Outdoor Accent & Landscape Lighting Guide


When we decided to landscape the front of our home, our landscape designer sent us on a tour of the town’s most beautifully landscaped front yards. We loved driving around to different neighborhoods, admiring the flower-filled beds in front of one home and the mature trees towering over another, but it wasn’t until he asked us to revisit some of those homes again, at night, did we see the full picture of exterior accent lighting.

Nighttime Landscape Lighting

Landscapes that looked merely pretty by day seemed to come to life in the evening, glowing with mystery and drama. And that’s when we first discovered the power of landscape lighting.

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Fortunately, adding warmth and magic to an outdoor area through the use of landscape lighting is easier than ever thanks to the stunning array of lighting available today. Hopefully, these 5 simple steps will show you how easily you can create an inviting outdoor living area through the use of lighting.

  1. Survey Your Space
  2. Setting the Scene
  3. What’s Your Style
  4. Pick Your Power
  5. Install Your Landscape Lighting

Step 1. Survey Your Space

The first step will be to decide which area of your outdoor space you want to tackle first. Keep in mind that while landscape lights are beautiful, they are also an important security measure. Which areas would benefit the most from being well-lit and inviting?

Types of Landscape Lighting

The four primary types of landscape lighting and the typical areas that feature landscape lighting are:

2. Setting the Scene:

Once you’ve determined the areas of your home’s exterior that you would like to accentuate and an idea of the types of landscape lighting that will illuminate them, next you will need to determine how you want to showcase these places.

Landscape Lighting Techniques

  • Up Lighting - Using either inground lighting, spotlights, or a combination of both, this technique will add drama to any tall trees and dense foliage in your front yard.
  • Moon Lighting – Placing tree lights at least 25 feet tall and angled at 45 degrees provides the illusion of natural light streaming through the branches.
  • Cross Lighting – Use directional accent lights to define surface texture and bring the centerpiece of your landscape lighting design, such as a sculpture or dramatical architectural feature, to life.
  • Mirror Lighting – Directional spot lights used in conjunction with a pool or other reflective surface will create another level to your lighting design.
  • Wall Lighting – Using either wall mounted downlights or directional spot lights, you will create an outline of your landscape and definition to your home’s exterior. The difference between the following is simply the position and angle of the spot light.
    • Grazing – Place a directional light 1 foot away from the wall and point the spotlight straight up to illuminate a v-shape on the wall.
    • Wall Washing – Use multiple spot lights to provide a broad, even illumination across the exterior of your home or large retaining walls.
    • Silhouetting – Add a spot light or in-ground light angled toward the wall behind a bush, shrub, or another item with a unique or interesting shape.
    • Backlighting – Similar to silhouetting, but the spot light is angled towards the landscape feature and away from the wall.
    • Shadowing – Similar to silhouetting, but the spot light is placed in front of the landscape feature.
  • Step Lighting – Provide even lighting and prevent tripping hazards with deck lights mounted on handrails or path lights. Lights may be positions on one side or both depending on the fixture mounting height and width of the set of steps.
  • Path/Area Lighting – Position and spacing of the fixtures should provide a visually appealing and even illumination of the path or walkway.

  • 3. What’s Your Style

    The design of your home will naturally influence the style, finish and details of the landscape lighting that you choose. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of styles from which to choose, from rustic to modern, vintage to transitional. Finishes are as varied as indoor lighting options, including black, white, brass, copper, or satin nickel.

    4. Pick Your Power

    Low voltage lighting is a smart choice for enhancing the security of your home, and will last longer than traditional line voltage landscape lighting.

    New to working with low-voltage landscape lighting? Hinkley Lighting is one of the leading experts on landscape lighting. View this Hinkley video first to help with some tips and tricks of the trade to getting your low voltage project underway.

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    Line voltage, or 120 volt landscape lighting, is the standard voltage that's found in outlets and junction boxes in the US and Canada. Line-voltage fixtures are basically plug-and-play in a junction box or transformer (that can handle over 120 volts). Conversely, low-voltage uses 12 or 24 volts and requires a transformer lower than line voltage to avoid immediately burning out the low-voltage bulb.

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    5. Install Your Landscape Lighting

    If your lighting project is a small and simple one, you may want to try to install it yourself. Otherwise, it’s best to find an expert installer, preferably one who with a well-regarded certification, like the one offered at a Kichler Lighting Certified Training Seminar. A high-quality product combined with expert installation is the key to ensuring that your landscape lighting will bring you joy for years to come.

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September 4, 2019
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