Simple Steps for Creating Dramatic Outdoor Lighting

SimpleStepsKey Points

  • Outdoor lighting typically falls into one of three categories: accent, task, and security.
  • Use low wattage bulbs whenever possible.
  • Blue-white light bulbs or filters are more aesthetically pleasing in planting beds than yellow bulbs.

We have all seen evening photos of magnificent, well-lit homes gracing the covers of those “Homes of the Rich and Famous” magazines. The photographers have captured the dramatic outdoor lighting that accentuates the natural beauty of the surrounding landscaping. We admire the subtly lit pathways, the ambiance of the outdoor patio, and feast on the boldly highlighted architectural features of the home. Our eyes are drawn to it and we delight in the effect these different lights create.

The truth is that you don’t have to be rich or famous to create interesting lighting effects outside your home. All you need is a reasonable investment in time and money. First you must decide which kind of outdoor lighting you desire. They typically fall into three categories.

  1. Accent lighting is done for dramatic effect. You can highlight yard art with up-lighting. You can silhouette a small tree against the house by keeping the light between the tree and the house. Ambient lighting provides comfort to outdoor rooms, patios, hot tubs, and spa areas.
  2. Task lighting for pathways or steps is done by keeping the light between the object that needs to be lit and the viewer (the path, the step, the outdoor grill, etc.).
  3. Security lighting should be used to protect your property, but remember that too much light in one area can create dark pockets just outside the range of the lights. One solution is to use motion-activated security lights.

Once you have decided what kind of lighting is best for you, follow these simple steps to transform your home into a lighting showplace.

  • Never use lights in straight lines along paths.
  • Use blue-white bulbs or similar filters for your lighting fixtures (yellow bulbs are not flattering to plants).
  • Lights should be easily accessible for changing.
  • Test your lighting scheme before you permanently place the fixtures.
  • Use low wattage bulbs whenever possible.
  • Replace incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs that are rated for outdoor use.