Topic: Outdoor Lighting

Date Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2015
Posted by: Tanya Zanfa (Master Admin)

Updgrade your outdoor space with lighting

Updgrade your outdoor space with lighting

In daylight, it might take well-maintained landscaping to make your backyard picture perfect. But at night, all you really need is light.

Proper lighting not only extends the use of your outdoor space past sunset, but it can transform your yard's appearance, making it look larger, more interesting or cozier after dark.

"We get to pick and choose at night what we want to allow you to see and what we want to transform (using light)," said Bill Wandsnider, registered landscape architect and owner of Wandsnider Landscape Architects.

Most landscape lighting is low voltage, so it's possible for homeowners to install it themselves. Plug into a transformer and bury cords under mulch or soil where you don't plan to dig.


Wandsnider and other landscape designers use two main types of lighting to achieve a variety of looks: uplighting and downlighting.

Wandsnider said he typically uses about 70% uplighting and 30% downlighting in a landscape.

Uplighting is used to shine light up at trees or architecture, highlighting it and casting shadows.

The effect can take a tree that's ugly by day and "put lights on it to turn it into this incredible piece of art" by night, Wandsnider said.

Patty Tagliapietra, landscape and interior designer and owner of Studio Mira LLC, said the ideal way to uplight a tree is to position two lights shining up from opposing directions.

Small trees with foliage close to the ground work well for uplighting.

Uplighting a sculpture or gazebo lets you enjoy it even from inside the house.

Downlighting can be used to light a structure or tree from near its top. Path lights — fixtures that can look like mushrooms — are considered downlighting and work well to light walkways and planting beds.

Tagliapietra and Wandsnider agree that less is more when it comes to path lighting.

"You don't want to run lights along a walkway so it looks like a Boeing 747 is ready to land," Wandsnider said.

He suggested positioning path lights near flowers to highlight color at night.


■To make your yard appear larger, think about the foreground, middle ground and background.

Wandsnider recommends lighting a tree along your property line in addition to an element in the middle ground to aid in depth perception.

■Light steps or changes in grade for safety reasons. A lighted landscape also enhances your home's security.

■Pay attention to the direction that the light is shining. Avoid shining into eyes or at your neighbor's house.

■String lights — not to be confused with Christmas lights — create a festive atmosphere when hung under an umbrella or strung across the yard.

■Cozy up your patio with candles in jars or lanterns. Flameless candles are convenient.

■A lighting specialist can help you create a dramatic effect by lighting a fountain, pond or pool from under water.

■"Simpler is better" when it comes to fixtures, said Tagliapietra. Choose timeless styles that match your house, and keep in mind that finishes like bronze and copper will change colors after being exposed to the elements.

■LED lights are a smart choice. They use less energy, last longer and require less maintenance. LED bulbs can even be used in some systems that aren't designed for them.

■There are many options for programmable lighting, including timers, sensors and lights that are controlled from your smartphone.

■Wisconsin is not well suited for solar lighting. Weather conditions here make solar-powered lights unstable.

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