A four-pronged approach to lighting
“Good lighting can mean the difference between an outdoor room you can enjoy and a dark, uninspiring backyard that’s off limits once the sun goes down,” says Jason Neophytou, lifestyle expert at HPM. When creating a scheme, he recommends a four-pronged approach: safety, security, ambient and entertainment lighting. “This will make your outdoors as useful as it is beautiful,” he says.
From uneven steps to slippery surfaces, potential accidents might be lurking in your backyard. For maximum safety, aim to introduce lighting to all walkways, including the driveway, paths, steps and verandas.
Placement is key; you want to mark edges with just enough light for visitors to see their footing but not so much that your garden feels like a stadium or blinds you with glare. The right spacing will also add a slight shadow to steps and uneven paths, which helps to enhance depth perception and prevent stumbles.
“At the front of the home, use bollards to light up the driveway and small spotlights to wash the front facade,” says Duane Shore, marketing manager for Signify. In areas where levels change, such as stairs, ramps and slopes, opt for step lights that shine down to create soft pools of illumination. If your steps sit flush against a wall, you could incorporate lights into the wall; otherwise, install them underneath the stair nosing, turning steps into an eye-catching feature.
Safety tip: Always have your lighting installed by a qualified electrician.
“The right security lighting can be a big deterrent for intruders,” says Nicole Tyquin, marketing manager for Brilliant Lighting. She recommends motion-activated lights around all entrances, including the front door, garage, patios and blind spots like rear verandas. “Motion sensors are great because they only come on when needed, making them very energy efficient,” she says. “You can now also get smart motion-activated lights that alert your phone when movement is detected at your property.”
Aim for central placement on walls, with a clear view of where you want motion to be detected. “Height is important, especially if you don’t want small pets or nearby trees to set them off,” says Nicole. “Also consider how long you want the light to stay on before it automatically turns off.”
You’ve spent time and money establishing a garden. Now all you need is the right lighting to illuminate your hard work. “Uplighting is a great way to add instant drama to large trees and feature plants,” says Jason. “It draws the eye, removing the focus from areas of your garden that may be less desirable. Choose something flexible so you can change it when the mood strikes, like adjustable LED spotlights.”
Colour also plays a big part in creating ambience. “Spotlighting trees in colour using one or two lights at the base can really bring a garden alive, especially if the colour used creates contrast against background areas,” says Duane. “Also consider light strips which provide an even, diffused light against rockeries, and can help define pathways.”
“Lighting can make or break an event. It adds to the mood,” says Duane. “Nothing is worse than having mates around for a drink, only to have stark white light as your companion.” For cooking and dining areas, he recommends downlights, which enable task lighting for food prep and can then be dimmed while eating. “With smart lighting, you can even sync your lights to the music or film you’re playing.”
For lounging areas, opt for portable lights that you can cluster to create ambience. Add a magical glow to outdoor dinner parties with an archway of fairy lights and a table decorated with battery-operated tea lights. When friends come round, light their way with lanterns along the steps and path.
Light up your outdoors
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Photo credit: Gap Photos/Clive Nichols and TI Media.