How To Get the Best Lighting System (Part 2)

No one takes buying or building a new home lightly. We make a list of reasons why acquiring a new home is a good decision. Whether the family is expanding and more space is needed or relocation is necessary for job or school requirements, we can provide definite motivations for making the decision to buy a new home. The same process holds true for the purchase of most major items; buying a car, purchasing season tickets for our favorite sports team or establishing a college fund for the kids. We can always answer the "Why" of making these major decisions.

In the process of making those decisions we evaluate "How"  we are going to implement the choices we've made. In the instance of acquiring a new home, we may have the choice of building in a new neighborhood or purchasing in an established one. Do we want to endure the inconveniences of construction traffic and the mess, dust and noise associated with a new subdivision? Maybe the appeal of "normal life" in an established neighborhood offsets the possible higher property value the newer property may offer. After all, that new subdivision will be "established" in a year or two! In short, the final decision rests on the practical function we gain in making that major decision.

The same principle applies when planning a lighting system. The next question we want to ask is:

What do we want to light?

The first article we looked at in this series dealt with the purpose of a lighting system for your property which should help you pick out some key targets. Most likely, you will need "sets" of targets, especially if you're implementing security features along with esthetic features. If you're adding functionality for entertaining, you may need coverage of some target areas by two light sources; one for an intimate setting and the other for high traffic situations. Softscapes Lighting can help you evaluate these situations but many customers (and in many cases, installers) are not aware these options are available through a professionally designed and installed lighting system. 

Lighting is generally referred to as "landscape lighting" which may be aptly named for systems that only light the plantings. In the early days, most lighting focused on the landscape because it was installed by landscapers who made their living installing plant materials. They saw the use of lighting as a way to show off their handy work after dark but they paid little attention to the most important target, the structural features presented by the home itself. Quality lighting is better named "outdoor lighting" or "exterior lighting." 

As we evaluate what structural targets should be lit, we take our main queues from the daytime scene. The most notable architectural features that give your home it's distinctive character are the main ones we want noticed in our night scene. Usually we want the main focus to be on the front entry and on the roof lines created by the soffits but we can also highlight some of those "less noticed" daytime features and really make them "shine" at night! Generally, there are abundant targets to select from so on the other side of the equation we have to determine areas we want to let reside in the shadows.

The next target group should be functional targets such as walkways, stairs, water features, and other areas where pedestrian traffic is present, at times, on the property. A little light in the right places offers security and confidence for guests walking around decks, patios, garden structures and parking areas. These target areas usually require the most creative approach to supply good light to an area without making the source too obvious.

Now we can do the landscape lighting which provides some balance and perspective to the main design. Large foundational plants, trees and colorful accent plantings add the final touch to your well-designed lighting package.

Part 3