landscape design with lifestyle in mind
All the Basics You Need to Know about Designing your Landscape Lighting

The presence of light quite literally defines darkness – and how you light your landscape can define, frame, and even hide aspects of your home that you want showcased (or hidden).


Where to start with your landscape design:

The first place to start when deciding how to design your landscape lighting is determining what you want to hide and what you want to showcase. Then, you want to determine where light is absolutely required, such as pathways that could be considered potentially dangerous regarding tripping or that you’d like high visibility for security cameras (such as a pathway leading from the front yard to the back, or the pathway between garage and trash path or alleyway).

Consider the main areas, their functional use, and what you want showcased the most – you don’t want to light everything up, because then everything will look the same! That’s where layering comes in.


Layer your lighting:

Once you know what you want to light up, determine how it will be lit.

There are 3 main types of outdoor landscape lighting:

  1. Ambient: these are great for steps, edges, and general lighting that doesn’t require severely high visibility. Ambient lighting is also used to create shadows and shapes by using the actual architecture of the home or structures that it’s lighting up.
  2. Task: named for, well, tasks! Task lighting is used most often at tables and meeting spaces – such as lanterns on outdoor tables and portable lamps – they’re generally movable as needed for whatever occasion presents itself.
  3. Accent: these either add depth or showcase vegetation – they make elements of your yard sparkle.


How to design landscape lighting:

First, keep in mind the lantern effect that your home’s internal lights will have on the outdoor design – literally, how will the lights on in the house appear from the outside when it’s dark out? Also keep in mind that a pool will serve as a source of lantern lighting if you are lighting the pool heavily.

Then, sketch (or have your architect or designer sketch) both a birds-eye view and a street-level view of the layout of your current home as-is, from all perspectives. Will you be adding any accents or vegetation? If so, draw those in. Then, circle or highlight what items you’d like accented, what areas need lighting, and what’s functional versus decorative.

Once it’s determined where you want your lighting, you’ll need to determine what you’ll be lighting the areas with. The most common outdoor lighting fixtures are: spotlights, pathway lights, wall washes, in-ground lights, hardscape fixtures, step/deck indicator lights, and subversive lights (for underwater lighting)


Keep in mind:

Keep it warm: even if you enjoy bright light, as a rule, warmer light is more desirable for outdoor spaces. Light “temperature” is measured on the Kelvin scale, and you’ll find it on the package or the bulb itself. You don’t want to go any higher than 3000K – past 3000K is the bluer and white tones. The lower the number, the more ambient and warmer the light color is.

View from all angles: what perspective(s) will you be viewing your home from? Is there something (like a tree, guesthouse, or fountain) that will be seen from more than one angle? If so, you’ll want to light it up from all angles.

Low over line: you want your lighting to remain 12k low voltage as opposed to line voltage to reduce the risk of any shock. Lines often get cut in lawnmowing and weed trimming, so keeping the wiring at low voltage ensures that there are no live wires that will harm pets, kids, or adults!

The LED vs halogen debate: not sure which to choose? They both have their pros and cons, and your landscape designer is the best person to answer your questions. In general, LEDs are available in a wide array of more customizable shades, colors, and lighting levels, consume significantly less energy, and last much longer. Their con is that the fixtures themselves are usually more expensive and require more expertise to set up – so their up-front cost is higher. Halogens, on the other hand, require less expertise and cost less up front.

Solar if sunny: solar-powered LED lights are an excellent option if you live in a sunny climate, but it’s certainly not recommended if you are in low-UV rated areas. Sure, the idea of being environmentally friendly is nice, but if you’re relying on solar and you don’t get any solar power… you’re a bit out of luck when night falls!


Seem overwhelming? Just give us a call – we’ll be happy to sketch out your perfect outdoor lighting plan and implement the design to achieve anything from dramatic edges to ambient atmospheres.