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.