Lighting Tips for your Outdoor Areas

In the eighth and final post in our lighting series, Jill Connor of shares tips for lighting your outdoor areas.

Several purposes are served by outdoor lighting, including safety (on pathways), security, and pure aesthetics (playing up a beautiful plant or tree). Jody Pritchard, a lighting designer in San Francisco, says one of her first bits of advice regarding landscape lighting is to choose quality fixtures for durability. “The outdoor environment is so harsh, particularly on the coast, that it is worth paying a little more up front so you don’t end up replacing fixtures every three years,” says Pritchard.

When planning landscape lighting, Pritchard suggests thinking in threes: light something close to the house, something midrange in the yard, and something in a far corner. “That way you create interesting focal points when viewed from the house at night,” she says. One overlooked benefit of outdoor lighting is that it minimizes the reflection of glass surfaces viewed from inside the house at night. “If you provide something outside that is lit, even a plant just outside a French door, you will be looking beyond the glass reflection,” notes Pritchard.

Avoid the mistake of using too much light outdoors. “People often think more is better, brighter is better, but outside wherever you create a super bright area you’ve also created super dark areas, and that can be unsafe. It’s better to have low levels of lighting all around,” says Pritchard.

The front door is one of the few outdoor areas where a brighter light is acceptable, with a traditional lighting plan calling for two wall-mounted fixtures flanking the door.

Lumens: Lighting at the front entry should be 1,000-2,000 lumens; on pathways, a minimum of 300 lumens is recommended.