We are all looking for a little more space in our homes these days. Americans spend nearly 90% of their time indoors but with the current state of the world and everyone at home… things start to feel a little crowded! Homebuilders working with landscape designers and outdoor lighting professionals have the opportunity to help their clients expand the indoors and move outdoors by creating places of retreat, entertainment, recreation, and enjoyment that extends into the night with outdoor lighting.
We sat down with Lauren Lautner, a landscape designer who has been working on the North Shore of Boston and Northern California with For Seasons Eco Design, and Sean Curran, former president of the Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals and owner of BTI Lighting in Massachusetts to talk about the benefits of adding lighting to your landscape. They have been landscape and lighting professionals, each with 30+ years of experience working with high-end residential properties.
Click here to view our webcast on Nightscaping with elegant outdoor lighting
Patios and decks for outdoor entertaining have taken on new importance in 2020. Homeowners looking to expand those areas have been keeping landscapers busy this season. “People are spending more time at home,” explains Lautner, “They say, we don’t use our yard– we’d love to use it!” Popular additions are lounge areas with fire features or cooking and grill areas.
Outdoor dining and garden parties allow for comfortable and spacious entertaining.
“When dining people like to be able to see what they’re eating, but you don’t want it to be over lit.” says Lautner. “Candles go only so far, so the bistro lights are really helpful for that.” Curran has also worked with fixtures that can attach to grills.
Lighting beautiful trees around property lines or gardens give guests a sense of the space and invite them further into the yard. This also works well in Multifamily complexes. “You might have garbage or storage area near the path that you keep dim but light-up features like trees or large rocks along the path to lead people where you want to them go”, explains Curran.
Recreation can be extended to nighttime play as well. “Bocce courts are something that we’ve been installing lately, and you can add rope lights underneath that to really highlight this play space,” says Lautner. Pools can lit up for nighttime swimming and deck areas can be surrounded with tiki torch fixtures either gas installed or with citronella vessels that helps with mosquito control.
Safety & Comfort
Driveways, walkways, and stairways need good lighting for safety, but a single blaring spotlight hung from the house can be blinding and cause shadows that make navigating tricky. Curran recommends several types of fixtures that are designed to keep the light source hidden and out of your eyes. Mini beams can come on stakes or be screwed to decking to give lighting effects in small areas. For larger areas, adjustable a8-24 inch path lights are a good options and can be used between garden beds or along walkways for traversing. Downlights with long front cowls reduce glare and can be added on a wall or the side of stars.
Comfort is another reason nightscaping is great for a home. “Sometimes a client just bought a new house and it’s in the woods and dark; they don’t feel comfortable outside, lighting adds that comfort” explains Lautner. Soft natural colored tones can add warmth to a dark property.
There’s no question that driving by a beautifully lit property at night brings awe and curb appeal but enjoyment from inside the home is often overlooked. “It’s a view from your kitchen window while you’re doing the dishes– you would look out into this vast darkness normally. But if you have birch trees or a vista with a walkway lit up… it really expands that enjoyment,” says Lautner. “The same is true if you look across a room out a window and have some trees lit up and it looks just beautiful.”
Trees are particularly beautiful downlit to create a moonlighting effect or older trees like a large oak with curved braches that are softly uplit can create an impressive sculpture-like feature to the yard. “Even in the winter after a fresh snow, these trees look gorgeous lit up,” says Lautner.
Advances in Lighting Tech
While advances like LED lights have made the cost of lighting far more attainable, smart tech offers wide-ranging control including timing, brightness, and color. Curran has installed smart sockets that can be linked to a smartphone and wi-fi. “You can tie it to your Alexa or your google¬ voice-activated speaker and say dim my patio lights or dim my pool lights and it will dim those in increments. You can take the same lighting control system that’s inside Lutron or Vantage and you can control your outdoor lights.”
When building a new home, work with a landscape designer and ask about lighting. “Clients will often bring it up to me, not realizing how attainable it is!” says Lautner. “I’ll usually say as part of the initial interview with them, ‘would you like to consider landscape lighting’ and that gets people very excited.”
Having the conversation early with the homeowner or contractor is best. “Sometimes we have to get into posts or walls”, says Curran, “getting in with the contractor before construction so we don’t have to work magic after the fact will cost less for the contractor or the homeowner.”
It’s ok to start small
Many homeowners won’t know how many lights they will need outside or what they will want to light, but making sure the conduit is in place under walkways and through walls can ensure easy hook-up to add lights later. “I try to help people with a budget at the beginning because there is a price per fixture installed that we work with,” says Lautner, “but we also encourage them not to overlight. You can add on fixtures in the future if some lighting is in place.”
Once the landscaping is installed your lighting expert and landscaper can do a Lighting Demo to help decide where the best placement would be and get you excited about the rewards of outdoor lighting. “You have to think outside of the box,” says Curran, “you show them how beautiful their property can look by highlighting a wall or a chimney–the lighting will sell itself.”
For Builders or Integrators looking for an outdoor lighting professional visit The Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals
Webcast: NightScaping with Elegant Outdoor Lighting