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Outdoor Lights Make a Difference

May 31, 2006 | by Wendy Weinert

Just as indoor lighting can change the style and mood of rooms inside a home, outdoor lighting can add style, extra interest and safety to a landscape. Today, the wide variety of outdoor lighting fixtures makes it simple to match the type of light you want with the style, design and architectural details of almost any home.

When considering what outdoor lights you need, first look at the most common outside areas requiring proper lighting, such as sidewalks, entrances and doorways. Lights in these areas are primarily for safety, so placement is very important.

Brightening an entryway not only helps in unlocking the door at night, but also makes identifying visitors to your door much easier. Lighting the steps for an entryway or porch can help prevent stumbling and accidental falls. A sidewalk light adds both safety and convenience, and the extra brightness can help discourage crime, intruders and predators.

Other outside areas can also benefit from landscape lighting. Adding lights to a patio or deck make them even more useful and comfortable for outdoor barbeques or family gatherings. Landscape lights can showcase the beautiful results of spending the time and effort of laying out a garden or adding a dramatic water element. Even a few well-placed fixtures add extra style to small gardens, as well.

Outdoor lighting fixtures come in a large selection of design styles, sizes and types, making it easy to coordinate with the exterior style of a home. You can find wall-mounted, post-mounted, hanging or landscape lighting fixtures in almost any color or finish.

Besides choosing lighting fixtures for a specific area or in a certain design, there are also different lighting techniques you can incorporate into a landscape to create a variety of effects:

* Spot lighting - highlight a statue, fountain, trees or unique plants. Usually, you will only want to spotlight one or two items, as this creates a very strong focal point in the landscape.
* Grazing - shining a sharply angled light across a surface to highlight the texture. This can be a very effective backdrop technique when used on stone, stucco or plastered walls.
* Silhouetting - a concealed light source reflects off a vertical surface behind a chosen object, creating an outline haloed in light.
* Uplighting - the light source is in the ground or angled upward at the foot of an object. A very dramatic effect for accenting a tree or statuary.
* Cross lighting - two or more light sources from below are angled to shine on an object from different sides.
* Downlighting - a fixture has the bulb angled or the shade designed to shine light down towards the ground. This is a subtle effect that imitates natural moonlight.
* Shadowing - placing a light source in front of object to cast a shadow on a vertical surface behind.

Light a simple front walkway or brighten an entire landscape plan of gardens, pathways and patios. New outdoor lighting designs and techniques will make things safe, add some style and let you turn a dull backyard into something extraordinary.

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