Designing with Light Outdoors


Outdoor lighting enhances the beauty of your property, makes your home safer and more secure, and increases the number of pleasurable hours you spend outdoors. And it is an investment that pays off handsomely in the value it adds to your home.



A well-lighted front entrance enables you to greet guests and identify visitors. Wall lanterns on each side of the door will give your home a warm, welcoming look, while assuring the safety of those who enter. Under a porch or other overhang, you can use recessed, chain-hung, or close-to-ceiling fixtures. A separate rear or side entrance can be lighted with a single wall lantern installed on the keyhole side of the door. To conserve energy, consider post and wall lanterns that use new compact fluorescent or high-intensity discharge light sources such as mercury vapor or high pressure sodium.



For the safety and security of family members using the garage at night, you can install a wall fixture on the face of the garage. Fixtures equipped with high-pressure sodium bulbs will deliver more light per watt and last many times longer than those with incandescent bulbs. In addition, photocells are available that will turn fixtures on at dusk and off at dawn, reducing energy consumption and providing security when you're away.



For added security, illuminate any side of the house that would otherwise be in shadow. To conserve energy, install a motion- or heat-sensitive control that will switch on the light only if someone approaches that side of the house. An automatic timer can control a portion of your outdoor lights to turn off at a certain hour, while basic security lights can be left on through the night. Another proven safety measure is to use timers on interior lights to make your home look occupied when you're away.





Steps, paths, and driveways should be illuminated to make sure family members and guests are able to move about easily and safely after dark. You can install path lights or post lanterns or attach lights to the side of the house. Low-level path lights, which spread circular patterns of light, will brighten your walkway, while highlighting nearby flower beds, shrubs, and ground cover. These close-to-the-ground lights are available in fixtures using energy-saving low-voltage current. They are simple to install and can easily be moved to reflect changes in your landscaping. Low-level path lights can also be used to define the boundaries of long driveways. Bollards, which stand 30 to 36 inches off the ground, also work well. Use shielded fixtures to avoid glare.



Decks, porches, and patios can be converted into romantic evening retreats by concealing low-voltage mini-lights under steps, railing, or benches.



Another idea is to install a spotlight in the branches of a nearby tree.



Don't forget to add stronger light over the barbecue or serving area. To accomplish this, install a recessed spot-light on an adjacent roof overhang or mount spread lights on a railing behind the grill

For more information on outdoor lighting, talk to a Certified Lighting Consultant at your local ALA showroom. While you're there, pick up a copy of "Light Up Your Landscape," the ALA's 16 page guide to outdoor lighting.