Landscape Lighting

Light up your night.


If you’re like other Minnesotans, you’re not just living indoors anymore. “More families are spending quality time outside, and they want their outdoor spaces as comfortable as their family room,” says Becky Holmen, an interior designer and lighting specialist with Home Design Studio. “To that end, products are now being made that you would think are for indoor use, yet that can withstand Minnesota’s weather.”

It’s landscape lighting that can truly make the outdoors so inviting. But you can’t just take your indoor lamps outside and light up the night, of course. Lighting for patios, decks, gazebos and other outdoor living areas is specifically made to hold up to the harsher outdoor environment. They may have insulated switches, weather-proof fabric and weather-resistant components, for example.

With consumer demand skyrocketing, manufacturers are offering a range of colors, patterns and styles so that you can truly enjoy all aspects of your outdoor spaces. Using combinations that may include wall lights, hanging lights, chandeliers, post lights and path lighting, Holmen says, you can create outdoor spaces where you’re able to entertain long after the sun sets as well as increase security and safety for your loved ones.

And don’t think that rugged outdoor lighting means boring or utilitarian. Right in your own backyard, you can recreate the romance of an old English garden, the classic elegance of the Mediterranean, or a peaceful Zen sanctuary that you can enjoy both day and night.

“You can keep your design as simple and price-budgeted as you want or go hog wild with it,” Holmen says. “You do have to spend some time figuring out how you want to use your outdoor spaces. Do you want to spend time with family outdoors, do you want to entertain guests or do you simply want to add focus lights on some pretty bushes? You really have to think about what you want and what you want to light up, and then draw up a budget from there.”

Safety is another issue to keep in mind when planning landscape lighting. “Outdoor lights have to be UL listed, which means they’re tested to be safe,” Holmen says. “The bulb has to be enclosed and water can’t get into the wiring. To some extent, these standards and codes may limit some design options, but there’s still a huge variety available.”

Path lighting can add to the nighttime ambience your home exudes and can make it easier to navigate in the dark. “We’re seeing more decorative fixtures on path lighting now,” Holmen says. Decorative elements often have natural themes, including charming birds, frogs, florals, insects and squirrels. As for solar lights, these popular accents still have some progress to make, Holmen says. “The advances have been slow in coming for solar lights,” she says. “ They look nice, but in our Minnesota winter, with shorter days and cloudiness, you may not have a lot of recharging of batteries. Solar lights are still very popular, but for long-term enjoyment, you might want to consider low-voltage, hard-wired path lighting instead.”

Another bright spot in landscape lighting: You won’t have to spend hours caring for your landscape lighting instead of simply relaxing in its glow. “Landscape lights are generally very low maintenance,” Holmen says. “You can wipe them down with a damp cloth if you want and clean the glass on occasion, just as you would with your indoor lights.”

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Copyright 2007 Rochester Area Builders, Inc. No part of the Remodel It Right Handbook articles may be reproduced or printed without written permission from Rochester Area Builders, 108 Elton Hills Lane NW, Rochester, MN 55901. Phone (507) 282-7698.