Make your yard larger with landscape lighting

Make your yard larger with landscape lighting

By Mike Gambino

Although the title of this article may be misleading as landscape lighting will not make your yard larger. However there are techniques when properly implemented that will give the perception or appearance of a larger property. As is the case when selecting lighting for any room in your home, an important thing to consider outdoors is the design and layout of that space. The illumination of the exterior affects our perception of space proportions as light reflects from various surfaces including architectural walls, floors, subjects of interest and plantings. There is not much one can do during the day short of purchasing your neighbor’s property to create the feeling of more space. As impossible or impractical as this may be sometimes a client would like to make the space seem larger or wider than it actually is.

To create the illusion of a larger property after dark using lighting, it is important to illuminate the perimeter areas of the property with the highest level of light in your overall scheme. This will guide the eye though the space and create a feeling of depth.  Lighting the adjacent branches and foliage from trees that tower over your property not only adds interest to your own landscape after dark but creates the illusion that these trees are actually in your own yard therefore making it larger.  Of course getting the permission of your neighbor is always advised if there is a chance they might object.  I have found that most neighbors actually appreciate this as it adds to the enjoyment of their own property, of course as long as the lighting is not obtrusive and doesn’t create glare. By directing lighting upward and keeping light saturation on the “walls” (trees and or hedges that enclose your yard), you can visually expand your property.

When choosing lighting for your landscaped property  it’s important to remember that optimal lighting has 3 layers: general/ambient lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting. Layering light creates a tranquil atmosphere while having a function and purpose.

The first layer is general or ambient light. This layer of light illuminates a wide or general area. Spread lighting from fixtures that actually direct diffused light down and out over an area. Or overhead lighting from trees or structures is typically used to create this first layer.

This can be done either directly or indirectly. Direct lighting is lighting is obviously lighting that is directed towards a space. Indirect lighting is light that is bounced or reflected off a subject to provide lighting to an area outside of where the source was directed. With overhead or down lighting, keep in mind that the farther away light is, the larger the surface area that’s illuminated and the more diffuse the light. This is true of spread (path style fixtures) lighting as well however heights are regulated by the landscape itself. Typically these types of fixtures are limited to below knee height to make them easier to conceal in the garden and mitigate potential glare. With indirect lighting sometimes higher intensity light is used because the light must travel to reach its destination and is very diffuse in its nature. When done properly this effect can be mood enhancing and very desirable.

Task lighting is the second layer of light to consider for your outdoor space. It illuminates specific areas as opposed to the general area. The most popular type of task lighting for the landscape is path or step lighting. Obviously this is essential for navigation and safety. Other forms of task lighting include BBQ lighting, patio lighting, workspace lighting  etc. When selecting these fixtures, it needs to be kept in mind that the amount of light released into the landscape should be for specific purpose or task only therefore the fixture must be designed as such to limit the amount of light stray otherwise making it ambient or general area light.

The final layer of landscape lighting is accent lighting. This layer sets the mood of a space and can be used to draw focus toward its pleasant features while making the property seem larger. As an example, accent lighting could be used to highlight a special tree, fountain or statue. It is a really attention getting form of light that should be special and reserved for only the most desirable and important subjects in the space. When overdone its value is diminished. One must be very judicious with the selection of this form of lighting.

By choosing proper lighting and effects, you can instantly add length and the perception of depth to your space. Layering light is multifunctional as it helps create a soothing environment while providing task specific illumination. Be mindful of small and large details of your landscape’s features, as this can affect our perception of space proportions.

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 29 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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