Lighting up the night

By Dannielle Furness
Monday, 29 February, 2016

Lighting up the night

An often overlooked element, lighting plays an important part in any poolscaping project, providing both aesthetic and functional benefits.

Poolscaping can have a dramatic effect on the ambience of a pool area. Just as planting and furniture can bring a design to life and provide clients with valuable additional outdoor living space, so too lighting plays a key role. Well-placed lighting can clearly define and improve the overall feel of an outdoor space, so it’s worthwhile considering a lighting design at the planning stage and involving a specialist lighting designer if it’s appropriate. If you decide to go it alone, here are a few pointers to get you started.

Fit for the task

First and foremost, you’ll need to identify what the space is to be used for. When considering gazebos, patios and other outdoor rooms, there are obvious considerations determined by the practical demands of the area such as food preparation, dining, reading or watching television. If the primary use is entertaining and dining, then relatively low light levels will suffice, so there’s no need to light up the space like a Christmas warehouse sale. In this instance, it’s all about the ambience and creating an environment that allows home owners and their guests to relax.

If there is a requirement for task lighting — such as food preparation, reading, or entry and exit from an indoor space — then higher lighting levels will be required, but these light sources can generally be limited to the immediate work area.

Getting into the garden

A landscape designer can provide assistance when it comes to highlighting objects and feature trees or other planted items. The key to developing attractive garden lighting is the colour temperature of the selected light sources. Colour temperature is measured on a Kelvin (K) scale — the higher the number, the cooler the tone. Cooler colour temperatures emit a bluish light, which most designers will suggest avoiding. A warmer colour temperature creates a more inviting atmosphere, so you should opt for lamps that are below 3000K.

The death of the incandescent lamp was a blow to many designers, as it emitted what was often considered a perfect colour. In the days since the ban, developments in halogen, fluorescent and LED technology have improved things somewhat, with more flattering light now available in these options. The longevity and low energy requirement of LEDs in particular makes them a sensible choice for outdoor lighting, despite their higher initial cost.

Perfect placement

Care needs to be taken when considering lighting placement, particularly for pathways, steps, driveways and other points of passage. None of these applications require particularly high light levels, but incorrect placement or direction can create glare, making movement through the space difficult or dangerous.

If the aim is to highlight features or create ambience, ensure that light fittings are focused away from the viewer’s eyes, or initial reflectors and shielding to help guide the light. Generally speaking, keep garden lighting low to the ground. If the aim is to create a wash of light, position the fitting far enough away from the feature to create a wash of light, rather than a direct beam.

Poetry in motion

Motion detectors are a great way of ensuring that lighting in little used areas of the garden is not left on unnecessarily, yet facilitates a safe pathway should it be required. If the house incorporates a lighting control system, it should be possible to integrate garden lighting into the existing network and to create some basic control scenarios including timed or sensed events, such as changes when either motion or light is detected.

Harness the elements

Solar lighting takes out the guesswork and minimises the need for other forms of control; but once again, placement is the key to efficient use of these fittings. If the aim is to highlight trees or foliage, you’ll need to make sure that the solar panel is exposed to enough natural light during the day to perform adequately once the sun goes down. If the purpose is to provide pathway lighting, access to direct sunlight is even more important.

Fortunately, Australia enjoys its fair share of sunlight, with most major cities on the mainland (sorry Tasmania) averaging in excess of 240 sunny days per year. This makes solar lighting particularly suitable for Australian gardens.

Protecting the investment

A well-designed lighting installation adds value for the home owner, so it should be protected to ensure a long life span. Anything that is open to the elements will naturally degrade over time, so consider the geographic location of the project and the likelihood of exposure to the elements. In addition to the obvious requirement for weatherproof fittings, exposure to salt air in seaside locations will also impact the most appropriate light fitting selection, or the requirement for additional equipment to protect those fittings.

Think ahead

Today’s home owners are more discerning than ever before. Most will demand a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor spaces and see the pool and surrounding area as an extension of their living space. Lighting shouldn’t be an afterthought, so begin the discussions early and determine the client’s expectations when it is still relatively simple to incorporate any foundational requirements, such as wiring. Discuss budget and work with other industry professionals who can provide valuable design expertise, including landscape architects and lighting specialists.

The addition of a well-designed lighting scheme not only takes the garden to a whole new level, but importantly makes a showcase of the pool and other exterior architectural elements. Beyond the aesthetic, lighting extends the usability of a space by making the area safe, as well as inviting, even after the sun has gone down.

Image credit: ©

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