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  • Lighting the Great Outdoors
  • April 30, 2019
  • Dave Fogarty

Spring has sprung and summer is just about here. The weather is starting to warm up and the days are longer. No better time to consider giving that back garden or patio area an upgrade and turn them into outdoor living areas that can be appreciated and enjoyed long after the sun goes down.

Outdoor lighting is often an afterthought but a careful, thought out lighting design can instantly transform an exterior space from a dull lifeless garden to an area of retreat and escape to share a beer with friends.

Various techniques and effects can be applied to bring attention to those select areas and features of your garden. Remember, at night time a little light goes a long way so use the below suggestions selectively to play with light and dark.



Apart from the obvious safety aspects, lighting steps in your garden can also be an aesthetic and decorative addition. Whether using low level ‘eyelid’ lights recessed into the side wall to project a narrow beam of light across the surface of the step or alternatively hidden linear lighting installed into the underside of each step to create a light wash, are creative ways to provide that functional yet ambient accent.


Lighting from below is probably the most commonly used lighting technique when it comes to highlighting focal points of a garden. Uplighting key features from below can highlight textures, add depth and shadow and ensure focus on these areas at night. For example, instead of flooding light onto a garden statue, try uplighting it from below to make it stand out from a dark background while also introducing shadow to give the character of the statue life.


Illuminating trees and shrubbery can give depth to a space while also introducing elements of night-time drama. This is easiest done by uplighting. Avoid lighting every tree but only a select 2 or 3. Introducing a ‘moonlight’ effect is also another way of utilizing the branches of a tree to cast shadows across a wide area simulating a full moon. This is achieved by mounting a fitting on a high branch of a tree and illuminating through the lower limbs with great dramatic effect and evoking strong moods in a night-time space.


The approach to your house and how this feels at night is a very important element to be considered as this is a visitor’s first impression on arrival to your home. Low level bollards along a pathway is a very simple yet effective way of introducing a light glow without causing glare. For larger, more open areas, post top lights are a great option for illuminating. These are available in many styles from old-world to contemporary. Avoid security lighting as this will introduce excessive glare and a general flat wash of light to the space.


A water feature like a fountain or reflection pool is always a runner to introduce striking lighting techniques. At night-time, a water surface acts like a mirror, creating reflections on its surface. Using underwater fittings to light through the flow of the water introduces movement and reflectance on the ripples of the water surface with subtle effect. Alternatively, there is the option to light a feature close to the edge of a pond utilizing the reflective nature of the water surface.


The options to light a patio or terrace are endless and really depends on how you will use and interact with the space. Festoon lighting is always a popular option as it is relatively cheap, easy to install and instantly adds a cosy atmosphere to any space. Alternatively, a mixture of funky wall lights and low level lighting can be used to add interest to the space. Another option is to use the furniture itself to light the space. Illuminated patio furniture like tables, flower pots or exterior rated floor lamps can be used to introduce an ambient glow to the patio area.

As mentioned at the start, these are various techniques and effects can be applied to bring life to your garden but remember, less is more so be selective in the elements and features that you choose to light.

  • Design
  • Biophilic Design, Design, Garden, Garden Lighting, Light Design, Light Effects, Lighting, Outdoor, Outdoor Lighting

About Dave Fogarty

Dave works on all aspects of lighting design and is the go to guy for lighting calculations, technical info and all those pesky details which can make or break a project. He is an avid motorsport fan and is forever playing with the latest gadgets. Dave comes recommended by 4 out of 5 people that recommend things.

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