Outdoor lighting design can be even more impressive than indoor lighting design. You can achieve the kind of drama outdoors that would be, well, just kind of overdone if you attempted it inside. Essentially, you have two options when it comes to outdoor lighting: an extension of your household circuits for 120-volt lighting fixtures or the installation of low-voltage lighting. The choice is yours, but first a few things to help you with the decision.
One thing to make sure of when you plan an outdoor lighting system is that you meet all the proper codes and regulations. Installing outdoor lighting can get a little hazy and crazy once you learn just how much fun it can be, but sometimes fun comes at the cost of safety. Be sure you put safety where it belongs.
Resist the temptation to Griswold your outdoor lighting scheme. Remember the Christmas Vacation when Chevy Chase is putting up outdoor lights for Christmas? The result could have illuminated even that vast black chasm inside Glenn Beck’s cranium. When it comes to outdoor lighting, less is often more. But not always. It’s a judgment call so use your best judgment.
One way to utilize outdoor lighting is as a way to lend definition to your space. If you have a nice landscaping scheme going on, use lighting to bring attraction to the focal point. Use bright lights with dimmer lights to create a dramatic effect that draws attention to whatever focal point you’ve got going on out there. Another use of outdoor lighting to define space can be illustrated by lighting up your patio or pool or any other outdoor entertainment center.
Glare can be a big problem with outdoor lighting, but it’s also a problem that is easy enough to fix. One way to cut down on the glare produced by outdoor lighting is to place them high above the spot to which they are directing light. You can also avoid glare with low-placed lighting fixtures by utilizing canopies, hiding the light behind your plants or bouncing the light off a lightly colored exterior wall.
One of the most dramatic effects for outdoor lighting is known as downlighting. The light fixture is placed high and shines down onto whatever object you want to highlight. The best way to make a dramatic impact through downlighting is to obscure the source of light so that it appears to be coming from nowhere. Downlighting can be used to create a variety of moods, from somber to menacing.
Uplighting is the opposite of downlighting, obviously. The source of your light produces a beam that shoots upward. Uplighting can be far more dramatic than downlighting and the best example available is to watch the original Frankenstein or the Frederic March version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Uplighting allows for the total transformation of kindly Dr. Jekyll into the maniac Hyde without the camera cutting at all; the transformation takes place in real time. That’s the power of uplighting, as the entire shooting of Frankenstein reveals. If you want a more modern version of the awesome power of uplighting, watch any Stanley Kubrick movie.
Frosted lighting fixtures can create the effect of diffused lighting, which is a good idea for outdoor lighting. Diffusing the light does away with harsh glare and can afford your landscape an almost translucent quality impossible to achieve with lighting that is not being diffused.
If you have a water feature, you absolutely have to incorporate them into your outdoor lighting scheme. Whether you have a Japanese Zen garden or a swimming pool or a waterfall or a water fountain, you should take advantage of the way outdoor lighting makes the water feature more distinct. The impact can be doubled by using underwater lights to create an otherworldly glow.