@MarthaStewart Living Radio: Discussion on Landscape Lighting


Levell Design Tambay Residence



I believe after creating the a beautiful outdoor living space exterior lighting is essential. It would be like going to your wedding in a Vera Wang and throwing on some old flip flops. It’s that last little item that really must be addressed at some point to really show off your space and allow you to enjoy your home in the evening. You don’t have to go over the top either. Especially since the cost could be prohibitive if you try to do too much.

My suggestions are to first start inside and see what you see outside. That will help you determine what trees, bushes, walls, trellises, pergolas etc…you may want to light up.

Here are the 4 areas of lighting you should consider:

1. Task lighting: This is the light you work by. You would think about the grill area, outdoor kitchen, or maybe a potting bench.

2. Accent Lighting: This is the light that describes highlighting your plants, sculptures, pottery, structures, etc…

3. Decorative Lighting: This would be your exterior chandelier over your exterior dining table or maybe beautiful hanging lanterns in the trees. This is your soft light.

4. Ambient Lighting: This is indirect lighting. This is the light you may bounce off the eaves of the home in order to create some ambient light for the outside areas closer to the home.



Levell Design Tambay Residence Exterior Lighting


Consider This:

1. Choose LED whenever possible to help reduce the electricity bill. The fixtures will cost a little more up front but will save you in the long run.

2. Use down-lighting to highlight paths and walkways. Up-lights for tall plants like trees or palms.

3. Don’t forget about the steps. If you are in the beginning of the project before any hardscaping has been done be sure to prewire your steps for step lights or this is where I like to use path lights if it’s too late for step lights. Always be sure some pvc pipe has been set under  the hard scaped areas to insure a conduit for running lighting or fixing existing if new wires are ever required.

4. Think about using colored lenses. Plants look best when they are illuminated with a cool color temperature (3200-4000 Kelvin). I do not recommend cooler colors if the will reflect off of people. They can make you look gaunt.  It would be night of the living dead! I would also select a translucent lense as opposed to clear for ups and downs where you can see or look into. This helps not to catch your visual attention right into the bulb.

5.  I avoid path lights in a row. You don’t want a landing strip. I like to place where the light is needed like steps where inserted lights are not possible.

6. Plan, plan, plan! You want to be sure you know what lights are going where, what the spread you are trying to achieve (this is how wide you want the light), how bright ( buy extra bulbs with varying degrees of brightness in order to test out the brightness (non-led).

7. Be sure to adjust at night. If you use an installer be sure to do a walk thru at night as they are adjusting. It will help you to understand what they are lighting because they can shift over time and you would like to be able to reset.

8. MIRROR EFFECT:  To avoid the mirror effect which is when lighting inside is brighter than the outside which makes a black reflection on inside glass consider lights under the eaves pointing out to the yard. The light simply needs to be a bit brighter on those windows outside than in.

9. If you live on or near salt water than avoid aluminum light fixtures all together. The powder coat finish is usually too light and they will chip over time. Use copper or brass if your budget allows.