Designing Your Outdoor Lighting

By Jane A. Moore

It's always around this time of the year that I appreciate the design elements of our outdoor lighting scheme. The days are getting shorter and I find that I am turning on our outdoor lights slightly earlier each day. The result of decent outdoor lighting is that we can still use our outdoor space into late August and September.

During the earlier summer months my backyard was a functional and safe place to socialize and relax without resorting to outdoor lights. Where I live the sun can still be shining until 9.30pm. In fact, during the month of June the skies became dark and the backyard becomes too dark to be safe right around the time I wanted some BBQ guests to leave so it worked out perfectly.

I didn't pay much attention to outdoor lighting design until I bought my own house. Since then, I am all about making a cozy and beautiful space both indoors and out. The backyard is such an easy space to work on. It seems that you can make spectacular changes with just a little hard work, a bit of landscaping, and a combination of some permanent lights and very inexpensive temporary lights. Lighting is often seen as just seasonal, but if you stick with a neutral color (my scheme is generally all white), you can use cheap Christmas lights all year to create a wonderful backyard lighting design.

When you decide to come up with a lighting scheme for your backyard or patio, you will want make sure that you design with safety in mind. People unfamiliar with your outdoor space won't be expecting changes in surfaces, or won't be familiar with how many steps from your patio to the backyard. Improper lighting could create safety hazards that are easily avoided with some planning. Consider adding extra lighting at doorways, stairs, and any areas that are main traffic areas.

After making sure you have enough light in the main areas, now is the time to have fun with some softer lighting for effect. Remember that uncovered lights can be quite blinding if you need to look directly at them, so try using some subdued lighting, such as an outdoor fixture with a copper "lampshade" which will develop a lovely patina. You can also add lighting in your trees, which will add a lovely effect without creating too much light.

Outdoor lighting can transform the average backyard into an extraordinary backyard. It is cheap and easy to change your outdoor living space into something beautiful. The bonus of these schemes is that if they don't work as you wish, you can simply redesign. Think about the safety issues first. Once you have accommodated all issues related to safety you can then play with different outdoor lighting designs. - 29857

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