Principles of Landscape Lighting Design

Principles of Landscape Lighting Design

Lighting offers huge potential for creating an amazing impact in your garden but it is crucial to plan carefully before investing in your exterior lights. The lighting effects should engage the viewer, highlight focal points and draw the eye through the landscape and so each light must be positioned wisely and provide the appropriate level of illumination. Here’s how to design a lighting scheme which will transform your garden after dark.

Create Depth with Your Lighting

Your lighting will work best for you if it delivers a sense of depth rather than merely drawing the attention of the viewer to what is immediately in front of them. A visitor should feel as if they are entering an interesting scene that they wish to explore. Their gaze should be drawn from the entrance towards the house and any interesting features along the way should be illuminated. The brightness of the lighting will vary to produce light and shade, brighter areas and mysterious corners begging to be discovered.

Exploring Perspective

It is crucial to consider all potential points of view before installing your lighting. You and your visitors may walk around the property and so you must ensure that your effects work well from any point of view, not just from the end of the driveway or the patio. As you move around your garden, the right lighting will continue to create interest and to invite you to explore.

The view from the windows of the house are particularly important considerations. When you look out of the window, will you be blinded by a poorly positioned spotlight and will too much of the garden remain in darkness? The features inside the house will impact your view. It is helpful if you can dim the interior lighting and you ensure that there are no large obstructions in front of the windows or bold reflections which disrupt your line of sight.

Establishing Focal Points

As you admire your garden, your eyes won’t immediately move to the farthest point. Your gaze will settle on features between you and boundary of the property. Your brain cannot properly process a moving image and so this process of stops and starts is inevitable. Your lighting scheme will work best if you establish illuminated focal points around the garden with lighted areas between them to draw your gaze.

Focal points act as stepping stones for the eyes and draw the viewer through the landscape, giving them the opportunity to take in any beautiful trees, water features or sculptures. The focal points should not be too far apart and there should be no areas of complete darkness between them.

Considering Lighting Quality and Direction

Your garden is a canvas on which you will “paint” your lighting effects. An artist will adjust their brush strokes to suit their composition. You need to adopt the same approach to your lights. Consider whether soft edges, harder effects, elliptical pools of light or rounded beams are most appropriate. In lighting design, “quality” refers to the shape and spread of a beam and the level of diffusion. It is this “quality” which dictates the mood. It is wise to undertake a little experimentation to discover whether dramatic, inviting, romantic or natural lighting effects work best in a particular location. The direction of the light is equally influential and again, some experimentation will help you to make the right decisions.

Downlights create a subtle, mellow and romantic feel whereas uplighting is much more dramatic in feel. Uplighting produces a sense of grandeur but backlighting is more understated and can create a sense of mystery. Front lighting is also dramatic and revealing but may flatten the features in your garden.

If you wish to create a focal point with a dramatic look, use narrower beams. A diffusion lens will soften the beam, reducing the sense of drama in favour of a more subdued look. Tree lights contribute low level light across otherwise unlit areas and look welcoming. By controlling both quality and direction, you can produce the perfect effects across your garden.

Remember Symmetry and Balance

Look for symmetry in the landscape and design your lighting scheme to complement this. Be especially careful when lighting features which are symmetrical such as marked pathways, perimeter hedges and columns. If one side is more brightly lit than the other side, the viewer may feel uncomfortable and as if something isn’t quite right.

Unifying Your Design

Your Exterior lighting scheme will be more successful if you unify the design by creating connections between your focal points. Don’t feature bright light everywhere as the sense of mystery will be lost. Try to selectively light pathways and other areas which play a significant role in the overall composition that you are trying to evolve. Safety is also a consideration if you or your visitors will move around the garden after dark.

So, what effects could you employ to deliver a cohesive lighting scheme? Tree lights project through branches and mimic the effect of moonlight. This is the perfect way to light driveways and lawns. You can illuminate perimeter features such as bushes or fences with low level light that creates a sense of mystery and which enhances safety without detracting from your focal points. Garden paths and specific areas of interest are best illuminated with diffused light.

If your budget is challenged, consider tackling your exterior lighting project in sections otherwise you run the risk of running out of cash and featuring an incomplete scheme which is spoilt by completely dark areas. A phased approach will enable you to perfect each area of the garden as and when you can afford it.

Never underestimate the difference that lighting will make to your outside spaces. Your garden is a significant aspect of your home which you should be able to enjoy at any time of the day or night and throughout the year. A well-considered lighting arrangement will transform your garden into a wonderful landscape that you won’t be able to take your eyes off.

If you’d like to see lighting fixtures are available to help you bring your landscape lighting designs to life then check out what’s available in our diverse range of outdoor lighting, you’ll find everything from ground lights, flood light to pillar lighting and more.

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