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How to add landscape lighting to your outdoor project design

Lighting is one of the most magical elements of landscape design. Sometimes referred to as “nightscaping,” it creates a warm, inviting ambience that beckons us outdoors – inviting us to linger long after dark.

Besides the romantic appeal, landscape lighting has its practical side too. When positioned in the right places, lights will enhance safety and security, and guide foot traffic to your front door or into your backyard living space. Directional lighting can draw the eye to a focal point of your landscaping like trees and fountains or an architectural element of your home. Outdoor lights with sensors can help to reduce crime by deterring unwanted intruders.

Make lighting part of your plan

Despite the value of adding lights to your outdoor space, incorporating landscape lighting as part of the overall design is often an afterthought. Perhaps that’s because it can be difficult to envision what lighting features will be required, or it may be an expense that you hadn’t planned on. But your lighting needs can be considered, and added in stages as time and budget allow.

First evaluate your property. Make a list of dark corners, walkways and other areas where illumination is important for safety. Consider your future living spaces like backyard patios, pool decks, and fire features where you hope to spend time after the sun sets.

Then decide what lighting requirements you need to focus on first. Most homeowners start with the safety requirements. For example, you may want to first invest in walkway, driveway and front entrance lighting, and employ temporary solutions like light strings and candles on your patio.

Light the way

Outdoor path lighting is important for both safety and wayfinding, which is the process that helps people find their way through your yard, around your pool, and to your home entrance at night. The best way to light the path is by staggering your lights from side to side. When the lights are offset, they provide a comfortable sense of balance.

When planning your path lighting, avoid placing lights too close together (this creates a runway effect), installing very bright lights and angling lights upwards. You want to keep the light out of the eyes of your guests and focused where it is needed most – along the walkway.

Path lights are available in LED and solar models that don’t require wiring, and in styles such as lanterns, lamps and posts. You can also install recessed lights along the edges of your paving. If it not apparent where the path starts, install lantern-topped pillars as a focal starting point.

Step lighting is very important for safety, but stairs also provide an opportunity to create a sense of drama. A nice touch is using louvered lights on the face of each step to subtly light the way upwards.

Adding intrigue to your space

You can use “nightscaping” techniques to create interest and intrigue in any outdoor setting.

  • While “uplighting” is not recommended for a pathway, directing a light to just below a landscape element like a large sprawling tree can have a dramatic effect. You can also place the light right below the target to illuminate elements that will be seen from more than one side.
  • Place light fixtures within the branches of a mature tree to create shadow play in your landscaping for a “moonlight” effect.
  • For an eye-catching “silhouette” effect, aim the light at a large planter or a statue to cast moody shadows on the walls behind.
  • Mount fixtures high on walls to “spotlight” certain areas such as a pool, water feature or arbor. While adding intrigue, spotlighting also brings a sense of safety to dark areas.
  • Add lanterns to pillars and under mount lighting to seat walls. Not only do these elements add visual appeal to your design, they also illuminate features so your guests can easily find them in the dark.

Landscape lighting delivers a balance of ambience and practicality to your outdoor spaces, and can help extend the use of your outdoor space as the day melts into the night. For more illuminating ideas on landscape lighting, speak to a Unilock Authorized Contractor.


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