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Landscape Lighting: 30 Bright Ideas

We often plant our backyards based on what we look at during the day, but then at night they disappear off into the darkness. You can create a whole new garden of light with landscape lighting, highlighting key features and choosing what stays in the shadows. Here are some ideas on looking at your yard from a lighting perspective, and turning your front and backyard landscape into a work of art.

Highlight at Night

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During the day trees just look like trees, but at night, a front landscape can come alive with the strategic use of spotlights. By using light to emphasize a specific tree or to a row of planting, it defines the space and adds drama that otherwise would've been shadows.

Feature the Footpath

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Path lighting is practical as well as attractive. Particularly if you have a walking path made from varying textures or sizes, you want to make sure it's illuminated well so guests can see where to step safely. Any turns in the path or unusual step heights can be emphasized with a strategically placed fixture.

Watch Your Step

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In an outdoor area with a significant amount of stairs, consider step lighting to ensure safe movement. Unobtrusive, they shine light out to clearly delineate the steps. Running them along stair treads in equidistant lines gives an aesthetically pleasing balance of light and design.

Flash Up Your Fountain

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You can hear a water feature bubbling away in the dark, but you lose the visual appeal after sunset. To fully appreciate the beauty at night, add a waterproof pond light on a particular element, be it a fountain, a stream or a particular stone.

Two For One

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In a minimalist backyard landscape, look for outdoor lighting fixtures that do dual duty—like a set of table and chairs equipped with down lighting. Match the angles of the pieces with the design style of other features in the backyard area for an even more cohesive design.

Skim the Surface

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If you have a wall made of interesting materials, add visual interest with grazing light. Placing fixtures close to the wall, either as uplight or downlight, coats the area with light and emphasizes the textural details that fade into the background in the dark. Hardscape strip lighting works well in this scenario, as its low profile lets it hide under overhangs.

Delineate and Illuminate

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Use light to define different areas of your yard. Bollard lighting spaced evenly apart creates a boundary line of light between two sections, be that a patio and a lawn or any other landscape component.

A Welcome Home

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Washing your front entry area with light not only helps you avoid tripping hazards, it also provides general safety for coming home after dark. Bright sconces flanking the door and clearly lit step lights cover the area with light, making for an easy, safe entry.

Don't Be a Square

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Pull out the features of a strongly angular house with a series of similarly shaped bollard lights and sconces. You could consider matching the finishes of the fixtures to those of the house, be it trim or a front door, or take the opposite approach with contrasting tones and complementary shapes.

Height Matters

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For walkway lighting, keep in mind the use of the light when determining height placement of fixture. For example, LED can provide soft, ambient, full-path light when placed higher up, but will give off more pointed, spotlight-style path lighting when hung at a lower level.

Emphasize Small Settings

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Create vignettes and highlight small areas in a yard with direct downlight on that specific area. You can define individual "rooms" by creating specifically focused lighting to emphasize that area at night. The light can be romantic and moody, or pointed and direct, depending on the lighting needs of that area.

Draw Attention

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While some outdoor lights will blend in with other components of an outdoor landscape, you may want to feature a specific lighting fixture. A traditionally styled post light, for example, gives an antique look—but with the backbone of modern technology.

Unbalanced Beauty

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Not everything has to be symmetrical. A staggered set of LED bollard lighting provides consistent light on a walkway and draws your eye toward the end of the path. For continuous lighting, it's good to note the beam spread of each post light to make sure they're placed the proper distance apart; this will eliminate any lighting gaps.

Fun with Figures

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Feel free to be a little bit playful with your outdoor landscape fixture selections. give a touch of whimsy while providing a soft glow. While you probably don't want to overwhelm the space with kitsch, a few fun elements can really perk up the space.

Highlight Your Features

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Continue your home's harmonious, symmetric feeling into your outdoor landscape lighting. Duplicate bollard lights, for example, can emphasize a dual-post structure of a house. Modeling your outdoor lighting on the design features of the house itself makes the lighting scheme feel grounded.

Mirror, Mirror

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Mirrors are often used in landscape design to reflect plantings and make a yard seem larger. You can take that a step further and get light fixtures that purposely direct light onto a mirror. The reflection provides an indirect light, which is easier on the eyes in high-traffic areas.

Light Up Danger Zones

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It's always a good idea to illuminate any areas that could be difficult to see, and potentially unsafe, in the dark. Small steps, areas of transitional height and any other places that could potentially be pitfalls (particularly for visiting guests) would be smart to notate and include in any lighting design plan.

Move It Around

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Not all outdoor landscape fixtures have to be permanent. Portable Bluetooth cordless lamps are great for flexible outdoor lighting, be it for additional light for parties or just general use. Look for ones with handles to make them easy to move around, and that are waterproof and easily rechargeable.

Go Both Ways

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Bidirectional wall sconces, with both uplight and downlight, are a great solution for any area that needs multiple types of lighting. They can provide both general overall lighting as well as specific path lighting.

Lighting as Art

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Experiment with using outdoor lighting as art as well as functional illumination. A large illuminated panel placed against a wide expanse of wall gives a gallery feel to the space, while at the same time providing practical area lighting.

Put a Post In It

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Post lighting can add drama and practicality in a lighting design. Unlike bright floodlights, they provide a diffuse glow of light over a small area, highlighting the texture of plants, stones and other landscape materials with a warm glow.

Break the Mold

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Non-traditional lighting fixtures can add fun and light throughout a backyard landscape. For example, provide a glow around a pool deck while still serving their primary planting purpose. Unique lighting fixtures are also eye-catching and, often, conversation starters.

Brighten the Night

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LED wall sconces are a great way to add a significant amount of light with an insignificantly sized fixture. The bright light not only illuminates dark spaces, but LED fixtures are also extremely energy efficient, have great longevity and take up way less room in many designs.

Room to Breathe

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Spacing is something to consider when thinking of path lighting ideas. Placing post or bollard lights close together with overlapping light beams gives a consistency of light along a path, but fyou can space them farther apart, allowing the light itself to be part of a dramatic design effect. This provides a dose of visual interest while still providing necessary illumination.

Get in Shape

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When planning outdoor lighting, consider the shape the light itself takes. Every fixture creates a pattern of light on the surface around it, and it's especially noticeable on large walls with repeated lights. Knowing the size and form of the light and shadow, and how far that light extends, will help you space the components to emphasize the overall home design.

Color Up

Add charm to a water feature with waterproof tape lighting in multiple colors. Bye-bye, white light! Whether wrapped around rocks or through streams, it's a fun way to highlight the continuous rolling water or emphasize rock formations.

Dress Up Your Deck

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To define your deck a little further, add lighting along a handrail. When the sun goes down, your deck goes on parade with strips of outdoor tape lights carried along the entire length of the railing. In general, tape lights are great way to emphasize any architectural details of your home.

All in the Family

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Add cohesion to any landscape design by coordinating fixtures within the same design style. Many manufacturers make multiple styles of lights—post and path lights, sconces, deck lights—in the same design but for different purposes. Coordinating these gives consistency, but allows you to use the appropriate light for the specific area.

Box It Up

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Sometimes the light fixture itself can be an architectural feature. Modern angular LED path lighting designs provide interest on their own but also can emphasize similar elements of the house itself. The lumen output in these LED lighting designs provides enough illumination to allow for interesting cutout geometric shapes and unusual designs.

Natural Essentials

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Natural materials help integrate lighting into an outdoor landscape. A wicker shade with a more rounded shape feels soft and nature-inspired. The organic materials make the lights feel connected to the overall landscaping, and can also be a stand-out, contrasting feature in a simplistic design.

There are so many wonderful ways to light up your outdoor spaces. Whether it's bright LED landscape lighting or waterproof pond lighting, there's tremendous versatility in outdoor lighting. By planning and implementing a lighting design thoughtfully, you can make your home a showstopper.