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Exterior garden lighting design ideas and tips



              Lighting your property                   

We have listed below some simple ideas and tips that will help you create your own garden  lighting design to enhance your outside space at night and also a fact sheet on  IP ratings for outdoor lights and information on grades of stainless steel.


The size of your garden will determine how many lights you can place around it. This seems like a straight forward point, but if you try to put too many in a small space you will almost certainly overdo it. Sometimes less is more so to speak. Another factor is the amount of features you already have, be it statues, walkways, decking, water features, ponds, rockery, lawns and trees. All these things can be lit up at night, and knowing the layout of the garden will help to blend these features together. A good starting point would be to connect a spot or floodlight to a long extension lead and walk it round the garden at night to see what effects can be created. Lay it on the ground up-lighting a canopy of a tree, face it towards a particular object or against a fence panel to give a sense of light and space that is created. Using this method will save you a lot of time in the long run as you can establish very quickly how many fittings you may need and where your cable runs are going to go. It will be too late once all the cables have been buried and the lights installed. Try different beam angles and wattage's to maximize effect, even a splash of colour. A lamp as low as a 3w LED is surprisingly bright at night in the garden as it does not have to compete with natural daylight.  

Below is a lighting plan we did for a client using  900mm high  bollards for the main pathways, and using hanging lights fixed to the pergola to create individual pools of light on the floor below. The Nautilus ground mounted spiked spot light is used to illuminate the two water fountain features.

Design service

Simply send us PDF files or photos of your garden or external area you wish to illuminate and we will assist you with the best options for your lighting needs.  We would like to know from you a rough idea of what you are looking to achieve and an idea of budget. Other things to consider would be if you want a 12v system or a 240v system and what style of light fittings. We will charge a minimum of £100 plus VAT for assistance with a design for you which will be off-settable if you order the lighting with us. 



        Creative lighting effects for your outside space

                                                                 Shadow lighting effects



A good example of using light is to highlight one feature to bring out another, for example illuminating a statue which also creates a shadow onto a fence. Using a spot light pointing upwards can highlight a row of flowers or plants, whilst also lighting a tree behind. You can position the lights at many angles to achieve this result, and it is best done during the day first as you can clearly see the important parts of your garden.

  Pathway and driveway lighting


Adding outdoor lighting along paths and walkways can help to extenuate the edges of the path, but also illuminate any flowers that are planted next to them. The ideal light fitting for this is the spread light or low level bollard which is designed to push the light downward and reduce glare. Some plants do not like constant light at night, so be sure to check you don't unknowingly damage any plants. If this is the case then point the light in another direction away from the leaves. Your main driveway is an ideal place to use specially designed marker drive-over lights which show a direct route to the house entrance and can be used in conjunction with bollard lights for extra security and effect. The bollards can be placed on a light sensor to detect anyone entering the property. Bollards large and small can also be used to good effect to illuminate pathways in your garden.

          Lighting steps and low walls


Recessed step and wall lights are ideal for safety and perimeter lights. Small LED lights can be cut into a wall to illuminate steps. Use one light every 2 to 3 steps and position it about 20mm above the step. Brick lights can be used to illuminate an entrance to a property or to illuminate a perimeter wall. The wall lights are used to eliminate dark trip hazard areas on steps and may also be used in low level perimeter walls to mark out a pathway.

                                                                     Lighting water features


Placing lights next to water is also a great way to make them come to life. If you have a water feature or garden pond you can buy fully submersible IP68 lights that will shine from below and cast a faint aura on the rest of the garden. Moving water such as a small waterfall or water running through a rock arrangement can be utilized to your advantage. Aiming the beam at the water will create reflections that can light up the things nearby. Investing in colour lighting can make the water appear in any colour you can think of, and the changing colour lights are an even better option. This will cascade the colours all around the garden and it is great to just sit down and watch the show. Water at night can also act like a mirror and lighting shrubs or trees at the back of a lake or pond will then reflect on the water in front like a mirror at night.

                                                                 Lighting plants and rockery


Putting lighting in between rocks and stones will make shadows and shapes with great effect at night and will enhance the scenery at night. There are hundreds of small low level spike lights which use LED power and can be easily concealed in these areas.   Spread lights can also be used in rockery areas as a down light. Twin adjustable spike lights are also very flexible and enable you to down light or highlight an object with one lamp whilst up lighting a tree or tall shrub with the other lamp.

                                                               Lighting a decking or patio area


Lighting decking areas can help to complete the look, and create an almost fairytale ambiance. Lights can be placed on the decking posts and rails for maximum exposure at an elevated position. For a very classical look you can build them into the wood of the decking, and this helps to protect them as well. The look is very unique and seamless, and is a favourite with many homeowners. The light can bring out the quality and shape of the wood, as well as different textures. They take a little more work to fit them and install but the finished result is one of the best around, and will really set your garden apart from the rest. Using LED in the decking is ideal as the lamp produces very little heat and will be safe to touch for children. Low level bollards can be used at the side of entrance steps to the patio decking area.

                                                                  Using hanging lights


You can hang lights from branches in trees, or on top of posts, fences and pergolas. These light fittings are very popular for pergolas and create a dramatic pool of light on the pathway below or patio area and add a bit more sparkle to the area. Solar fairy lights can also be used as a type of hanging light to create a twinkle effect at night.

                                                                     Garden up lighting ideas


Using a bit of natural height can help to expose more of your garden, and it also helps with security. This way you can bring the illusion of extra height by aiming the beam at other branches. To add some more depth you can arrange the garden lights all around the extremes of the garden. This will show the full size, which may not be visible in the dark. Lighting large trees and hedges at the back of the garden creates depth and height, a bit like a theatre setting it will create a 3D effect. Recessed ground up lights are also fine to illuminate the facade of a house and when used with a LED lamp will be safe to walk on and touch.

                                                                Using wall mounted lights




There are a vast amount of wall mounted lights to choose from and can be used to create a number of different effects. Wall lights can be used to illuminate the entrance of a property and make a welcoming glow to a house, the same fitting can be used at the rear of the property to frame a set of patio doors and throw light on to the patio area. Twin or single adjustable spotlights can be used to up and down light a feature wall or to aim at a barbecue area or garden feature. Wall lights can also be linked to sensors for security lighting to the property. Decorative wall lights can also be used on balcony areas to give the house a sense of height.


                                                                        Avoiding problems


Be careful not to create too much glare when placing outdoor lights, think carefully what you are going to expose. You may have a dirty old shed somewhere in the corner which you don't want to expose at night, so think about the beam direction and where it is going to. If you have some lights at the bottom of the yard then make sure they are not pointing directly back at the patio or decking where you are going to be spending most of your time. This will create an unwanted glare in your eyes, which will stop you from being able to see the rest of the garden in comfort. Think about sunken lights not pointing directly upwards. This is hard to do, but try to put them at the edges so the beam is not going to be in your eyes. This can happen with decking or patio lights which are centrally placed. It can be very off putting with a light shining in your eyes all the time. The only way to get the right placement is to experiment. You may not like what you have done the first time round, which is almost always the case. The good thing is that most garden lights are very easy to move about and install, they are lightweight and very durable, so putting them in all kinds of unique places is not generally a problem. The only time you may struggle is if you have fitted the power cables to decking or wood. This is usual to hide these cables during the day, and to avoid tripping over them. In this case it is better to leave the final installation until after you have seen them in action at night. When you are happy, then this is the time for the complete installation.                                

Reducing the environmental impact

Care for the environment must be taken into account when designing your outside lighting scheme. The following will need due consideration regarding the impact on local wildlife and residents

  • lamp colour temperature ( Kelvins )
  • lamp lumen output
  • luminaire design properties. (should be low glare)
  • Energy efficiency

Insects and wild life at night are distracted by the cool colour spectrum of 6,000 kelvins and above. Studies have shown that bats in particular are disturbed by bright cool lights and impact on their habitat. If you are in an area with dense foliage and have an abundance of wildlife, we would recommend a product with an anti glare shield to reduce upward light spill, but not a flood light with a symmetric beam distribution which throws light in all directions including up into the sky. If you must have a flood light choose one with an asymmetric beam distribution, this is designed to place the flood light in a flat position and push the light down and forward. Also where possible try to keep to the warm spectrum of the kelvin range like 2,700k or 3,000k which will have less impact on wildlife at night. Be aware of your neighbours, which means not shining a flood light directly at their property. The use of low level bollards and ground mounted lights can be just as effective to lighting a large area but will have much less environmental impact. The use of wall lights with a glare shield will also throw lots of light at night.

Reducing light pollution



How much light do you need

When lighting the outside of a property you can use much lower wattage lamps than those used to illuminate inside a property as you are not competing with other light sources, for example if you were in a field in the country with no other surrounding light you could easily see a light up to 5 miles away from a house. Keep the lights local to the area you are trying to illuminate like an adjustable light over a BBQ area rather than one big flood light on the back of the house that lights the whole area. Again lighting a driveway entrance looks better using low level individual bollards rather than one big security light. Be sympathetic to the environment and your neighbours in your design. Low energy LED lamps are now very popular and have a lower carbon rating than most lamps on the market and help to reduce energy costs and your carbon footprint. Below we describe Lux levels.

Light levels ( LUX )

Light levels are measured in something called Lux. Put simply Lux is a measurement of light falling on a given surface area. For example an average Lux of 200 would be needed for an outdoor tennis court for recreational purposes, a side street pavement  would have an average of just 5 Lux and a typical London office environment would require 500 Lux on the desk. To calculate lux levels you need a very good calculator or computer as there is a number of factors that need to be taken into account. Beam angles of a light would also have a bearing on the light levels, the tighter the beam angle the more concentrated the light will be and therefore the Lux level would be higher. 

Average levels of illuminance in Lux

Sunny June day 80000 Lux

Bad light stopped play at Lords 1000 Lux

A well lit office 500 Lux

Main road lighting 15 Lux

A residential side street 5 Lux

A clear moonlit night 0.2 Lux