How to design the Perfect Outdoor Lighting Setting

How to Design outdoor lighting #aboutthegardenmagazine.indd 

It was only a hundred years or so ago that electrical lighting was a luxury, not something virtually everyone in the Western world enjoyed. Today, advancements in light bulb technology mean we can illuminate our homes using a fraction of the electricity of the past. But are we really limited to just brightening our homes? Landscape lighting is an increasingly common way for homeowners to brighten up their outdoor setting when the sun goes down. When done correctly, outdoor lighting can highlight the most attractive aspects of you home, help discourage intruders and even add value to the house itself. That said, it can also be done ham-fistedly, ruining an otherwise subtle and elegant effect. In this article we take a look at some ways you can illuminate your yard without going overboard, with exceptional results.

 Outdoor lighting ideas 2#aboutthegardenmagazine.indd


Sticking a bunch of superfluous lights into your background can be a wasteful process, which is why it’s important to consider the best forms of lighting for the job. Low voltage systems can draw a very low amount of power, making them environmentally conscious. Take the time to sit down and think about where the best spots to place the lights might be. Taking the time to plan a strategy won’t just make sure your system looks the best it can, it will also ensure you don’t end up placing too many separate lights around the place. In landscape lighting more is less. Too many separate light sources can start to look unnatural and will draw more power than necessary. Go for understatement rather than overstatement.

With the right technique darkness never has to fall.
With the right technique darkness never has to fall.


There is no specific norm when considering outdoor lighting: you can go as big or as small as you like. If you only want to illuminate a couple of walking paths or highlight a bush or two, then you may be able to avoid using mains connected electrical lighting entirely. Solar lighting fixtures can be a great alternative if your needs are not so extensive. They won’t shine quite as brightly as electrical lights, and on overcast days they may fail to light up at all. However if you live in a sunny area they are often highly effective. Their soft glow is very conducive to subtly illuminate a flower bed without muting colours.

Moonlight mimicking

This is related to the art of understatement. The most elegant effect to go for when designing an outdoor lighting feature is to mimic the look of moonlight. If done correctly this will have create a delicate, natural look and evoke feelings of serenity and pleasantness. A full moon can throw up dramatic shadow effects and even provide enough light to see by, so a system which mimics such an effect can be very desirable. Moonlight can add a huge level of atmosphere to an otherwise bland outdoor space.


Unless you’re planning a feature to be used on a particular holiday or celebration, sticking to plain, warm, white light is the best bet. Multiple colours and varying brightness levels can create a festive atmosphere but for most people the effect will simply be too overbearing to deal with every night. 


Outdoor lighting ideas 4 #aboutthegardenmagazine.indd
Probably not an effect you want to go for all year round.


Incandescents have long ago burnt out. Now days the options are limited to halogen, fluorescent or LED bulbs. For outdoor lighting, LED is best. They use extremely low amounts of electricity, last for more than a decade at the very least and will add less to your electricity bill. LED technology has moved forwards in leaps and bounds over recent years, meaning they no longer provide only a harsh, bluish light, but can also provide the warm light that made incandescents so popular in the past.


Focus on trees

Trees make great features as their leaves provide innumerable facets for light to reflect upon. This leads to the light being fractured and dissipated and creates dappled, shifting shadows which are great for atmosphere. When illuminated from below, they can really catch the eye. Be sure to illuminate the trunk as well so as to avoid giving the canopy the appearance of floating unsupported.

Focus on a feature tree in your garden.
Focus on a feature tree in your garden.

 Do it yourself

Installing an effective lighting system can be a fun and rewarding project that can save you a lot of money. You can also fine tune and adapt your creation as you see fit, and have complete creative control. Installing your own system will give you a personal link to the feature and its effect on your home.

Hire a pro

If you don’t feel up to the task of designing a lighting feature, don’t feel bad. It can be a daunting task, which is why there are any number of professional services out there all too happy to take on the burden for you. A professional installer can save a lot of headaches and will ensure that your system looks its best. Handing creative control over to someone who knows what they’re doing might take you out of the process a bit, but it should ensure there are no ugly discrepancies when the time comes to flick the switch to the on position.


This guide was written by Home and Outdoor Products. For other guides on outdoor products visit their website.

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