How To Light Your Landscape Like A Pro — Boxhill & Co., LLC
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An modern outdoor pool at night with floating glow balls and a fire place glowing behind it.

How To Light Your Landscape Like A Pro

Nobody wants to get in a pool and come face to face with a dead iguana. It kills the party vibe when you have to turn on a floodlight to see what’s on the the barbecue or tell if your steak is medium-rare. Even something as simple as making sure your house number is properly lit can have a big impact on quality of life. What if UberEATS can’t find you?

Boxhill patio design sketch winning HGTV 2018 award.

At Boxhill, when we work with you on designing your outdoor space, lighting ideas appear in the first design concepts because it is integral to making a beautiful landscape livable.

Light up in Layers

Here’s a secret: Dress your landscape in lighting the way you dress for a long plane flight: in layers. That way you can seamlessly move from pool party to cocktail party with a flick of a switch.

First Layer: Functinonal Lighting

The first layer is mostly permanent (wiring run through conduit and hidden) low voltage lighting throughout the landscape, and includes path lighting, uplighting, and wall washes.

Good landscape lighting makes a house look like a million bucks. A wall wash light from FX Luminaire projects plant shadows on the walls framing a view of downtown Tucson and mirroring the silhouettes of the modern leather lounge chairs.

Second Layer: Task Lighting

Task lighting lets you see your steak while cooking it, illuminates your house numbers, and lights the way for taking out the trash. It’s the lighting that you turn on when you’re doing something—cooking in the outdoor kitchen—and off when you’re done.

Third Layer: Ambient Lighting

You can layer ambient lighting within the overall lighting scheme, so that you can adjust throughout the evening and according to circumstance. While you’re eating dinner, you’ll want to see your companions’ faces, so you’ll turn on the string lights. But after the plates are cleared, you might want a more relaxed vibe from lanterns and a fireplace.

Create Vignettes

One light fixture does not fit all.

While furniture, rugs, walls, and pathways define space during the day, at night, lighting is what pulls seating areas together and separates the dining room from the poolside patio. Use lighting to create cozy seating areas for relaxing.

In-pool lighting can be a challenge. Often the main light is harsh, but there are those floating iguanas to think about. Soften the impact with commercial-grade Christmas lights and something fun like our favorite LED glow balls. That way you get the ambiance without the klieg light effect. More backyard less baseball field.

Get the Look

Lighting Tips

Go commercial: Use commerecial-grade outdoor Christmas lights that are made to be left out in the elements. You might pay a little bit more up front, but you’ll only have to install once. Most come with a 10 year warranty.

Layer: First take care of functional and task lighting then create a mood.

Think fun and functional: Look for dual purpose fixtures that add flair—sculptural even when not turned on.

Tried & Tested

The lighting tips in this article were utilized in the featured design which is the winner of the 2017 “Best Hardscape” design award from Gardenista. It was also the Overall Winner of the 2018 HGTV Ultimate Outdoor Awards.

In this design venture, we transformed the conventional shade pergola into a modern outdoor haven. Focused on clean architectural lines and contemporary materials, our hardscape creation features a covered veranda, a built-in fireplace, a minimalist pool, and windowed exterior walls offering panoramic views of the Tucson skyline. Departing from the typical Southwestern garden, the space adopts an Ibiza beach club ambiance with subdued, monochromatic tones. Influenced by the homeowner's German background, the design aimed for a peaceful atmosphere, steering clear of vibrant or intrusive colors. A carefully curated palette of sea glass green, white, grey, and hints of turquoise sets the backdrop for an outdoor sanctuary where tranquility speaks through every detail. Lighting, a crucial aspect of the design, follows the principles of our lighting tips, incorporating functional low-voltage lighting, task lighting for specific areas, and ambient lighting for adjustable atmospheres throughout the evening.


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