Landscape Lighting Designing With Light By Kevin Smith

During an initial customer consultation about landscape lighting, ensuring clear communication between you and the cus- tomer will help drive a successful outcome. When “talking tech” among fellow lighting designers, it is great to use geeky language and technical terms, but it is easy to lose your customer with this lingo. Understand- ing your audience is extremely important. Learning to convey your thoughts and design concepts in a nontechnical way will pay off in the end. Starting your initial consultation by asking your customers some critical questions is key to a success- ful project.

Why light? Why did the client call me here? What are we trying to accomplish? In most cases, the customer has no specifics on what they are looking for in a lighting system. They may have a general idea, but no details. Are they looking for lighting for beauty? Do they have safety and securi- ty concerns? Or, might their needs be a combination of all of those things? Asking some lifestyle questions will also help you design something that will be readily fa- vorable to your customer. How do they use their outdoor spaces? Do they entertain frequently? Is outdoor dining important to them? Do they have children who play outdoors? Are they walking pets outdoors at night?

Once you have a good understanding of their needs, you can then start thinking about technique. For example, it is helpful to observe an object you wish to illumi- nate from multiple angles; move around the area, indoors and/or outdoors, with the customer. If you are lighting around a body of water, an object that is surrounding it may be reflected into it during the day. Pointing out this feature and explaining that when this object is illuminated it will be seen in the water at night will give the customer a better understanding of the effect that can be achieved.

Defining the space to be illuminated is also important. Public spaces such as front walkways may need to be defined with

several styles of effects, the most import- ant being traverse lighting or pathway lighting. Backlighting will be needed to show depth in the area, and features such as signature trees can be illuminated to show directional changes or the flow of travel. Private spaces such as swimming pool areas or hot tub areas will need a calmer, subdued effect. Light screening can also be employed.

If the proposed area to light is quite small, it might feel even more cramped if you only light architecture and plants within that area. A method used to make small spaces feel bigger is to capture objects that are farther away but still in view. This will help create a background to this small area. It is important to be aware of “light trespass”; if the object you wish to light is on a neighboring property, seek permis- sion from that owner. It could very well lead to another project.

Layering light within a landscape lighting plan is very useful to achieve a dramat- ic look with many features. This can be achieved by using different lighting meth- ods such as up lighting, down lighting, back lighting and path lighting.

Another technique that aids in a well- thought-out lighting design is building hardscape features to accept the lighting you plan on installing. For example, use a large capstone for a knee wall to help disguise the light source. Or, provide space to install an LED light strip underneath the ledge of an outdoor kitchen by planning a slightly larger overhang. The options are endless when designing the hardscape around a lighting plan.

Proceed with a lighting plan as an artist. In- stead of paint and brush, use the beam an- gles of projection lamps and reflections off of walls washing fixtures and path lights as your tools. A beautiful landscape painting contains a background, a foreground and a focal point. Keeping this in mind, as well as your customers’ feelings about light, will allow for a remarkable design.

Kevin Smith is national technical support and

trainer for Brilliance LED LLC, one of the original landscape retrofit LED companies that is

dedicated to the land- scape lighting industry. 27

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