Planning a Residential Garden Lighting Solution

Establishing the optimum illuminating and aesthetically pleasing theme throughout the garden will allow the cohesion between the elements within the different scenes to be achieved. A high key scene has mainly bright tones with higher values of illuminance which are evenly distributed. Whereas a low-key scene has mainly dark tones with variations in illuminance to provide the contrast between light and dark.

In terms of scale, this is determined as being that of the perceived size of buildings, features and spaces relative to other structural forms or of people within the garden scene. As artificial lighting can be selective, the scale interpretation of an environment can differ when viewed at night from that being experienced by day.

An intimate scale can be created by controlled contrasts in luminance to significant areas. Lighting can also emphasise the scale of a building, where only certain selected features are illuminated. This would result in a more intimate scale appearance than if the building was totally floodlit.

The rhythm between light spacing and light produced

The spacing of lighting fittings within a scene and that of the light produced is perceived as rhythms. The wider the spacing between the fittings, the slower the rhythm beat and more solemn the response. The closer the spacing, the faster the rhythm beat and more positive the response. An example of this is with festive festoon lighting, which tends to utilise multiple small elements of light evenly spaced at very short intervals, thus creating that faster rhythm beat.

The highlights and shadows which give effect to a scene can create modelling by the luminous intensity and in the direction of light in relation to the form and texture of the surfaces being illuminated. This interest is created by the variation in lighting effects, such as key tones, colour, luminance and modelling. Illumination of this form is to offer subjective impressions and as such cannot be measured with a light meter.

How design can impact the effect of distance

The effect of distance can be varied by the luminance of designing a more informal and less regular installation. This can provide aspect of depth within the landscape. Colour can be used to complement the variations of distance within the illuminated scene. The feature of illuminating by silhouette can help to change the apparent relationships between objects within a field of view, allowing visitors to be directed through the garden scene from one feature to another by these variations.

Stages of a residential garden lighting project

The planning and development of an exterior residential garden lighting project can generally be summarised as a series of four stages:

  1. Site Survey
  2. Review
  3. Lighting Design
  4. Evaluation

Let’s consider each of these facets of the garden lighting application in turn.

1. Site Survey

Before commencing any lighting installation, it is important to fully understand the garden areas being illuminated. The space(s) should be surveyed, culminating in a drawing to highlight the features within the garden scenes. This process should commence with the building(s), in respect of height, shape, location, texture and colour etc.

Next is to consider the built features within the garden such as pergolas, arches and seating. This should be followed by the construction elements of patios, paths, steps and ramps. Then onto any water features, pools and water channels and finally considering the natural features of the garden, the trees, shrubs, hedges, etc.

2. Review

This stage of the process is entirely based upon the need for illumination for the activities of people within the space. It is important to discuss the performance brief and obtain the criteria upon which the design can be produced. There are many factors that require consideration and those offered here do not constitute an exhaustive list, rather suggestions for the thought process. These can include:

  • site conditions
  • changes in direction
  • changes in vertical level
  • specific movement patterns
  • planned pedestrian routes through the garden
  • vehicle routes, if any, to gain access and the level of security required

Finally, consider the subjective requirements for illuminating the space, such as the character, ambience, image, mood and the perceived effect gained from a completed installation.