landscape lighting designsIn the mid-1950′s – over half a century ago – Dwight D. Eisenhower contacted Bill Locklin, an innovative local electrician, to provide lighting for an outdoor party. Bill created the desired lighting effects for the future president by placing tractor head lights inside coffee cans and hooking them up to a 12 volt car battery. Voila! The low voltage landscape lighting industry was born. Since then, the evolution of landscape lighting products has been vast and varied.
These specialized fixtures and equipment run the gamut from inexpensive almost disposable plastic lighting kits with lightweight plastic transformers available at the corner home improvement store, to very high end commercial grade fixtures made of durable and long-lasting materials such as brass, copper, stainless steel and marine grade aluminum with professional multiple tap transformers used by contractors and expert lighting designers. Lighting design itself has also developed into a specialized
field combing function and artistry to drive the industry into increased awareness of landscape lighting as a décor feature as well as a safety function. Properly executed lighting designs employ a large range of techniques to accomplish their purpose of adding security and ambiance to the property.
Each design should be as unique as the client being served. Some of these techniques may include sidewalk marking in the over-used “airplane runway” fashion most often used by Joe Homeowner, or the more artistic effects like moonlighting from trees to accomplish the same purpose of illuminating the pathway. The professional designer has a greater knowledge of light behavior creating up lighting, silhouetting and spotlighting to feature an art piece or particular tree; or highlighting an interesting texture or wall color using wall washes. Changes in elevation can be more effectively pointed out with light using fixtures designed to accent the step rather than draw the eye to the source of the light.
Today’s professional lighting designers have thousands of different fixtures using hundreds of different lamps (light bulbs) with many different beam spreads available at their disposal making the possibilities nearly endless to add elements of safety and beauty to residential and commercial outdoor spaces. Fixtures as simple as a decorative path light with a small lamp that spreads light across a walkway to large floodlights with high intensity metal halide lamps intended to light up a 100′ pecan tree are all available – and everything in between.
The new energy-conserving kid on the block, LED lights, can do almost anything, and are being developed and improved as quickly as they can be installed for use in almost any application designers can imagine. Landscape lighting is no longer just a functional component at a home or commercial property. As hill country Texans we are blessed with a climate affording us the luxury of outdoor activity and leisure nearly year round.
Not only can exterior lighting add a perceived value increase of 20%, but also adds actual value for the homeowner in the extended use of outdoor spaces for entertaining and relaxation. The industry continues to grow as consumers have come to think of exterior lighting as an expected amenity as significant to the property as their choice of materials, colors and the landscape itself. As property owners seek to personalize their spaces, landscape lighting, with its myriad of choices, has become yet another option to consider in the pursuit of unique and beautiful applications.
Paul Gosselin is the president and chief luminary officer of NightScenes Landscape Lighting Professionals in Kingsland, TX. He currently serves as president of the Texas Chapter of the Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals and also serves as vice president of the AOLP nationally. Paul is an international award winning landscape lighting designer who has traveled all over the United States to hone his craft including the world renowned Janet Lennox Moyer Landscape Lighting Institute in Troy, NY.