Designing your landscape lighting with layers of light

Designing your landscape lighting with layers of light

By Mike Gambino

If you’re on a budget, hiring a professional landscape lighting designer for your home doesn’t always make sense. However, lighting can have a huge impact on the overall aesthetics of your home and garden. It influences how the colors appear on the architecture of the home. It determines whether particular areas are functional or non-functional for resting, cooking, viewing your favorite plants and trees after dark, and a variety of other tasks. It impacts your use ability of your property. It affects safety, both outdoors and indoors.

Long story short, the lighting outside your home should never be an afterthought. The tips below represent a few general rules that lighting designers follow. If you’re in the process of building a new home, remodeling your landscaping, or you simply need an outdoor lighting upgrade, take them into account!

Work in layers

You should know that there are three basic types of lighting in a residential setting.

General lighting includes overhead fixtures mounted in trees, on surfaces or patio covers as well as indirect lighting in the form of spread lights, wash lights, etc. Basically, general lighting provides overall illumination for a garden space. It doesn’t need to cover every nook and cranny, but it should enable you to walk around safely and should create a comfortable ambiance.

Task lighting covers any light fixtures that provide the focused, direct illumination you need to accomplish a task. Spot lights in the outdoor kitchen will help you prepare food, aimed at barbeques and countertops. Overhead patio lights aimed on sitting areas that will provide light to read by, Under eve or ground mounted downlights along a path to help you find the trash cans on the side of the house.

Accent lighting is meant to create visual interest by highlighting statues, special trees and plants, water features or architectural details. These can include spotlights, adjustable recessed below grade lights, underwater lights, and custom built lights.

Your garden lighting should incorporate all three layers of light. On your patio, you should have light sources that serves as general light, some that provides task lighting, and those that accent light interesting and important features that will draw the eye.. Perhaps you’ll have recessed up lights under the colorful Japanese maple tree. Tree mounted downlights over the lawn area for general lighting, and a tight spot light focused on the barbeque grill that has its own separate switch so you can see to cook on those evenings that the sun goes down early. Designing your home outdoor lighting in layers of light creates a functional space that is also incredibly visually appealing.

Consider the CRI of the lamp

CRI stands for Color Rendering Index, and it’s a measure of how accurately a light source renders colors. Ever noticed the way an outdoor streetlamp can make your car color look very different than it does in daylight? That’s because streetlamps often have low CRI. Light sources are measured on a scale of 1 to 100. Sunlight has a CRI of 100.

When you’re choosing light bulbs for your home, make sure they have a CRI of 85 or above. You’ll see that information right on the packaging. Light bulbs with low CRI can change how the colors of your plants, architectural walls and other outdoor amenities appear. High CRI will help you see the true colors. Same is true for outdoors higher color rendering indexes of lamps will render colors more naturally.

Some people take offense to colored light and consider it “tacky”.  Unless you are after a specific look or are looking to make a big statement and standout it might be best to play it safe. If you want to make sure your lighting doesn’t offend your neighbors or visitors, then be on the traditional side and use lighting with warm, yellow color tones after the sun goes down. Specifically, look for light bulbs with a color temperature around 2800-3200K.

These colors tend to make subjects which light falls upon look more realistic to the human eye.

This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 28 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .

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