Simple ways to enhance your home with outdoor lighting

This post is courtesy of our guest blogger Linda Longo. Linda is a feature writer in the New York City area specializing in residential lighting design. For 17 years, she has served as the editor-in-chief of Home Lighting & Accessories magazine. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter for more lighting tidbits.


Believe it or not, it can convey a lot! People don’t often think about outdoor lighting until the holidays when evenings come quick, entertaining is frequent, and the mood is festive. We pay attention to detail and delight in showing off our individuality. It makes us smile to drive through our neighborhoods at night when the properties are all decked out.

Why ditch the fun as soon as the season is over? You can make your home and yard look sensational all year long with a few simple lighting techniques.

One of your first priorities is to make sure the path to your door is adequately illuminated. The boxed sets of solar-powered lanterns that you see everywhere really don’t do the job. The light they give off – even when using a new technology such as LED – is not very strong, consistent, or long-lasting. Using such sets also leads to what many of us in the lighting industry refer to as the “airport runway look.” There are probably many homes in your neighborhood with this landing strip look, so I know you know what I’m talking about!

Achieving truly great landscape lighting is rarely a successful do-it-yourself endeavor. I strongly recommend visiting your local lighting showroom for a consultation. Bring in photos of your front and back yard (use your cell phone if you don’t have a camera handy) so the experts can make the most concrete and effective suggestions. Perhaps you never thought that the giant oak that was there when you bought the house or the small palm tree you added last year or the flower garden you planted in spring that looks so sensational during the day could really pop at night. Lighting experts are trained to locate such elements as areas where you can create visual interest and “landing spots” for the eye.

Merely finding the parts of your landscape that you want to highlight is not enough. You’ll need to evaluate how different light sources – halogen, LED, CFL – will change or enhance the natural colors. You’ll also want to know how to position the lighting to produce various effects. By moving the angle of a fixture (some have a locking mechanism for precise aiming), you can position the beam of light so it casts dramatic shadows along the tree bark or catch the edges of a stone or brick façade. The shadows provide “texture” and make the objects you’re illuminating appear three-dimensional and vivid, not washed out as can happen with a too-bright floodlight. Again, there’s no need to try and figure it all yourself. Many lighting stores offer free consultations and others apply the design fee toward the purchase of landscape lighting products.

If you do a lot of entertaining in your backyard, patio, or deck, you won’t believe how much better you’ll love that area when it’s lit properly. Enjoying summer evenings outdoors is the stuff great memories are made of! Whether you’re having the neighborhood over for a party or just unwinding from your day, good lighting creates a warm atmosphere where everyone looks great under the glow of low light levels.

Sometimes floodlights are needed for security purposes, but please turn them off while you are entertaining. No guest feels comfortable sitting under the glare of harsh light meant to deter burglars. There are plenty of decorative outdoor fixtures on the market that will suit the architecture of your home perfectly from the front entryway to the back door.

There are a lot of options for using light to enhance your backyard enjoyment. Deck lights today are decorative, small in size, and incredibly handy for ensuring the safety of people going up and down deck stairs at night. If you have an inground pool or a water feature in the yard (i.e. fountains), submerging waterproof lights will create a spectacular visual effect. The choice is yours whether you want to use colored light or not, but this is another area where a professional’s expertise will help you find the perfect products to do the job.

Whichever method or products you choose, illuminating your property properly is a beautiful way to make your home stand out from the crowd.

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