By Jason Wyrwicz. President of Pots, Planters & More.
Few experiences rival the magic of sitting outside on a well-appointed patio after sunset. Dining by soft light or simply enjoying a glass of wine in the glow of an illuminated deck or patio creates a romantic feeling, especially when surrounded by stylish elements like plantscapes arranged in sophisticated plant containers. Guests will linger well into the evening with the addition of a carriage lantern or a whimsical strip of lights to extend the night.
Well-chosen outdoor lighting can both reflect a home's or business’s style and do the practical job of providing light to dark areas. Whether a space is full of Old World charm or thoroughly modern, there are fixtures that will complement any theme. It’s always important to choose pieces that are weather-proof and made to be outside year-round. Be sure to have an electrician inspect any special wiring needs when doing custom lighting elements.
Todd Yonkers, a landscape lighting designer with Grand Rapids Lighting located in West Michigan, says he has seen a huge shift towards LED lighting recently. The advantages are so exponential that he predicts LED lights will phase out all other types of lighting. "Not only do LED lights operate with less electricity, they also use a smaller transformer and are more cost effective," says Yonkers. He adds that a multipath transformer allows wires to run 400ft vs. 100ft without light loss, allowing landscape lighting to reach further into an expansive yard, patio, or deck.
The newer spotlights that boast a dimmer switch and allow you to change the size of the beam takes the guesswork out of landscape lighting. "Now you can customize the way you up light a tree or illuminate the side of structures," says Yonkers. Try flanking decorative planters around entryways and using spotlights to showcase their blooms along with highlighting shadowy or hidden pathways. “When it comes to landscape lighting you want the fixture to disappear and blend in,” explains Younkers.
Outdoor house fixtures are a different story; these pieces can be woven into the theme of your patio or deck. Yonkers says more of his clients are choosing contemporary fixtures - one hot trend this season is clear seedy glass which looks like it has little air bubbles caught in the glass.
Yonkers says he gets lots of inquiries about implementing outdoor chandeliers. Consider hanging one of these eye-catching pieces to create the feel of an outdoor room, blurring the lines between indoors and out and creating a conversation piece. Chandeliers will do best in a protected or covered area.
The timeless addition of old coach lanterns evokes a feeling of history, from colonial to nautical, yet this summer brings a fresh twist towards the contemporary. “The newer versions are an updated transitional look halfway between traditional and modern: straight, smooth and simple,” explains Yonkers.
A row of hanging lanterns down a breezeway or affixed to a pillar effortlessly evokes sophisticated style. The mobility of battery powered or simply a candle holder version allows extra light around a grill area or table. Placed around a fire feature, they add extra shine and ambiance.
Something new and exciting Yonkers is using in his designs is LED tape, a thin self-adhesive ribbon of tiny lights. LED tape has previously been utilized indoor to light tricky-to-wire areas such as under the kitchen sink, but now this little innovation is making its way outdoors.
Placing ribbons of lights under a porch railing, overhang or stair step will throw down light in previously hard-to-illuminate areas. LED lights are also available in a ½ inch size that can be recessed into a stairway or ledge to provide a built-in look.
High tech and low tech work in harmony with the use of dimmer switches and dancing candle flames in hurricane lanterns atop tables. Outdoor lighting adds the extra sparkle to any landscape and truly extends the use of outdoor areas.
While sconces do the real work of lighting doorways and decks, a string of lights in a tree or along a railing can add a dreamy feel. Landscape lighting invites trees and lush planters to become part of a vision to surround guests in a soft, radiant glow.