle of the beam until the desired effect is achieved.
Best Achieved With: Floodlights, Spotlights

Accenting

Accenting is a strategy similar to highlighting, but with a more narrow focus. It’s best used for emphasizing specific features like trees, statues, or other architectural details. Place
narrow spotlights, aimed either down or up, on the object of interest from a hidden position.
Best Achieved With: Spotlights

Silhouetting

A fantastic effect for highlighting dramatic shapes you might have hiding in plain daylight. Silhouetting is achieved by placing the light source behind the object, and aiming the light towards the main vantage point. If you’re careful to make sure the light source itself cannot be seen, the results can be dramatic and inspiring.
Best Achieved With: Spotlights, Well Lights.

Moonlighting

Moonlighting is a technique that uses spotlights angled downward to create the illusion of natural moonlight. Normally installed high in trees, a soft lighting fixture can bathe the ground below in gentle light and create soft shadows from the tree’s lower branches. It can be particularly impressive when used with an open-branched tree. Done well, it’ll have you dancing in the moonlight late into the evening.
Best Achieved With: Spotlights

Livewire Tip: Larger trees, especially evergreen, can look amazing when you use more than one lighting effect. Place two spotlights roughly halfway up the tree, one light aimed up to spotlight the tree and the other downward for a moonlight effect. This results are stunning, and the year-round foliage will hide the light sources.

Washing

Sometimes a space needs more ambient light, and washing is a way to accomplish this without blasting the area with direct light. Aim a wide-beamed floodlight at the base of a large wall or hedge at an indirect angle to flood it with light. The light will bounce back into the space, casting an even, gentle light over an entertainment area.
Best Achieved With: Floodlights

Grazing

If you have a hardscape-heavy yard, grazing is a great way to soften surfaces and create dramatic light and shadow play. It involves placing the light close to a flat surface and aiming directly up or down the surface. The idea is to take advantage of a texture across a flat plane, so uneven or irregular patterns work best.
Use with: Well Lights, Hardscape Lights

Other Tips & Tricks

Plan in advance

Don’t just jump into your lighting project guns blazing! Walk your property both during the day and at night to select key focal points. Maybe it’s a stoic oak tree, a rose bush in full bloom, a stone accent wall, or even water features. The main visual features should be included in the first level of light in the landscape. Select additional lighting solutions for other areas of the landscape once the key focal points are defined,.

Keep it Trendy

Remember that what is hidden by shadows at night might be an eyesore during the day. Integrate your lighting installation into existing landscape whenever possible to avoid unsightly wires and fixtures. Try to hide spotlights and floodlights behind or in trees and shrubs, and use a a professional lighting service to run underground lighting.

Stay Flexible

When you know the types of lighting fixtures you want, and the functionality needed, remember to be flexible. You may need to remove the lighting fixtures when landscaping or incoming bad weather. The right combination of fixtures, placement, brightness, and so forth will highlight landscaping details without creating unnecessary glare.

Learn how to bring it all together and create the perfect high-end outdoor lighting system by contacting Livewire at 804-793-8919 or visit our Lighting Control page for further reading.

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