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BRILLIANT RAMBLINGS BLOG

Lighting your home: Architectural lighting

October 17, 2017

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

We’re glad you asked.

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. On a colonial style New Jersey home there are often distinct height variations along the face of the home. There can often 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.

Of course, 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?

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, entranceway 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 can’t get the same light as your red brick chimney? We really do paint with light, and we really do have an entire palette to choose from.

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?

Uplights and downlights, which are more concentrated beams of light, are like a landscape lighting designer’s multi-tool. They can be adjusted for lamp temperature and spread to highlight unique spaces on the home’s exterior.

For example, uplighting the space between two windows allows us to emphasize the shape, peaks and textures of the windows while also adding contrast in the backdrop of our lighting design. The same is true for columns, and dormers, which bring the structure to life and out of the darkness.

Another tool we use is downlighting, which can creates a much more dramatic effect than uplighting on its own. Downlighting can be installed in a number of ways and on a number of areas on your home, with the right technicians. Properly designed downlighting will ensure that your home’s dimensions stand out in the night, while also allowing your designer to create fantastic effects with light and shadow.

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


Fall Lighting Principles

October 4, 2017

As our summer installation season begins to wind down, our focus shifts from lighting backyards and pool areas almost exclusively, to returning to our normal mixture of outdoor living-space lighting, architectural lighting and landscape lighting. Though the temperatures are still soaring, New Jerseyans know that the shorter days and longer nights of autumn are near.

Lighting in the late summer and early fall is a fun time for us, especially in a year that we saw a lot of rain. Our client’s landscaping is still in full bloom, which allows us to set fixtures in their most impactful positions, and with just enough time to capture the beauty of fall foliage. It also means that our clients will be able to enjoy the peaceful settings we create for them even longer, with the sun setting earlier and the cool nights inviting them outside.

Tree lighting in the fall creates a magical scene. As leaves turn crimson and gold and rustle in the cool wind, spectators can truly take in the majesty of mother nature and the warmth of a glowing light radiating outward. While we know that the leaves will return spring, there is a sense of finality in autumn’s foliage and there is no better way to appreciate is than with a beautifully designed landscape lighting system.

Architectural lighting once again becomes the most important aspect of an outdoor lighting system. The further into the cold seasons we approach, the more important it is to have architectural lighting to warm your home from the outside in. Your home’s architecture will also be the backdrop to a lighting system and pulling into a properly illuminated home offers a feeling of comfort and resilience to even the coolest blowing winds.

Proper walkway and entryway lighting will also be worth its weight in gold in the cooler and darker months ahead, adding security and safely guiding you and your family into your home.

Outdoor living spaces, such as decks and patios will also be used more in the dark as the sun sets earlier in the day. Make sure you get the most out of your retreat with proper lighting for the nights when you want to stay just a little longer before retreating to the warmth of a fireplace.

Every season is special for one reason or another. Don’t miss out on the most beautiful time of year just because the sun has set.

For more information on lighting your home, please contact (908) 369-7791, email service@njlandscapelighting.com or visit www.njlandscapelighting.com/contact.


Three Pillars of Landscape Lighting

August 3, 2017

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.

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 service@NJlandscapelighting.com or call us at (908) 369-7791.


Local landscape lighting contractor or national brand?

June 28, 2017

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

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

May 19, 2017

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 service@njlandscapelighting.com or call us at (908) 392-5690.


To schedule a free outdoor lighting consultation,
please call us at (908) 369-7791 or submit an online request.

New Jersey State Electrical License Number 34EB01721900