Welcome to the next part of Oliver Lamps’ essential home lighting guide!
How has your July been so far?
Rumour has it that the UK’s got a heatwave to look forward to, so even though there are quite a few rooms left to talk about inside the house, we thought we’d use the next couple of blogs to take a quick detour out into the garden.
In the past, we’ve talked about the importance of three types of light – Ambient Lighting, Task Lighting, and Accent Lighting. We’ve also talked about how crucial it is to look closely at the natural light coming into a room so that you can plan your perfect lighting scheme around it.
But, where a garden is concerned, all those rules go out the window. So, when you’re looking for great ways to make your garden glow, you’re essentially only going to be using external lighting later in the day when dusk creeps in and night starts to fall. That’s when your lighting choice really comes into its own, and you can transform your whole outdoors into a ‘secret garden’ that’s dramatic, adventurous, cosy and welcoming.
Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first…
Tip 1: Take a close look at your garden
In your garden, natural light is king. However, when you’re planning how to light your garden, you should still look at it just like any other living space in your house.
That means asking yourself the questions:
What does this garden mean to you? What are your favourite parts?
What kind of activities are you going to do out here when night falls? Is it a place where you’re mostly going to entertain friends on a warm summer evening – maybe by holding parties or barbecues, or something more formal like stylish dinner parties on the patio? Perhaps you’ll use the plain back wall as an outdoor projector screen and hold your own private cinema?
Or, if you’ve got a smaller garden with less space to socialise, maybe you just want to highlight some of the plants, flowers and architecture so that you can enjoy looking at them from the comfort of your conservatory?
How will you integrate safety lighting into your design so that you can keep your garden well-lit and secure without spoiling the ambience you’re trying to create?
When you’re clear about what you want to use your garden for, you’ll have a much better idea of what your lighting should look like.
Tip 2: Zone your garden
If you’re lucky enough to have a large garden, or if odd angles, paths or trees break up your medium-size garden, work out which areas will look best lit up and which areas you’d like to downplay. Also, factor in those parts of the garden that need more light so that people can safely see where they’re going (like paths, steps, and secluded areas.)
A helpful way to do this is by waiting until nightfall and then taking a torch into the garden and shining it on everything that’s around. You’ll notice obstacles in the dark that you’d never realise need to be illuminated when you’re looking at the garden during the day. You’ll notice details – especially plants, trellises, ornaments etc. – that will look terrific when you shine your torch on them from different angles. What directional lighting brings out the best of those features? Make a note because those are the places you might want to highlight, uplight or downlight when you put your lighting plan together.
Tip 3: Don’t rule out ‘daylight’ lighting
Even though garden lighting comes into its own at night, there might still be places where you’d like to install lighting so you can discreetly highlight darker ‘statement’ areas during the day, and especially at that ‘transitional time’ as the light changes at dusk.
Go outside a few times during the day. See how the sun moves across the garden throughout the morning, afternoon, and early evening. Choose the best vantage point and take some reference photos on your phone every couple of hours, so you’ve got a timeline of where the shadows fall, and then you can plan your lighting accordingly. Is there a part of the garden that gets darker after lunchtime that you could use lights to help stand out? (like fairy lights on a gazebo or wrapped around the branches of a tree?) Is there a water feature that catches the light beautifully when the sun is at its highest but fades into the background when the sun moves further around the garden?
Lighting is incredibly versatile, and you can create very different effects by placing your lights in different ways. Don’t forget; you could also set your lighting on a timer so that it gradually begins to illuminate a shadowy part of your garden at a particular time of day. Using different lighting colours can make a difference here, too, so that your artificial lighting isn’t conflicting with the daylight but, instead, is adding extra detail to make your garden look subtly more magical.
Tip 4: Always install garden lighting carefully
This tip is essential, and we can’t overstate this point enough.
Garden lighting is prone to the elements, and electrics and nature tend not to mix too well if you don’t install your lighting correctly. That means always using a qualified electrician, especially for lights that are on a higher voltage.
Unless they’re solar-powered, most garden lights either work via the mains or a transformer that has a 12 or 24 low-voltage current. You can work out the size of the transformer you’ll need by multiplying the number of bulbs you want to use by their wattage, but it’s always advisable to use a larger transformer so that you can add more bulbs or upgrade their brightness in the future.
If your garden requires an outdoor power supply (usually a waterproof socket with an RCD (Residual Current Device) that will quickly break the current to protect you from harm), ask an expert electrician to install it. Once it’s safely installed, you may be able to fit some of the smaller low-voltage lights on your own, but – even then – always be careful and never take second chances where electricity is concerned (and that includes in the rest of your house, too.)
Tip 5: Don’t be afraid to be quirky
Always remember, this is your garden, and your garden should be a place where, first and foremost, you’re free to express yourself.
A lot of people are afraid to wholeheartedly imprint their personality on their garden in case it’s too overpowering, but who want to spend time in a boring garden that’s just like everybody else?
You’re not everybody else. You’re unique. Your garden should be a statement of that.
So, if you want to turn your garden into a miniature Alice in Wonderland universe, go ahead and do it and use your garden lighting to accent those details proudly. Or, if you want your garden to be a little more subdued and Zen, do that too, and pull back the lighting so that it’s more subtle and understated.
Now that we’ve got all these ground rules covered, it’s time to have fun with all your garden lighting possibilities… we’ll talk about that next time!
Until then, don’t forget we’re always here to meet your lighting needs, whatever they may be! Just give us a call on 01328 855028, drop us an email at [email protected], or – even better – pop into our fabulous showroom at 26/28 Oak Street, Fakenham and talk to us in person! We’d love to welcome you into our lighting cavalcade and show you all the exciting products and options we’ve got on offer (including our increasingly popular home furnishings!)