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Tips for lighting your outdoor spaces for function and fun

Lighting your outdoor spaces for function and for funLighting your outdoor spaces for function and for fun

Outdoor lighting means many things to many people, but it always goes well beyond lights for safety or holiday decorating. These days, outdoor lighting is downright fun and creative, and can include string lighting, unusual switch plates, and exquisitely backlit trellises.

Better Homes and Gardens magazine recently pointed out that, outdoors, a little light goes a long way. The reason? Your eyes need less light outside than inside for seeing shadows and patterns.

Take a walk
She recommended beginning your outdoor lighting project by simply walking around your space at night, taking in the existing grounds and imagining how you want your outdoor space to look. Remember that the way you see light in the daytime is quite different from the way you see it at night, which is a critical safety issue when lighting pathways or doorways.

According to Better Homes, outdoor lighting operates on principles such as focus on function, which then defines three types of lighting: overall, task and accent. Overall lighting illuminates a general space, while task lighting addresses a specific purpose, such as illuminating a pathway, and accent lighting focuses attention on a particular object or area.

This Old House magazine, addressing outdoor lighting  issues, recommended putting light where you need it. Lighting the outside of your home isn't difficult, as the article pointed out, but if you stroll around your neighborhood after dark, you'll see how easy it is to make mistakes, such as front doors hidden in the shadows or walkways that are unsafe after sunset. Or you may spot the home of an overlighter, where, as the Feldmans noticed, the driveway looks like a landing strip and the yard is so bright the place resembles a maximum-security prison.

"You don't have to light objects directly in order to get enough light in an area," Alicia Kapheim, lighting application manager at Philips Lighting Company, told Better Homes and Gardens. "By using reflected light, you can achieve a nice balance of esthetics and security."

Have some fun
Keep in mind that outdoor lighting isn't just about wattage - or even electricity. Chinese lanterns can beautify a deck, and battery-operated candles can add sparkle to a gazebo. And here's an inventive tip from Real Simple magazine: For a budget-friendly trick that won't involve an entire patio makeover, focus on a few decorative elements such as lampshades or chairs that strategically weave a splash of red throughout the dining space. Even simpler, use red light bulbs to add the color.

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