What Is Exterior Lighting & Why Is It So Important

Exterior lighting softens architecture and sets the scene for the journey through the home: it serves a range of different purposes and adds the moonlight sparkle and drama that a beautiful building deserves. It’s hard to overstate the importance of good exterior lighting choices, but first you need to know what exterior lighting is and the many things it can do for your space.


What Is Exterior Lighting?

Any lighting that is external to the home is considered ‘exterior lighting’. That includes facade lighting, security lighting, and garden lighting. While interior lights are designed to be on display, like decorative jewellry throughout the home, outdoor lights are usually designed to be hidden. They should be out of the way during the day, allowing the building to speak for itself, and help bring the space to life at night. Exterior lighting is used anywhere light is required outdoors: in gardens, on decks and patios, in pool or spa areas, along paths and by entry points, and in entertaining areas.

Some common types of exterior lights include: 


Most gardens won’t include all these different types of lighting, but should include at least a few different types, carefully chosen for the best outcome. 


What Purpose Does Exterior Lighting Serve?

There’s no single purpose for exterior lighting: there are a number of different things your outdoor lighting can do, depending on your priorities and the kinds of lighting you choose. 


Architectural Lighting

Exterior lighting is a subset of architectural lighting, and can be used to highlight the building design. The right choice of lighting can add some drama, help to soften any harsh surfaces of a build, and highlight features of the facade like columns, niches, corners, and other elements.

Safety And Security

Exterior lighting is one of the most important features for safety and security at home. Lighting provides safety by making sure any potential hazards are visible: this can prevent people tripping on their way to the front door or falling in a pond. Lighting provides security by making the home less attractive to thieves, vandals or intruders, who tend to work under cover of darkness. It can also be used to make it appear somebody is home, even if you’re not there.

Highlighting Natural Elements

Lighting can bring your landscaping to life by highlighting natural elements like trees, shrubs and even garden beds. This helps the character of your garden to shine even in the dark, which is great for entertaining or just for your own enjoyment of your home and garden.

Aesthetic And Atmosphere

Your choice of exterior lighting can completely change the aesthetic and atmosphere of your outdoor areas at night. A garden can seem like a completely different place at night compared with during the day, and lighting is part of what creates this atmosphere. Whether you’re hoping for a zen sanctuary or a party feel, your lighting can influence this.

You may be looking for outdoor lighting to achieve all these purposes, or one or two may be a priority. Another way to consider the ‘purposes’ of lighting is to think about what your goals are with the lighting you are putting in your outdoor spaces. You should always know your goals before you make any decisions or purchases.


What To Consider When Planning Your Exterior Lighting

If you’re ready to put together an exterior lighting plan for your home or business, there are a number of things you should consider first. Thinking about these things before you begin will set you up for success.

Start by considering your goals, intentions or purposes. Some of the points from the last section will help you narrow it down: Are you looking for very basic, practical lighting for safety and security, or are you hoping to create drama and draw the eye to certain features? Your approach will be different depending on your desired outcome.

In light of your purpose, you can begin to consider other important factors, including:

The Dimensions Of Your Building And Landscape

How big is your garden? How far is it from the fence to the house? How tall and how wide is the facade of your house? How long are any paths or garden beds? These dimensions will influence how many lights you might need, what style of lights, and how much light each fixture may need to create.

Any Natural Or Architectural Features You Wish To Highlight

What do you want people to see when they look at your house from the street? What do you want to see when you look out into your garden? Take note of the things you want to highlight, whether that’s just your street number and the front door, or whether you’ve got a water feature, large trees or columns that you want to highlight.

The Way You Use Your Garden

Think about how you want to use your outdoor space. Maybe you just want guests to find your house and make their way safely up the path to your front door, but maybe you want to host parties on your back deck or do a spot of late night gardening from time to time? This will affect the type of lighting you select.

The Style Of Your Home

Different styles of architecture and decor will demand different lighting design. A sleek, contemporary building might pair well with some dramatic lighting, while a cottage might require something softer and more classic.

The Surrounding Area

Are you situated on a busy, well-lit street, or is the environment quite dark and shadowy? This can have an impact on your choices. You might not want to shine spotlights on your home if it’s going to make it visible for miles around, so something subtle might work better in a dark area.

Energy Efficiency

Anywhere you’re placing lights, it’s important to think about sustainability. This is good for the planet and good for your wallet!

Your Budget

Like any building project, your budget will be one of the most important factors in choosing what exterior lights are right for you. Have an idea of how much you can afford to spend before you begin.

When you think through all these different things before you buy, you can make an informed decision and create a sophisticated lighting setup that will be both practical and beautiful. When executed well, exterior lighting can make your home complete, enhance your landscaping and help you use your garden and outdoor areas the way you intend them to be used.

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