The Bright Ideas Blog

Design inspiration and outdoor lighting tips and advice for homeowners

Landscape Lighting Design Mistakes to Avoid

Adding low voltage lighting to your home's exterior can make an unexpectedly huge difference in the way you enjoy your outdoor living space, but be aware of lighting design traps. Before starting your landscape lighting project, be careful to avoid certain mistakes.: 

1. Design With Light, Not Fixtures

When you are first visualizing what you want to see at night, focus on the light. What is it capturing, what will you see? The fixtures are there to do nothing more than facilitate that light source. The bulb inside the fixture is what actually does all the work. So your focus should be figuring out how best to use that light to capture different elements. 

As strange as it might sound, the focus should be on what the light is bringing to the scene, not the fixture. It can often be fun to consider what different fixtures will do. what they look like, how they are mounted or installed, and trying to work around that. This is a rookie mistake. Don't get caught up trying to design with fixtures. 

Figure out what you want to illuminate, then figure out which fixture will best create the effect you're looking for. 

2. Don't Light Everything

A mistake commonly made is to assume that everything needs to be lit. In a good lighting design, creating creating shadows is just as important as creating light. Shadows are what bring depth and contrast to your design. If you wanted everything to have a light, you could simply install a giant flood light. Landscape lighting is all about adding an artistic element to outdoor illumination. If you look at a beautiful example of landscape lighting, you'll notice a great balance between light and shadow. 


3. Light Trees Properly

Lighting trees can be a lot of fun! But there should be some forethought about where fixtures are to be placed and how many fixtures might be needed. For example, when you're placing your fixtures, make sure you're accounting for tree growth. When lights are placed too close to a young spruce, they will quickly be swallowed up by the tree in just a year or two. It's worth it to bring your fixtures back a few feet and not have tree branches obscuring the light source. 

Consider the viewing angles on a tree like a spruce as well. A large wide tree like this will likely need more than one light to capture it. We don't want to add a second light to try to make the tree brighter, there are other ways this could be done. We would add a second light to ensure that the light feels more fulfilled. 

4. Selecting the Correct Bean Angle & Lumen Output

With a number of different lumen outputs and beam angled lamps, you can create some incredible projections. Don't use a one-size-fits-all LED lamp. Remember that the light needs to fit what it is capturing. You wouldn't use a subcompact car to tow a fifth wheel the same way you wouldn't drive a car with a V8 for its impeccable gas mileage. Similarly you wouldn't use a softly defused lamp to light an ancient oak tree, the same way you wouldn't use a lamp with a 500 lumen output to light a small ornamental tree. 


5. Be Careful of Light Trespass

As much as you enjoy your lights, that doesn't mean your neighbors will if you don't design carefully. The last thing you want is for your lights to shine into your neighbors windows. Fixture placement is important to help keep this from happening. Look at your viewing angles, Can you see the lamp glare from the road? 

Rotating the protective shroud on your fixtures will give you more control over where your light is being directed. If a light is throwing a glare into an undesirable location, simple rotate your shroud until the light can no longer be seen. Careful consideration of light trespass will endure that you and your neighbors are both n love with your lighting. 

6. Don't Design Without a Plan

Every scene in your landscape has a distinct beauty and purpose, and it's important to figure out what that is before you begin installing lights. Even simple landscapes have a balance and theme that pulls the design design together. Without careful consideration of how you will create balance, your design quickly can look like it lacks purpose. You don't need to know exactly where each fixture is going to go in the ground, but you do need to have a general idea of what you want.

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. 

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

 Free Landscape Lighting Design Guide