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Exterior lighting adds visual interest to your home and landscaping while highlighting safe walkways and paths. Photo courtesy of Wood River Evergreens.
Exterior lighting involves much more than putting a lantern next to your front door and a light post at the end of the driveway. But before buying your lights, take a good look at your house and yard to determine what you want to accomplish.
Exterior Lighting for Safety If safety is your main goal, identify which areas you use at night and any potential hazards, like dips, steps or lawn ornaments. Lighting the entryway is a top priority. Illuminate the steps, house number and door so you can easily get the key in the lock. Make sure walkways are well-lighted so no one trips on uneven ground, forgotten tools or toys. In snowy areas, lighting is key to avoid ice patches and potential slip and falls. The same rules apply to the garage area, driveway and deck. Use lighting to direct traffic to the safest routes by placing lights along the path you want people to follow to the garden or pool.
Research has confirmed that just having an area lighted helps deter crime, says Joe Rey-Barreau, a lighting designer, architect and professor at the University of Kentucky. Start by pinpointing the dark spots around your home that can serve as potential hiding places for thieves. “It’s a function of identifying where you feel uncomfortable,” Rey-Barreau says.
Keep in mind that light used for safety or security doesn’t have to be obtrusive or bright. “The solution can be much more subtle and much more elegant,” Rey-Barreau says. For example, you can use a technique called grazing to highlight the texture of your brick exterior and simultaneously illuminate the shrubs where a burglar might hide.
Exterior Lighting for Beauty If showing off the beauty of your home is your focus, pick the features you want to highlight, like a carved door, graceful archway or unusual chimney on your house. You might also choose to spotlight yard features like a tree, pond, flower bed or statue. Creating attractive lighting is like a work of art. “It makes your house look wonderful and helps the resale value,” says Monty Gilbertson, manager of Lighting Design by Wettstein’s in La Crosse, Wis.
Different effects can be created by placing the light above, below, in front, behind or to the side of a subject. Up-lighting can make a tree glow in the summer and accent its bare branches in winter; down-lighting the tree can simulate dappled moonlight and create attractive patterns on the ground. Lights used to illuminate paths, steps and driveways usually shine downward to avoid blinding the walker.