Lighten Up: Accent Lighting in Your Backyard

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When it comes to your patio or landscape design, make sure to include lighting in your plans. Just as with interior design, different types of lighting fixtures are used for specific functions when lighting a residential outdoor space.

Security Lighting

Deterrent lighting is a focused spotlight that is commonly used over doors and garages; it is either on a timer or motion activated.

Safety Lighting

Used along driveways, walkways and stairs. These are most often, smaller fixtures that are used to cast just enough light to illuminate the path. They can either be hard wired to run off of the home's existing electrical source, or they can be solar powered units that are charged by the sun's rays during the day.

Avoid placing stake lights all in a row. Not only does it end up looking like a run-way, but keeping them perfectly straight and perfectly lined up is near impossible. By placing smaller lights in a slightly random pattern, over or near interesting plants, these can also serve as accent lighting. Taller tiki lights, torches, and candles can also be used to offer both temporary safety and ambiance.

accent lightingAccent Lighting

After addressing both security and safety, accent lighting is used for either tasks (think of under cabinet lighting) or to create a specific feeling or mood for your backyard or patio. One rule to remember is, you never want to light up the entire landscape area. In doing so, you'll end up with a commercial look where guests feel as though they are on display. Task lighting includes pendant lamps above outdoor kitchen islands, BBQ grill lights and floor lamps for reading.

Dining lights should be overhead and warmer in feel. Outdoor chandeliers now come in styles you may not expect, ranging from rustic country to modern elegance. Uplighting trees adds interest and drama to darker backyard corners. This is a directional source technique where the fixture is placed underneath the tree in order to cast light and shadows onto branches and leaves. Grazing is similar to up-lighting but is used against homes with rough or interesting surfaces like stucco, brick or stone.

A newer accent lighting technique is "Moonlighting". The goal here is to mimic the look of backyard lighting an evening with a full moon. This is achieved by placing directional lighting high up in the tree and casting light down through the branches and leaves. "Cooler" lighting must be used to get this look right and this may require a professional to get the temperature and angles just right. Rope lighting is both inexpensive and flexible. Create a glow in flower bed edge trenches or tuck them under a handrail for ambient lighting that leads the way on walkways and around decks. Old school candles offer romantic lighting, and, when placed in large grouping, they have a wow factor all of their own. Above all else, your backyard patio lighting should function to accommodate you and your family's outdoor lifestyle needs.