Be artful with your exterior lighting

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Be artful with your exterior lighting

Exterior lighting is one of the first things you notice when you walk or drive by someones home at night. When the lighting is done right the look is stunning and inviting and it doesn’t matter what time of year it is. Great lighting actually feels like an invitation to come inside and stay awhile. But, to get good at exterior lighting it takes time and some experimentation. Too bright and it’s a little obnoxious. Too few and it’s hardly worth the effort. The find the right amount of lighting for the exterior of your home is a real skill.

Lighting is everything!

One of my favorite lighting styles for the exterior of your home is uplighting trees. This gives you a beautiful and haunting look of moving art when the wind is blowing and even a different softer look in a gentle breeze. Uplighting creates a silhouette effect which I love. When up lighting is mixed with down lighting along a path or stone walk it makes you feel that you want to spend more time outside your home than inside. If you think about it this is just like adding another room to your home.
Depending on your style of home you can even uplight a privacy fence or a stone or brick wall and even highlight art objects that are affixed to them like antique wagon wheels or pitchforks.  Some of my favorite lighting is pond lighting.  I love water features as they give you sound and fire places as they give you a beautiful visual.  Lighting a pond with underwater lights is amazing and inexpensive.

Take a look at the video below to see if you can pick up any ideas for your outdoor living space.

To develop a design concept, take photos of the exterior. Go through the property and begin to come up with a plan for which items should be lit up at night for aesthetics, security, or for any other combination of reasons. You don’t have to do the entire area all at once but pick your locations as you use them and build on that. Light up your deck or patio first and expand later.  Take your time and have some fun with this.

Light fixtures can be camouflaged or stand out as new décor in the landscape. Preventing the new lights from flooding into the street and onto neighbors’ properties is a good rule-of-thumb and reduces light pollution.

How much light do I really need?

Outdoor lighting is different then indoor light.  It servers a completely different purpose as it’s not designed for task usage or anything remotely close to that.  It’s can provide security, and safety, but for the purpose of this article out doorlighting is purely used for a visual effect.  Lamp types and wattages are elements that fine-tune the overall nightscape design. The longest life light bulbs are halogen MR-16 lamps. Both MR-16s and LEDs are excellent eco-friendly choices that reduce the need for frequent replacements. Lamplight coloring also comes in shades of cool to warm. Controlling the wattages also plays a role in the design. For example, a smaller tree may need only one to two 20-watt uplights whereas a 50-foot tree may require up three and four 35-50 watt bulbs.

This all depends on your design and if you add brighter lights for trees that are farther away and less light for trees closer you can create a feeling of depth and space. Very much like a sunset.

Plan ahead in phases

Low voltage lighting is not my favorite as after a few years of Wisconsin winters things seem to come apart and you wished you would have taken the more expensive route of hard wiring the fixtures. Do it right the first time.

Keep track of where wires are buried and if you plan properly you can then connect another set of lights when phase 2 begins.

Think about winter lights as this is where lighting takes on a role of becoming something special. I love winter and the holidays and I know that some people hibernate in the winter and shut everything down outside. Not me. I spend time outside in the winter and I also want to look out the windows and see the beautiful winter scapes that great lighting produces. Depending on the weather and the mosquitos, sitting outside in the summer isn’t always enjoyable so I love the lighting concepts that incorporate winter weather.

Great exterior lighting is supposed to create a beautiful and enjoyable living space all year long.  We live in Wisconsin where the trees loose their leaves and the winter colors aren’t as bright so this is where your creative thinking comes into play.  It’s amazing out there so go out and enjoy it.