How to Enhance Recessed Soffit Lighting with Beautiful Up Lighting

Even though we see it everywhere, soffit lighting may not be the best approach for lighting your home's architecture.

Lighting the exterior of your home is a great way to add beauty in the evening. Everyone wants their home to be beautifully lit and exterior soffit lighting has become a popular solution. While this approach has become popular for many, from a design standpoint there are reasons why this type of lighting doesn't always make sense. 


Exterior Soffit Lighting

spaceship-effect-soffit-lighting-bad-exampleWhat exactly is exterior soffit lighting? It’s when a can light is recessed into the soffit beneath the roofline. They can be installed in the gables or the flat parts of the roof line. Soffit lighting provides a light that adds some functional light and a layer of security.

That said, strictly lighting your home’s exterior in only this fashion can produce undesired results. We very rarely see the truth about soffit lighting. But once you see it, it can’t be unseen. What am I talking about?


The Spaceship Effect

The less appealing aspect to soffit lighting people’s homes is what we call the spaceship effect. Have you ever noticed how, a home lit with bright soffit lighting sort of resembles a spaceship? It looks like the roof line is transformed into the underside of an alien spaceship getting ready for liftoff. This is the majority of soffit lighting we see out there in the world, not the exception.soffit-lights-bad-example

For those who like the alien spaceship look, bright soffit lighting is the perfect solution! But for most this isn’t an appealing look.

The other problem is when no other lighting style is used to help counterbalance the spaceship effect. This soffit lighting can be done beautifully when it is done in combination with other lighting approaches, namely, architectural up lighting.


Architectural Up Lighting

Poor lighting design that uses only soffit lighting leaves a bright, glaring, undesired effect. Part of the problem is that the light levels (lumen output) used in soffit lighting are always too bright. They usually need to be toned back to at least half intensity, if not even less. The other part of the problem is that strictly using only soffit lighting is the wrong approach.

As a lighting designer, if our goal is to achieve soft, warmly toned light levels, then we should be lighting a home’s architecture from the ground up, not from the sky down.

That said, when these two approaches work together it produce beautiful results. The trick is to get the light levels right so the soffit lights aren’t overpowered.

Lighting from the ground up establishes a fixed view point, a foundation, anchoring the home to the ground. When the light is coming from the ground it provides a better overall lighting effect. Tying our lighting to the ground makes the home feel cemented in place, thus eliminating the feel of floating in space.

4-5When LED up lighting is done right, there shouldn’t be any glare seen from the street view. The goal with good architectural, security, and task lighting is to see the effect and not the source.


Landscape Lighting

Illuminating the landscape further reinforces the illusion of a foundation. Lighting key features in the landscape like trees, walkways, sculptures, etc., adds depth and dimension to your property. When landscape lighting is used alongside architectural lighting, the overall scene becomes one seamless design.

Incorporating landscape lighting with the architectural elements makes the lighting design feel truly complete. Having one without the other can leave the view with an uncanny feeling. Imagine two scenarios:

Landscape Lighting Only

  • If only the landscape is being lit, the home is left dark. The home is left looking and feeling empty. A dark island in the middle of an illuminated landscape creates an eerie feeling.

Architectural Lighting Only

  • When the architecture is the only thing illuminating the property, it can feel like an island of light floating out in the middle of a dark ocean.


When both types of lighting are used together, it really does create a sense of completeness.


When we first meet with many of our clients, they are only looking to have their landscape lit. We do our best to help them understand how adding architectural up lighting to their landscape lighting will really take their lighting design to the next level. It’s the many layers in a lighting design that make a home feel complete. It’s no surprise that those who begin with landscape lighting will have us return to add architectural lighting elements a short while later.


Landscape Lighting Makes All the Difference

At Landscape Lighting Pro of Utah, the art of outdoor illumination is a real passion we work to perfect. Designing elegantly bespoke landscape lighting systems is simply all we do. For over 15 years, our award winning team of designers and craftsmen have striven to bring the best outdoor lighting experience possible to people’s homes and businesses across the Wasatch Front and beyond.

Located in Midvale, Landscape Lighting Pro of Utah installs, maintains, and repairs lighting systems throughout Utah's residential areas, including Salt Lake City, Park City, Draper, Davis & Utah Counties.

If you have an upcoming project you’d like help with, call us at (801)440-7647 for more information, schedule a free consultation, or feel free to simply fill out a contact form on our website,

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Topics: Residential Security Lighting, Down Lighting, security lighting, soffit lighting, architectural lighting, Up Lighting, home security lights, Home Illumination, LED Up Lighting, exterior soffit lighting

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