When it comes to designing a new yard or updating an existing landscape, lighting is often treated as an afterthought. “I raise the subject when consulting with my clients. But many are not interested in spending the extra money, or they don’t understand the importance of illuminating their yard at night,” says JJ De Sousa of Digs Inside and Out.
Garden lighting serves multiple purposes. Illuminating pathways, decks, and porches makes them safer to navigate and deters would-be intruders. The soft, ambient glow creates an appealing atmosphere. Besides enhancing the beauty of a garden, lighting extends the time spent outdoors. “If a yard is properly lit, people are more apt to linger outside after it’s dark,” De Sousa says.
When considering lighting, first evaluate your property. Make a list of trafficked areas and living spaces. Look online and in home improvement stores to familiarize yourself with different types of lighting. Peruse websites such as Houzz and Pinterest for inspiration and consult with a designer for more complex projects. Lighting can be added in stages as time and budget allows.
Most homeowners consider safety first. Make sure paths, stairs, porches, and driveways are well lit. Safety lighting can be beautiful as well as functional. Next, consider the rest of the yard. Where would you spend more time after dark if there was adequate light? A backyard deck or spacious front porch can become an extension of your home, suitable for evening entertaining or alfresco dining. Use lights to attractively highlight architectural features, such as fencing, trees, fountains, or statuary.
Portland, Oregon, resident David P. Best collaborated with designer Barbara Hilty to renovate his small urban yard. Lighting was regarded as an integral component of the overall design. The entire system consists of a single transformer and 51 efficient LED fixtures that draw under 200 watts of power. The lights are programmed to turn on and off at certain times of day. Three years after completion, Best is pleased with the result. “I’m glad I invested in a comprehensive, high-quality lighting system. It has performed flawlessly and makes the space so much more inviting,” he says.