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There are a variety of lighting decisions for you to consider when selecting the correct outdoor landscape lighting intensity – in fact, as many as when selecting your indoor lighting. 

When lighting a piece of art or a kitchen countertop, you’re always juggling the purpose of the lighting design, as well as other factors including fixture options, fixture positions, esthetics, ambiance, mood, type of light, color of light, angle of light, reflective beam/range, reflective impact, down lighting, up lighting and many more.

The same considerations apply when approaching outdoor lighting design. When asked to work with our clients on their outdoor lighting design, we often start by discussing wattage or reflective intensity, because that is what homeowners experience when we install their lights. However, somewhat counterintuitively, we specialize not in direct lighting, but in indirect lighting. It’s important to NOT see the light, just its effect!


A common example of direct lighting in an outdoor environment? The typical carriage lamp found on a garage or at the front door of a home. As you look at the front of your home in the dark of evening, you will see your lamps, which typically have very bright bulbs in them. These bulbs were selected to overcome the extreme darkness of the evening so that visitors can find your door or danger can be kept at bay. However, science actually tells us that our ability to see is actually undermined by bright light. Your bright carriage lamp actually reduces your ability to see because your iris closes, reducing the amount of light you can take in when you remove your eye’s focus from the lamp. This is the result of too much wattage. Your eyes have the ability to manage with lower light wattage than you would expect.


As a result, we at Northwest Outdoor total the accumulated light existing on the property prior to our lighting design. If the existing light wattage is what our client wants, we then design to a higher wattage total. If they even mention that it is too bright or offensive, the design changes to a comprehensive lighting design factoring the accumulated light total which reduces the total wattage per fixture. This total then provides a subtle lighting result. The design is more appealing and impacts your senses with soothing results.

Try it out. Check your existing outdoor lighting and then look around your property. What can you see? If nothing but black, then you could have too high wattage bulbs. (Dimmer switches work great on carriage lamps as well as reduced wattage bulbs.)

Creating an overall lighting effect is not just about illuminating certain elements or aspects of your home or property, but knowing how to light for maximum intended impact. Curious how we would approach your property? Give us a call; we’d be happy to help!

Inspired by what you see?

Elevate your outdoor lighting.

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