How to Create a Magnificent Outdoor Lighting Effect

Whether you want the perfect nightscape to surround a newly built home or upgrade a system already in place, it’s wise to consult an expert. We asked some local landscape lighting professionals what to keep in mind when undertaking an exterior lighting project.

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When choosing fixtures, Mark Stahlman of Stahlman-England Irrigation Inc., Naples, says, “Use a naturally durable and attractive material like brass. Plastic and powder-coated aluminum fixtures look good in a catalog but quickly deteriorate when exposed to the environment and normal use, especially around swimming pools and high-traffic areas.” He recommends brass for its natural patina, which will blend into the landscape and look better with age.

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John Gillespie, designer, Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Naples, says that in addition to being extremely selective about the fixtures and lamps, consider the architectural elements of your home you may want to highlight in the design.

The first thing to consider is power consumption (the type of bulb and light) as well as the light fixture material and size—all of which will play a role in creating the ambience you want to achieve, says Chris Baker of Tri-County Landscape Services Inc., Naples.

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The three pros agree that LED technology, which is constantly advancing, is the way to go. LED lights last longer than most others, and they conserve energy, which can save thousands of dollars over the life of the system. Gillespie says fiberoptic lighting will become widespread eventually, but it is still down the road.

Stahlman notes that fixture placement is important and can make the difference between a well-lit walking path and a harsh airport-runway effect. “Even the nicest fixtures will look bad if not properly placed,” he says.

When it comes to aesthetics, Stahlman focuses on three Cs: contrast, cohesion, and creativity. “Contrast is balancing the light levels among the many elements of your landscape and home,” he says. “Cohesion is making sure the levels look natural to the eye across the entire portrait you are trying to create. There is also a creative aspect to how the landscape is lighted.” What’s more, a good designer can not only enhance aesthetics but also protect people from injury and break-ins.

“Always use the best materials, like brass,” says Stahlman. “The lighting system should be viewed as a one-time project, not something that needs repair and replacement every year.”

 “The devil is always in the details,” Gillespie says. “Avoid those who want to put a light on every tree and bush on your property. To paraphrase da Vinci: Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

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