Lighting for Outdoor Living

Soft lighting illuminates this patio for evening enjoyment

With the weather finally behaving more like summer, we all want to spend more time outside enjoying ourselves (and we’ve earned it after the frigid winter we endured!). Kids’ bedtimes are later, our schedules are (hopefully) more relaxed, and we feel the need to squeeze in every bit of outdoor time before the season is over and cold weather is on the horizon again. If your yard is too dark to navigate safely and experience comfortably in the evening, consider the difference landscape lighting will make.

Subtle lighting on the arch extends the functional hours for the grill and dining area A combination of house fixtures and landscape lighting creates a cozy outdoor space

How does lighting affect how you use your yard?

We’ve all been to outdoor events with great landscape lighting – there’s a warm, relaxed atmosphere that invites guests to linger and not rush inside after the sun sets, steps and edges are easily seen, and the lack of too-bright light means we can see everyone easily without losing them in deep shadows. We’ve also all been to evening parties where the only source of light is a blinding floodlight mounted high on the house as the single source for landscape lighting. The ubiquitous flood light may keep you from tripping over the furniture, but it doesn’t exactly say, “sit and stay awhile!” and if you make the mistake of looking directly at it, you may not be able to see anything for a few minutes.

Subtle lighting built within the grill island and more playful string lights on the pergola create a fun family evening retreat

Having well-designed landscape lighting makes your outdoor living space more functional, useful, and inviting. You’ll get far more use out of your patio – whether for dining or lounging – and your green spaces with thoughtful landscape lighting in place.

Uplighting on perimeter trees makes the yard feel larger and more inviting

What kind of landscape lighting do you need?

Task lighting smartly illuminates functional outdoor zones like grilling areas, play areas such as sport courts, and higher traffic areas like walkways and parking areas. Whether mounted on wood structures (like an arch or pergola) or on a tree, downlights illuminate a space without garish fixtures or glaring exposed bulbs.

Steps fitted with recessed lights offer safety in a subtle way (the fixtures are barely noticeable in the daylight) and place light right where it’s needed. Path lights (usually about knee-height and lighting only what’s below) offer a slightly larger wash of light along flatter surfaces like a walk.

Recessed lighting tucked into steps (left) and pathway lights (right) add function and safety to an outdoor living space Highlighting an ornamental tree – like this Japanese Maple – brings out the beauty of your landscape during the evening hours

Plants deserve a spotlight, too!

In addition to adding safety and function to your outdoor living space, lighting should bring out the most beautiful characteristics of your landscape – the plants! Thoughtfully-placed uplights can showcase the finely dissected leaves of a Japanese Maple or exfoliating bark of a Paperbark Maple. Backlighting a lush White Pine showcases its lovely silhouette. Including a few lights on flowering Hydrangeas around the patio gives them an alluring evening glow.

Don’t limit your landscape lighting to just around the house. Adding lights to trees in the distance adds depth to your yard in evening, so your landscape comes alive with interest – all while putting at ease kids – of all ages – who imagine monsters (or big brothers) lurking in the dark.

Combining different types of lighting maximizes function without detracting from the design of this outdoor living space

Why is lighting worthwhile?

If you make the effort to invest in your landscape and turn it into a retreat that your family can use and enjoy, you should absolutely consider lighting in your plan. In addition to adding beauty and function, outdoor lighting maximizes your investment by extending the usable time (both hourly and seasonally) of your landscape.

We approach our landscape lighting plans with the idea that the design should be about the light and what it illuminates, not the light fixture. Great lighting design brings out the best in an outdoor living area without detracting from it.

Subtle recessed lighting in the seat walls illuminates this seating area even when the fire is not lit

Know when to hire a professional!

When done correctly, landscape lighting is effective, easy to maintain, and enhances your biggest investment - your home. The added safety, security, and functional outdoor living time created with lighting makes it a worthwhile upgrade. We use durable brass fixtures with long-lasting LED bulbs and include programmable timers so our clients can spend more time enjoying their landscape. The talented designers at Bruss Landscaping will use their experience and knowledge to create a truly custom lighting palette to enhance your landscape. To consult with one of our landscape lighting designers, visit us here.


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  • Landscape Lighting
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