6 Lighting Concepts that Enhance Outdoor Living

High among the many reasons people become homeowners is so that they can enjoy not only their home, but the whole of their property. Few things are as memorable as a backyard BBQ with the family or a pool party on a hot summer evening. These examples and countless others represent the epitome of outdoor living. Yet, sunset can cut them short. That is, of course, unless you have a well-lit property that supports your outdoor lifestyle!

Outdoor lighting takes more tact than mounting a few floodlights and casting a blinding illumination across your outdoor spaces. Bright, bold lighting will actually detract from your outdoor activities—and your neighbors likely won’t appreciate it, either. Instead, it’s better to light strategically. To do this, consider your favorite outdoor activities—then, light for those specifically.

Here are a few lighting concepts that enhance outdoor living, without leaving a blight on your property when the sun goes down.

1. Post and cap lighting for decks and fencing

Post and cap lighting bring illumination to eye-level, creating a soft, warm glow in the areas most-frequented outdoors. These lighting solutions are built into the caps of decking or affixed to fence posts, capable of illuminating a few feet in all directions through a diffused lighting strategy. These types of lights are great for spacing across your property, to create perimeters and guide people through trafficked areas with ease.

The beauty of post and cap lighting is that it’s both aesthetic and functional. It can set the mood for a relaxing time spent on your deck, while illuminating the potential trip hazards that come with stairs.

2. Hardscape lighting for patios and features

Hardscape lighting can be built right into your property’s hardscape features to create strategic pools of light wherever you’ll be spending time outdoors. From retaining walls with built-in lighting components to well lighting underfoot, contained within your patio pavers, hardscape lighting is a wonderful way to create general lighting with an artistic touch.

Hardscape lighting is extremely versatile, which makes it broadly applicable to just about any outdoor lifestyle. Use it to light your patio during an after-dark BBQ, the decking around your pool for safety, the path to your fire pit or even the perimeter of your garden. However you choose to use hardscape and paver lights, you’ll surely enjoy the soft glow and ambiance of this style of illumination.

3. Market lighting for ambiance and relaxation

String lighting, also called market lighting, is wildly popular—and for good reason! String lighting offers the benefits of an overhead lighting solution, while distributing the light across many low-illumination bulbs. The result is a fairytale style of lighting that’s great for patios, decks, gazebos and any other outdoor space that people might choose to relax in.

Market lights are also extremely versatile. String them across in rows for a blanket illumination effect, or give them some slack and string them around the perimeter of a space for an enclosed lighting feel. The sheer number of bulb types and hues available from market lights also paves the way for eclectic lighting strategies. No matter what you choose, the results will frame your outdoor space in delicate, yet powerful illumination.

4. Pool, dock and shoreline illumination

If your after-dark activities involve aquatics, lighting isn’t just key in having fun—it’s also an important safety consideration. Luckily, there are plenty of stylish pool and water lighting solutions that’ll keep the party going safely after dark.

If you own a pool, recessed deck lighting is the perfect way to frame the pool’s perimeter. This warns anyone when they’re getting too close to the water, while also casting a gentle glow for anyone in the pool. Likewise, downlighting that’s mounted on a nearby fixture can do a great job of bathing the pool in lighting, without blinding the people swimming. 

If you own waterfront property and have a pier, aquatic lighting is a must-have. Place a few brighter lights under the pier to control the illumination, while providing context on both sides of the shoreline. This type of lighting makes it easy to guide the boat back in after the sun sets, while also offering enough light for those who like to do a little dock diving at dusk.

5. Uplighting and downlighting where applicable

Many property owners cultivate landscapes that support an active outdoor lifestyle—from a basketball hoop in the driveway to large swaths of open grass for lawn games. For these areas, uplighting and downlighting are great ways to set the tone for fun, without lighting up the rest of your property in a major way.

Uplighting is great for taller fixtures and features. For instance, you might choose to uplight the pole-style basketball hoop in your driveway or the treehouse in your backyard. Uplighting makes these features seem more imposing, while distinguishing them from their surroundings.

Downlighting has a similar effect, but can cast larger swaths of light that make it easier to light strategically. For instance, you could downlight your driveway from one of your roof’s eaves to cast light on any number of dusk activities, or even downlight your pergola to create a contained living space. 

6. Path and task lighting throughout

No matter how you like to spend your time outdoors after dark, path and task lighting are essential. These low-to-the-ground, soft light fixtures provide contextual light wherever you need it, no matter the purpose. Light your garden for after-dark appreciation of your blooms. Line the walking path around your home to ensure no one trips while taking an evening stroll. Install task lights by your outbuildings to give them context after dark.

The important thing to remember when utilizing path and task lighting is that more is less. Create a lighting strategy that uses fewer fixtures to accomplish what you need. Instead, rely on different lighting effects, light intensities and bulb styles to cast light where and when you need it. This careful approach to lighting is what will help your property retain its personality after dark.

Take a thoughtful approach to lighting your landscape

Every homeowner has their own vision for outdoor living. It’s important to light your landscape and your outdoor spaces with intent to support those activities. From intimate dinners cooked in your outdoor kitchen to raucous pool parties and late-night lawn games, careful illumination sets the tone for enjoyable time spent outdoors. Instead of washing out your property with floodlights, set a tone that’s personal, comfortable and well-intentioned.

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