Lighting Design

Nothing has a greater effect on the comfort of an individual than the quality of light. Think about how you feel when approaching a dark house compared to the feeling when entering the property of a beautifully illuminated home. The lighting designer recognizes this and creates a scene where the viewer is an active participant. This scene presents a cohesive panorama framed by the borders of the property. Lighting displays the beauty of the landscape and highlights the architectural features of the building.

Public Space


The Public Space (Front Yard): The illustration above shows how the careful choice and placement of fixtures creates a scene that is both welcoming and dramatic.



The Private Space (Back Yard): A typical lighting design for the private space highlights how a good design can increase night-time usability of recreational areas in the backyard.

Lighting Objectives


Cohesion refers to the overall appearance of the scene as one continuous panorama. If there are unlit areas near illuminated ones, the user's visual experience is interrupted. These "black holes" detract from the beauty of the design and fatigue the eyes.


Cohesion is achieved by illuminating borders, backgrounds, and intermediate areas with the creative use of fixtures placed for that purpose.


Depth refers to the strategic placement of fixtures using different light levels to achieve a three-dimensional scene. Depth requires lighting areas that are in the foreground, in the middle, and at the back of the scene.


The proper use of high, medium, and low wattage lamps (with varying beam spreads) helps establish depth by allowing the designer to create scenes that draw the eye from near to far.


Keep in mind that the designer is not only painting a picture with lights, he or she is also directing a scene.


In this scene, the viewers' eyes are first drawn to one focal point then to another and so on. These focal points may be unique features of the property such as, statuary or water features; or they may be functional points such as entranceways, sitting areas, pathways, or gathering areas.


Low voltage fixtures provide illumination that is highly controllable. Instead of the harsh glare from bare bulbs, light is directed to the desired places. With a good lighting design, light sources are not seen, only the reflection of their light off a variety of surfaces.

The quality of lighting is altered by changing its direction: by uplighting (more dramatic), down lighting (more natural), sidelighting (emphasizes details), or backlighting (emphasizes form).


Perspective refers to the viewers' experience from various locations, both outside and inside the home. The designer needs to walk the property and ensure that the lighting scene works from all possible vantage points (including from the approaching road).


Inside the home, the viewer should be able to look out the windows and enjoy the scene without being blinded from fixtures illuminating the house.


A lighting designer needs to recognize the features of a landscape that define its appearance. If there are repeating patterns such as a row of bushes, fencing, or stone walls, then the designer needs to light those forms in a way to preserve that symmetry.


The designer also needs to balance the lighting so that one side of the property is not brighter than the other.