Light Layering Tips for Texturing Outdoor Lighting

Light Layering Tips for Texturing Outdoor Lighting

If you want your house to look great at night, texture and light-layering techniques are the best place to begin. Landscape professionals know that brick, wood, concrete, stone, glass, stucco, and iron are art canvases full of potential. Outdoor lighting is also a good investment — what you pay for in fixtures and their installation is returned with a higher level of safety for your property, a better-looking house, and a landscape that inspires your neighbors and guests. The creative possibilities and rewarding results of layering and texturing are one of the few home improvement projects that can cost as much or as little as you choose.

Read through our guide for ideas on how to play up your home’s exterior and yard with light fixtures, in-ground systems, and techniques such as uplighting, downlighting, diffuser shades and task lighting. If you feel your house is limited in texture, it’s possible to bring some in with foliage, masonry, paneling, a new garage door, or even window screens. To begin working with texture, divide your property into three zones: The foreground for midlevel light, middle ground for low-level light, and the background for bright lights. Read on for more guidance about lighting ideas that feature what you love most about your house and yard.

Utilize Existing Textures

Look at your property from several vantage points, taking note of textural characteristics that have potential. A wall of wood planks, for example, can be lit to show off amber tones and dark horizontal lines. For that matter, any wall with jutting angles, lines, ornamentation or texture (brick, wood, or stone) will give you a toehold on texture!

If your porch is supported by brick columns, install a diffused light sconce to contrast the texture against surrounding flat areas. A few recessed lights intersect nicely with an outdoor sconce, highlight a porch ceiling, or illuminate stained or painted deck flooring. Install downlighting into the garage overhang to illuminate the texture of a stone driveway — not only does the light emphasize angles and shapes, it incorporates the warm glow of natural hues into your textural display.

Texture with Foliage

You can create texture subtly or dramatically with foliage through your landscape lighting. Choose a spot where nature does most of the work — it might be a beautiful oak tree, a patch of ornamental grass, an herb garden, or trellises of winding grape leaves — and add light to show off the shadows and silhouettes.

A pair of tall column lights transforms a bed of pale-green ferns into a smoky drape near a gravel path. A backlit Japanese screen among a garden of roses becomes the perfect place to spend long summer hours as you read and listen to the crickets singing. If your landscape is too rugged for an electric lighting system, try solar lights. They’re available in many hues and shapes.


Texture with Uplighting

Uplighting can anchor key elements such as large trees, gates, or other structures into the overall lighting design scheme. There are many forms of uplights, including sconces, spotlights, and globes, and some include shields to control the intensity and shape of the beam. Use slender stakes to uplight shrubs, sculptures, and the best features of your architecture. You can install uplights midlevel to capture the texture of beams, overhangs, windows, or a deck staircase. When planning your uplighting, be considerate of neighbors’ windows and yards, making sure to carefully observe the direction of the beam and where the light lands in order to preserve darkness and prevent the unwelcome glare known as light trespass.

Texture with Downlighting

Since downlighting prevents light trespass and the fixtures come in many styles and forms, it’s likely to be an important part of your exterior lighting design. Install downlighting along paths, walkways, and stairs or use it to illuminate a porch, accent house letters, or spotlight lawn decor. Some downlights are manufactured with deeply recessed lamps for a layering technique called “moonlighting” that embeds light inside a space.

Use the special brackets or leather straps to mount lights inside a large tree to silhouette the beauty of its branches and leaves. A moonlit flowerbed transforms plants into translucent veils of color that move with the wind. Layer more moonlight into eaves, fencing, or walls to put textures and architectural angles on display.

Hourglass Effect

You’ll find many fixtures that cast light in both upward and downward directions. Up-down lights that create an hourglass effect are usually installed on walls or posts. An hourglass light can be a feature piece, so choose a design well-suited to the style of your home. Modern hourglass lights made of frosted glass and brushed aluminum might showcase a set of modern sans-serif house numbers, for example.

If your house is a colonial or Victorian, an hourglass fixture in tinted glass or wrought iron celebrates the traditional style. Use box-shaped fixtures to light a patio, garage, deck, or any space with interesting texture that could also use some extra illumination.

Diffuser Shades

Clear, bright light is good for visibility, highlights, and shadows, but don’t forget to include diffused light in your plan. Consider fixtures with shades that encase the bulbs inside, filtering the beam with angles and hues that evoke mood and mystery. A pair of colonial-style frosted glass shades lends a warm old-world glow onto the weathered wall of a beach house or shed.

For a more modern take, try a block-shaped wall sconce that passes its beam through white glass, reflecting the light on both sides to emphasize the angles of a fence or wall. Look for classic lines, softly tinted shades, and molded shapes that elongate or curve the beam onto the surrounding space.

Task Lighting

You might think of task lighting in strictly functional terms, but you can incorporate it into your plan through light layering. Task lighting such as porch sconces or set of spotlights over a garage door are usually pointed in a specific direction, so consider an uplight nearby to add a layer. (The crisscrossing beams add interest to an otherwise static space.) Ambient task lights along a path or built into deck railing can be layered against diffused lanterns on the walls. Experiment with angles, wattage, and hues to develop layers that play off the best features of your landscape and allow you and your guests to enjoy the yard into the late hours of darkness.

There’s no reason for your home to disappear into the shadows when the sun sets. With the right lighting plan for your house and yard, you’ll be able to appreciate aspects of your home that aren’t evident when the sun is shining. Even one small upgrade per season helps highlight the textures and shapes that have been hiding too long in the darkness. Shop our catalog for uplights, downlights, and mid-level lights to install throughout your property. Try a new technique like moonlighting or light layering — once you get the hang of light design, you’ll be counting the hours until sunset and enjoying it even more.



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