Portland Landscapers Offer Unique Lighting Ideas for Outdoor Living Areas

October 28, 2014

Path Lights for Portland LandscapingIn Portland, we see long, cloudy winters with many dark days. Outdoor lighting allows homeowners to enjoy their Portland landscaping as much as possible, all year round. In this blog post we will talk about fire pit lighting, specially designed fixtures, seat wall lighting and more. We also consider big-picture lighting considerations, such as style, technique and technological upgrades (e.g. control lighting). If you are interested in lighting ideas for your outdoor space, talk to us! We are here to give you all the expert advice and help that you need.

Finding the Lighting Solution for You

People in the Northwest love to entertain, especially outdoors. Our area’s lush trees, fresh air, and scenic views are hard to resist, but the winters are long and overcast, and it does get dark early here. If you are thinking about adding some lighting options for your outdoor living space, first ask yourself how you want to use your lighting. Is your primary aim entertaining? Creating a private retreat? Making sure there’s a safe place for the kids to play? Your goals will direct your lighting selection process.

You should also consider a budget—if you haven’t researched this before, the overall cost can be surprising. Be sure to discuss your budget with the contractor who is going to do the job or who is submitting a bid for the project. Also, be sure to consider style, as well as any lighting techniques that you like or that you have seen. When Landscape East & West sets up a lighting system for a client, we also provide a demonstration that allows our client to see what the design will look like, so that the homeowner can add or subtract features or adjust them before making the final decision.

Pergola Lighting in Portland, OregonStyle Notes. Think of your outdoor lighting as you would a piece of art. The idea is to draw the eye to important parts of the outdoor space. These can include key architectural features, or specimen trees and plants that you want to showcase. There are several styles to consider:

  • Minimalist. Only the minimal amount of light is used to see the home and identify the main property features. You can combine low-wattage splash lights for the home, with highlights for trees and walkways to achieve a functional, elegant lighting system.
  • Statement Approach—perfect when you want to make an impact on the viewer by drawing attention to key features. This approach may use spotlights, floodlights, and path lights to illuminate or showcase interesting architecture, garden art, or flora.
  • Symmetrical Approach. This is used in some formal designs, as well as in commercial or safety/security applications. The light is evenly spaced and symmetrical. The position of the lights is often carefully calculated. This may also be used in some traditional homes, but is limited in nature. (However, going overboard with symmetry can be a design disaster, with an effect akin to an airport runway.)
  • Portland Landscaping Path LightingSafety Approach. Safety and security are a concern for all. This may easily be achieved with the use of low-voltage floodlights or spotlights on key areas such as parking lots, walkways, and entrances.

With these styles in mind, remember that lighting can be a personal expression of creativity. Here at Landscape East & West, we are happy to work with you to create the unique effect that perfectly reflects your taste.

Here are a few common elements of lighting, including lighting features and locations.

Portland Landscaping Patio & Fire TableFire Pits. These are great places to spend time after dark. The fire itself provides light and heat and by adding additional lighting to your fire pit you can enhance the fireside appeal even more. Generally there are two options to consider: 1) Using a down light from a tree or nearby structure to light the area around the fire pit and 2) Placing lights in the wall of the fire pit itself. Both alternatives will create an inviting and secure space around the edge of the fire pit area that can also be extended into the surrounding pathways.

Seat Wall Lighting. This style of lighting involves placing lights in the walls and under the ledges to create a subtle but elegant lighting solution, as the lights themselves are often hidden and unobtrusive.

Deck Lighting. One of the most important aspects of lighting your deck area is improving safety. Stairs are an excellent area to light, as this is one area where visitors will be more likely to trip. Stair lighting can be done in several ways, using either embedded lights, or by mounting lights of risers. Post cap lights—on the top of deck and light post caps—are simple and easy to install, but you might want to consider other options as well, such as baluster lights around the stair rail posts.

Portland Landscaping Water Feature LightingWater Feature/Pond. This is one area you don’t want to miss! Lighting will allow more enjoyment of your water feature. Effective lights also ensure extra safety at night around this sensitive area of the garden. One attractive option is lighting your water feature from below using a submersible light, or you can highlight it with a spotlight or path light. Waterfalls are especially enchanting when illuminated from below.

Uplights for Trees in Portland LandscapingControl lighting. Control lighting is an exciting feature that allows you to create different themes in the lighting design. This can be accomplished in a couple of ways.   A simple method involves “zoning” the lighting system into up to four zones to allow greater flexibility in how those zones are used. You might choose to enjoy all zones until you go to bed and then only use the security zones through the night. A more controllable method involves being able to not only zone the system but also change the intensity of each individual light. For this method we recommend the FX Luminaire Luxor ZD Power Controller. This system allows control via a downloadable app, boosting convenience as well as remote security. It even has theme settings that allow the systems to illuminate different parts of the property at different times. Each light is adjustable, and you can control everything from an app on your phone! Of course, for such a handy upgrade, you can expect to pay more—around 30% to 40% more.

As you work with Portland landscapers to create your yard’s perfect lighting schema, avoid these common lighting design problems:

  • No variety. All spotlights or all up lights will great an off-balance look.
  • The runway effect—path lights are too symmetrical.
  • Hard borders and stark divisions. Aim to create balanced light throughout the yard, while drawing the eye to the features of your choosing.
  • Over the top, or garish lighting that draws attention to itself rather than to your landscape.

With beautiful, effective outdoor lighting, your landscape can be your year-round refuge. A good lighting system will allow you to enjoy your outdoor living area to its maximum potential. Give us a call today to discuss how we can help design and install your outdoor lighting solution.


Lee Glasscock Portland Landscaping ExpertContributing author Lee Glasscock is a Design & Sales Associate at Landscape East & West, Portland, Oregon’s landscaping professionals. Lee specializes in outdoor lighting design and can customize a plan that will complement any landscaping.