Case Study: Outdoor Lighting Design Project

We are often called upon to illuminate outdoor living spaces which is one of our favorite assignments. Happy to be involved in this bespoke project, we are incredibly proud of what we accomplished with this outdoor lighting design.  Our clients are extremely passionate about their home and love to entertain family and friends.  It was important to them that this outdoor addition maintain a warm intimate ambiance.

Client Needs and Goals:

The primary intention of this project was the construction of a new patio to replace their worn wooden deck. But, it became so much more.  Required to function as an extension of the home, it would be used often for small family gatherings but must also accommodate formal outdoor lightingentertaining for up to 100 guests with room for catering on the premise.  The patio would include four distinct areas: a complete outdoor kitchen with granite countertops; a built-in fire pit with seating; a dining area; and a Jacuzzi hot tub plus planter boxes.  The project came to fruition through the cooperation of many expert craftsmen and designers.  As with many of our projects, we work hand in hand with our partners.  Susan Cohan, APLD of  Susan Cohan Gardens designed and Frank Scheppe of Scheppe Landscape Contractors implemented this beautiful patio and landscape design.

Outdoor Patio and FirepitThe lighting had to manage several different objectives. We needed task lighting for cooking, serving, drink preparation and dining.  Also required: step lighting for stair safety, accent lighting for drama and down lighting for ambiance.  We had previously designed and installed top-of-the-line landscape lighting in the areas surrounding the patio mandating that we achieve the level of quality to which our client had become accustomed. 

Construction Limitations and Challenges:

With a project of this scale, there are limitations and challenges that need to be accounted for:

  • At least a dozen design changes during six months of construction, including major and minor adjustments to materials, construction methods and details.
  • Heavy masonry construction (stone over concrete block) required frequent visits and pre-planned provisions to overcome installation and future service challenges.
  • Granite countertops are difficult to work with and are highly reflective.
  • The use of multiple materials throughout the area provided both the advantage of visual interest and the disadvantage of dealing with light playing differently off various materials.
  • The need to create intimacy and comfort in a very large space, and how to use lighting to create that intimacy.
  • Concealing the linear (rope) lighting used to graze the stone backsplashes and countertops. Unfortunately the granite was specified and ordered without consulting the “lighting guy”. Consequently, no provisions were included to incorporate the intended lighting at the start, requiring a creative and effective solution.

The Outcome:

This patio was created with a new product (at the time) outdoor lightingthat allows a stone patio to be constructed above grade, much like a wooden deck.  The combination of materials, including several different types of stone, wood, steel and granite could have easily become a distracting hodgepodge.  Instead it is an interesting, beautiful, inviting space.  But its real beauty comes to life under the lighting.  Inhabitants are enveloped by warmth as light plays off the color of the home’s stucco walls and the rich wood trim.

The patio was constructed of stone, edged and trimmed with mahogany. The exterior of the house served as walls for this room and are finished with a warm but neutral shade of stucco.  At four feet in height and built on two levels, stair safety was of paramount importance. We also included task lighting for grill & countertops, the wet bar/sink, and general clean up.

Of vital importance, was providing smooth transitions, allowing visual comfort and ease of movement throughout.  Grazing techniques were employed to accentuate focal points, such as stonework and mahogany trim.  Through the use of well shielded downlight fixtures, the space is comfortable and virtually glare free it is illumination that is really felt and experienced.

outdoor lightingDownlighting was used exclusively and with no nearby neighbors and a heavily wooded perimeter, light trespass was not an issue.  Most important was eliminating potential fixture glare.  Fixtures were specified with proper cut off shrouds and frosted lenses.  They were thoughtfully positioned and carefully aimed, avoiding any direct illumination into second story windows.

Incandescent rope lighting, chosen for its unmistakable warmth, was concealed behind custom aluminum covers, providing both glare shielding and architectural detail.  The same treatment was carried throughout; employed in much the same manner at all steps and stairs and throughout the kitchen area countertops. The aluminum was powder coated in a color to coordinate with the surroundings.

Control was accomplished in two ways. First, a multi-zone, WiFi Outdoor lightingconnected system with timer programs and convenient manual override ability, encompasses all outdoor lighting including multiple low voltage zones and all house-mounted line voltage fixtures.  This allows us to activate existing wall sconces at pre-set dimmed levels. Brightness is easily adjusted at any system wall switch inside the home or from a connected device on the patio.

Secondly, local dimmer switches were incorporated to control three specific areas of lighting.  Five second story downlights are broken into two zones and a third area is comprised of three copper downlights built into the arbor over the bar and sink.  Fitted with medium spread bulbs for times when task lighting is needed and equipped with a dimmer to turn them down when a softer look is desired. All rotary dimmers are conveniently located near the area they control.

This project is a great example of lighting designed for an outdoor living space, or more accurately, lighting designed for people living in an outdoor space. For help transforming your backyard patio into your own private resort, please call us at 908-647-8004 or contact us here.

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