Three Pillars of Landscape Lighting

Three Pillars of Landscape Lighting

Three of the most important elements of a professionally installed landscape lighting system are design, craftsmanship and functionality. These three things should be the pillars on which any outdoor lighting system is built upon. Without all three working together, one element would detract from the other and the benefits of an outdoor lighting system would be greatly reduced.


A properly designed outdoor lighting system will bring your property to life at night. It should bring out your home’s most unique features,. It should add depth and warmth to it’s architecture and landscaping while also providing security from nighttime hazards and burglary.

low voltage landscape lighting on Pines at the New Jersey Shore.

low voltage landscape lighting on Pines at the New Jersey Shore.

Knowing how to light a home, its architecture and its landscape specimens is something that is learned through time, trial and error. In our over ten-years of installing landscape lighting we have encountered many different types of homes, specimen trees, waterscapes and hardscapes and we have created some truly stunning scenes. Our experiences lend us the ability to design a better landscape lighting system and to also have the installation techniques and tools necessary to design the absolute best-possible system.

This leads us to craftsmanship. When an outdoor lighting system has been properly and professionally installed, everything should work seamlessly. Craftsmanship is the greatest differentiator between a beautiful and lasting system and something that a homeowner or inexperienced contractor might install.


Craftsmanship can be determined in a few ways. The first way is by the actual quality of the fixture, the lamp and the underground materials. Cost can be saved by using lesser quality materials, but in an outdoor system, lesser quality materials can never last as long or perform as well as high-grade commercial materials, like those used by S&M.


Another way to determine craftsmanship is by the quality of the installation, including specialty fixture placement like tree downlights, core drilled lights, driveway or belgian block lights, Bistro lights or waterscape lights. Most contractors won’t even attempt the installation of these lights because of the experience and the tools necessary to do it right. When it is done right, however, these lighting techniques can be transformative.


This finally brings us to functionality. Some contractors will try to fit a square peg in a round hole, so to say. Whether it is through ignorance of the types of fixtures available and their benefits for lighting certain areas, or through laziness and not wanting to keep specialty fixtures in stock. Others might not understand how certain specialty fixtures need to be installed, like step lights on a railing, which need to be positioned in a way to spread even amounts of light without creating glare for safety reasons.

Pool and landscape lighting.

Pool and landscape lighting.

Sometimes what a client wants may be detrimental to the safety of those who are approaching the home, walking down a flight of stairs or the location of a certain fixture would lead to problems with landscapers and lawn services damaging the fixture. A responsible and qualified professional landscape lighting contractor will explain the reasons why certain decisions were made in a properly designed outdoor lighting system and also explain the solutions that are available to keep the client happy and the system safe and functional.


There are a lot of ways to light a home, but there is usually only one “right” way to do it. Find yourself a contractor that can design the right kind of system, customized for your home.


To see if S&M Landscape Lighting might be the right contractor for you, please email us at or call us at (908) 369-7791.

Local landscape lighting contractor or national brand?

Should I use a local landscape lighting contractor or national brand?

Architectural Lighting in Warren, New Jersey

Architectural Lighting in Warren, New Jersey

Choosing a landscape lighting contractor can be a difficult decision, with so many things for homeowners to consider. Some of these things we discussed in a blog post recently, that glosses over some of the more important things for homeowners to consider when selecting a qualified contractor. You can read that blog post titled “Selecting a landscape lighting contractor” here.

Something that our previous post does not touch on is the choice homeowners have between selecting a national or franchised landscape lighting contractor over a local, independently run company like S&M Landscape Lighting.

So what are the differences that a homeowner can expect when sourcing a local, dedicated landscape lighting contractor over a national franchise?

When we started S&M Landscape Lighting over ten-years ago in Hillsborough, New Jersey, we did so with the intentions to become the premiere landscape lighting contractor in the country. We studied lighting techniques, we sourced hundreds of manufacturers of fixtures and lamps, we created a culture that would never allow us to rest on our laurels and we committed to creating unique and awe-inspiring night-scenes at each of our client’s homes.

These commitments have been the driving force behind the growth of S&M Landscape Lighting and our ability to consistently gain market share in an industry that is overrun with DIY manufacturers, national franchises and landscape or irrigation companies that sell their existing clients on their ability to create something unique, but often under-deliver.

S&M will never have the type of marketing budget that a national franchise will have. In fact, we do very little marketing. We also only use photos of our own actual work when we are consulting with potential clients and on our website. The fixtures we use have been created with our input, specifically for us and without a contract. This means if the quality of the fixtures we use ever falls below our standards, which are the absolute best, then we will find and create another line of fixtures with a different manufacturing partner to ensure our clients never need to install another lighting system. This is how S&M Landscape lighting does business and why we are a growing independently owned small business that is dedicated to outdoor lighting.

Most franchised landscape lighting companies are given a template website, photos of projects designed and installed by other contractors operating under their franchise and given instructions on how to sell, design and install outdoor lighting systems. They have little to no say on the fixtures they use, which are manufactured in a way to help them sell more jobs by cutting costs instead of being manufactured to last. Their marketing budgets are massive, which allows them to gain audience with prospective buyers, but this also means they need to sell as many jobs as they can to help them pad their earnings for their marketing and franchise payments. The “contractors” that have purchased these franchises do not need to have any experience at all. Even in New Jersey where you need an electrical license to install low-voltage lighting, you don’t need any electrical experience whatsoever to purchase a franchise. Do you have the money to purchase a franchised landscape lighting company? Congratulations, you are now a landscape lighting designer.

When homeowners are considering which landscape lighting contractor to hire, they should consider asking their contractors for pictures of their own work (along with proof it was them who installed it), how long they have been designing and installing landscape lighting for their company (and how long the person who owned it before them did it), if their fixtures come with any warranties and contact information for satisfied clients.

Unfortunately, a large part of our own business is redesigning, reinstalling or replacing entirely cookie-cutter installations with sub-par fixtures, sometimes only a year or two after they were installed by our franchised competitors.

S&M Landscape Lighting will continue to perfect the art of landscape lighting with our experienced and dedicated technicians and elevated standards, ensuring that our clients will never have to install another lighting system in their home.

To learn about how S&M Landscape Lighting can help to transform your home, landscaping, pool, patio, deck or outdoor living area with a tastefully designed low-voltage lighting system, visit our contact page here or call (908) 369-7791.

S&M Landscape Lighting has been operating out of Hillsborough, New Jersey and serving clients in the surrounding areas for over ten-years.

Home Security Lighting

Home Security Lighting

Your home should be your safe place. It is a shelter for the most precious things in your life from the outside world where there is both beauty and danger. Its very purpose is to provide you and your family with safe place to rest and interact.

Most of the time when people drive down the road and see one of the homes that we installed a complete low-voltage outdoor lighting system, they think about how beautiful the home looks at night. The ambient lighting running up the driveway, the landscape lighting that defines the space and throws off a moon-light glow, the pathways that are clearly defined and the home’s architecture, peaks and dormers that capture the warmth of our radiant lighting.

There is, however, a whole other group of people that are thinking something different entirely. Those are the people that are looking for targets to burglarize.

Our lighting systems are designed to bring out the most beautiful aspects of your home and landscaping, but also to help protect the most vulnerable parts of your home’s security.

By lighting the areas that burglars would use to case, approach and enter your home, you are taking away their ability to use darkness as a cloak. A clearly lit perimeter will deter a burglar from entering your property from the rear or sides. A well-lit driveway and pathways will take away the opportunity for them to park a van or enter your enter your home from normal access ways.

Architectural lighting will deter a burglar from entering a home through the ground level windows or attempting to scale your home for access to a second story window or balcony.

Along with a home security system, a video surveillance system or a smart doorbell with video and audio components, you will take away a burglar’s opportunity for easy access to your home, its contents and its inhabitants.

Send burglars down the road with home security lighting by shining a light on your home and property. To learn more about the security benefits of a complete outdoor lighting system, contact S&M Landscape Lighting to set up a consultation. Email us at or call us at (908) 392-5690.


Selecting a landscape lighting contractor

Selecting a landscape lighting contractor

We see it all the time and it never gets easier. A homeowner who is unhappy with the poorly designed landscape lighting system that is falling apart after two years and can’t get in touch with their contractor. It’s not good for anyone in our business and it is definitely not good for the homeowner that needs to pay to replace their system after only a few seasons.

We meet with a lot of homeowners who are pricing out options to install landscape lighting systems and we are likely never going to be the cheapest option. However, we meet with just as many homeowners who have a landscape lighting system in tatters just two or three years after paying a contractor to install their lighting systems and they almost always wind up paying more.

It is a simple concept. Your cheapest option is not necessarily your best option. You have to take into account a myriad of different factors when deciding which contractor to use. So what are the types of things that a homeowner should take into account when selecting an outdoor lighting contractor?


When selecting a landscape lighting architect, make sure you select a contractor with experience in all areas of lighting a home.

When selecting a landscape lighting architect, make sure you select a contractor with experience in all areas of lighting a home.

This is where homeowners can get a steal, and also the biggest way that they get burned. Everyone needs to start somewhere, and when we opened our business ten years ago, we were definitely willing to work under market value in order to build our business. We also realized soon after opening that it is not a good way to stay in business.

When you are selecting your contractor, you need to be fully aware of how long they have been in business as well as determine if you think they have what it takes to make it long term. Needless to say, a warranty is only as good as the company you’re receiving it from. If your outdoor lighting system is failing after two years and your contractor is no longer in business, you’re probably going to wind up giving us a call to fix their work. We are happy to help where we can, but it will wind up costing substantially more than if you selected a credible contractor in the first place.


It is not easy to to learn the proper way to light a home, a deck, a patio, a pool and landscaping, but there are plenty of folks that are happy to cash your check while they learn on your home. If you’re unhappy with the way your home is lit, it is probably because the contractor cut some corners in the installation process. Most often, low price contractors are not willing to overcome the obstacles that arise on the job and don’t have the tools, experience and techniques that credible contractors have acquired over time. They would rather change their designs to avoid a challenging installation, thereby providing the client with a sub-par service and system to meet their under-bid budgets for your project.

We have earned our reputation by never working around an obstacle, rather by overcoming them. The one thing we cannot help you with, unless you choose to completely replace the system, is a lighting system that was installed using inferior, big-box store bought fixtures that will deteriorate rapidly.

It is like anything in life. You get what you pay for. If you are not paying for commercial-grade lights with a lifetime warranty, then you will wind up paying more for the system in the long run. The fixtures we use have a lifetime warranty. That is your lifetime, not the fixtures’. If you choose to allow us to design and install your outdoor lighting system we will replace any fixture that has stopped working, unless it was damaged by mishandling, vandalism or acts of nature.

The reason we are able to do this is because our proprietary lighting fixtures are the most durable (as well as the most attractive) that money can buy. We value the long-term relationships of our clients and when they choose us, they are choosing to do business with a company that knows it is the best and will stand behind their products.

Maple 1 HD WM

Select a contractor that knows how to take advantage of the most beautiful aspects of your home and landscape, while creating a complete low-voltage system.


We run into plenty of contractors that believe there is nothing special about landscape lighting. They can be electricians, they can be landscapers, they can be irrigation guys, and they think that just because they know how to wire a low-voltage system that they can do what we do. Usually, they are wrong.

We have perfected an art of a minimally invasive installation, while also developing proprietary installation procedures and practices that separates us from the pack and it’s usually not even close. Our previous work and experience is a testament to our innovative designs. Please do not let a contractor sell you on the fact that “anyone can do landscape lighting.” We love designing a custom outdoor lighting package for our clients from the ground up and do not particularly enjoy fixing other contractors’ work for jaded clients. It’s bad for the industry and bad for the homeowner. Please be careful in selecting a contractor that does not specialize in outdoor lighting.

Custom design

We have installed hundreds of lighting systems and not one of them is exactly the same as the other. Some installations required 400 fixtures. Some installations only required six. Some specimen trees required four fixtures to properly light. Some were not ready to be lit for a few years until they matured. We will tell you these things, design a system for your home and we do not purchase our fixtures in sets. We order our proprietary fixtures based on the design of the system and not the other way around.  


One last thing. The state of New Jersey requires that any professional low-voltage lighting system be installed by a licensed electrician. If you are not hiring a contractor that is licensed by the state of New Jersey to perform electrical work, they are installing the system illegally and you may be held liable.

The New Jersey electrical license FAQs can be read here, which addresses low-voltage lighting on question number nine.

You can see whether or not the contractor you are considering hiring has a New Jersey license here.

You likely have a big decision to make with regard to who you will entrust with your outdoor lighting system. When you are choosing your contractor, please remember that the lowest bid is not necessarily your best. You are paying good money for a system. Make sure it lasts a lifetime.

If you would like to learn more about how S&M Landscape Lighting can partner with you to design a custom outdoor lighting system that you and your family can enjoy forever, please contact us at (908) 369-7791 or email us at

Lighting your home: Architectural lighting

Lighting your home: Architectural lighting

When designing an outdoor low-voltage lighting system, a key component to the project is architectural lighting. What is architectural lighting and how does it affect the aesthetic and security benefits of an outdoor lighting system?

We’re glad you asked.

Architectural lighting systems capture your homes beauty and provides stark contrast to the nighttime backdrop.

Architectural lighting systems captures this homes unique natural stone exterior.

A well-designed outdoor lighting system will add warmth and contrast to a home’s landscape and exterior while also adding depth and dimension. Regardless of how beautiful a home’s landscape is, without the proper architectural lighting, some of that dramatic effect will be lost. The key to a well-designed system is highlighting the landscaping while also tastefully lighting the home’s significant architectural aspects.

But architectural lighting is so much more than shining lights on a structure.

There is an art to uplighting and each home provides a unique canvas. For example, on a colonial-style New Jersey home there are often distinct height variations along the face of the home. Many times there can be a height difference of as much as two-stories from one side of the structure to the other. This architectural design and detail is beautiful, but presents challenges to lighting design, which is predicated on shining even light across the entirety of the home’s face.

Sure, you could achieve this effect by installing a prison-style floodlight about 100-feet in front of your home, but it might be hard to sleep with all of the light trespass and planes landing in your front yard. There is subtlety and simplicity in the proper design of architectural lighting and that is where our art is found.

When we design our systems we are keeping glare and light intrusion in mind. You won’t need to install black-out blinds to get some sleep after you have a lighting system installed by a true professional. So how do we do it? How do you lighten the entire face of a structure without shining light into a window?

You use multiple fixtures, set at different heights and distances from the front of the home, and you adjust the brightness, spread and color of the lamps. Sounds easy, right?

Architectural lighting can make your favorite unique aspect of your home really "pop" in the night.

Architectural lighting can make your favorite unique aspect of your home really “pop” in the night.

Well, it tends to get a bit more complicated at this point. You see, there really is only so much you can do from ground and with conventional fixtures. At this point we are probably using a concrete core drill to install special fixtures into the surface of certain areas of your home. You can also probably catch us on the roof of your second or third floors installing lights to accent your peaks and dormers. When we are done there we may start installing a few recessed fixtures in order to light your porch, entryway and garage doors, ensuring your home’s architectural lighting system has captured your whole home’s beauty with an even light.

The soffit line is a great tool for designers, as the human eye tends to use it as a focal point to determine where the structure ends. This means it is crucial to have an even light spread across the soffit line, otherwise you risk distracting from the rest of the home and detracting from the entirety of the project. Take our word for it, you really want to nail the soffit line.

Now all that is left is selecting the proper lamps for the fixtures, of which we have about 60 that we play with regularly. All LED of course. The key is finding the proper lumen output in order to keep that even light on the whole home. A white column shouldn’t get the same light as your red brick chimney, or your stucco facade. We really do paint with light, and we really do have an entire palette to choose from in order to maximize your lighting system’s design.

Architectural lighting serves more than one purpose as well. While we design our systems to be as aesthetically pleasing as possible, we also account for security. According to numerous sources, a well-lit property and home is a key component in preventing burglaries, as the added light takes away hiding places for would-be burglars. Makes perfect sense, right?

If you would like to learn more about how we light structures, and how we can partner with you in the design and installation of an architectural lighting system please contact us at (908) 369-7791 or you can submit a contact form here.


Five benefits of Landscape Lighting

landscape lighting with bistro lights and tiki lights in an outdoor living space in new jersey

Create an incredible outdoor living space with low voltage landscape lighting.

Five benefits of Landscape Lighting

Typically, when we are engaged by a potential client, they already have an idea of at least one or two of the benefits of installing a custom landscape lighting system. Sometimes the reason they want to install outdoor lighting is purely aesthetic, other times it has more to do with security lighting. Maybe they entertain a lot and want to extend the time they are able to comfortably host guests outside. Maybe they prefer the peaceful escape their outdoor living space provides and want to highlight its natural beauty and tranquility.

Whatever the reason that leads them to us, we usually have the opportunity to present them with the many benefits of installing a custom landscape lighting system. I would like to offer you a glimpse into those conversations, should you choose to continue reading. Who knows, maybe there will be something here you did not think about when you began researching outdoor low-voltage lighting systems.

Architectural lighting:

Your home’s architecture is unique. It is unique to the time period it was built. It is unique to your neighborhood. It is unique to the climate of the state that you live in. Maybe you have columns or a front porch. Maybe the exterior of your home has stucco or brick. Maybe your home has shutters or a coupla.

A custom architectural lighting system can add incredible beauty to your home at night. Whether you want a bold design that your neighbors might envy, or you simply want to ensure that your home’s peaks, textures and angles are highlighted tastefully, there is a design for you. Architectural lighting will bring out the beauty of your home, add depth and create warmth on even the coldest and darkest of nights.

Landscape lighting:

When was the last time someone complimented you on your beautiful landscaping. When was the last time you replied, “wait until you see it at night?”

Beautiful landscaping is a major investment for any homeowner. Mature trees interspersed with a variety of shrubs and flowers. Natural stone retaining walls in beds of mulch. These are the unique aspects of your yard that will continue to grow and add personality and beauty for decades. Custom landscape lighting systems add a dramatic and peaceful flare that accentuates your favorite natural retreats.

Outdoor living space lighting:

We operate out of New Jersey and while it is amazing to experience four seasons every year, people in the Northeast understand how precious the warm months are. We do not hide in the Summer, we embrace it. You can often find us in a sweatshirt or coat enjoying the first and last tolerable outdoor nights in early spring and late fall.

Lighting and defining an outdoor living space, whether it is a custom designed patio, pergola, gazebo, deck or pool area is a fantastic option to ensure you are making the most of the warm months. Perhaps you want bistro lights to liven up your outdoor living area and give it an old-world charm. Maybe you prefer the natural beauty offered by a tiki torch and want to install tiki fixtures to enjoy the best of both worlds. Perhaps you are interested in adding dimension to your outdoor wood burning stove and uplighting to your pergola retreat to create warmth and add security. Lighting your pool area and adding underwater lights can create a resort atmosphere in your own backyard.

Whatever your goal is for your outdoor living space, there is a low-voltage lighting solution.

Security lighting:

Multiple studies have concluded that burglary attempts are often opportunistic, meaning the burglar encounters a home that appears to be unoccupied and unsecured and proceeds to burglarize the home. In addition to securing a home with a home security system, the best way to deter a burglar is to take away their hiding places and give the appearance that the home is occupied.

Landscape lighting, especially when fully automated, takes away hiding places from potential burglars and deters them from attempting to enter the home. By illuminating the walkways, entry ways and areas surrounding the home, you are drawing more attention to their presence and forcing them down the road. Automated landscape lighting also gives the impression that the home is currently occupied, even if there is no one home. Interior lights can also be patched into the same system as the low voltage lighting system with relative ease, allowing for maximum protection.


Are you using a floodlight on a motion sensor or a switch to illuminate your walkways and yard? Other than being unattractive, and often blinding, using floodlights are also very inefficient. Low voltage lighting systems can be used on timers to ensure a safe and attractive pathway into and from your home while also expending a fraction of the energy needed for floodlights.

Lights can be added above and below your garage doors, around your pathways, embedded into your steps, along your driveway and anywhere else you would need to add light. Our lights can be automated to turn on after sunset each day and easily set for how late you would like them to stay on.

Whatever the reason is behind your interest in an outdoor low-voltage landscape lighting system, you will find yourself the beneficiary in more ways than one.

Are you interested in learning more about the benefits of a low-voltage landscape lighting system and how we can create a custom design for your outdoor living space? Please give us a call so that we can schedule a free consultation. Our number is (908) 392-5690 and you can email us at

The S&M Landscape Lighting Manifesto

low voltage landscape and outdoor lighting

Low voltage landscape and outdoor lighting can add depth and warmth to your home at night.

The S&M Landscape Lighting Difference

In the beginning there was only darkness. It was cold and empty. A place and time where even shadows could not exist. Then there was light.

An epic battle has been waging ever since, spanning our known universe. A battle between light and dark. Cold and warmth. Shadow and sun. Lightness and darkness; two of the most inevitable and powerful forces in our lives.

At S&M Landscape Lighting, light is our trade, darkness is our canvas.

Okay. That was a little dramatic, but hopefully you understand our point. This is our life. This is what we do. We take one of the most powerful natural phenomena in our known world and we paint with it. We use every spectrum. We use every texture. We use every shadow. We create art and we create it in your yard.

There are many companies that claim to be landscape lighting professionals. Many of them can succeed in lighting your walkway. Some of them may even be familiar with uplighting. Some of their systems and fixtures might even continue working after the first frost. But there are the exceptional few who will create something better, something more beautiful, something more powerful.

We will not simply light your walkway, we will create a pathway through the shadow. We will not simply light your home, we will create depth and texture and capture the dramatic angles that are lost in the darkness. We will not simply shine a light on your trees, we will bring them to life.

Landscape lighting is not a supplemental income for us. It is all we do. We owe it to our clients to create custom art with every plan, and every installation and you owe it to yourself the hire an artist. Your canvas is simply too beautiful to entrust those who can’t see what we see and who can’t do what we do.

This is our promise to you.

Continue to follow us as we spread our work and our words and our art with you on this blog each week.

If you are interested in learning about how we can apply our tools for your family and your home, please contact us at (908) 392-5690 or email us at .

New Jersey Outdoor Lighting Design Ideas

Outdoor Lighting Design Ideas - NJ

New Jersey Outdoor Lighting Design Ideas

Exterior Lighting Design Ideas NJ

New Jersey Outdoor Lighting Design Ideas

Exterior Outdoor Lighting Ideas NJ

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