If you’re looking to create the ultimate summertime experience in your own backyard, look no further. From dimmers to lighting zones to pools and beyond, landscape lighting design has allowed us to enjoy the outdoors way beyond when the sun goes down.

In the same way that you may not want your front yard to be lit just like your backyard, you may have different elements in your backyard that you’d prefer to be lit differently depending on the location in your yard and also the time of day (think: outdoor patio dining table). This is where dimmers and lighting zones come into play in your landscape lighting design.

How Landscape Lighting Can Design the Perfect Summer Mood + Experiences

1. Start by Creating Lighting Zones

Creating lighting zones is a great way to set the perfect mood. In fact, finding out how a client uses their yard is one of the first things a landscape lighting designer or contractor will ask their customer. It’s from this information, that they are able to create lighting zones. Creating lighting zones will allow homeowners to use their backyard for aesthetics and safety by understanding how they use their backyard.

Many homeowners will keep their path lighting on all night for safety, but the lights used for ambiance—like wall washing or uplighting—turn off when homeowners are no longer outside. This can also be automated for even easier use. For instance, if you don’t use your yard after 10 PM, setting the lights to go off at that time is a great way to save money. Why light it if you aren’t using it, right? Assigning a lighting zone to each area of your backyard gives you the option to illuminate only certain areas of your backyard instead of having to light the entire space every time.

2. Dimmers + Lighting Zones = Safety + Aesthetic Perfection

Once you understand what zones your backyard offers, you will note that you may want to light each one differently. Maybe you want to light your lounge areas, but not other areas while you’re outside enjoying your summer nights. Perhaps family dinner or yard game areas require brighter lights, and dimmers can allow you to set the tones and moods you’re going for. Here are some other specific areas where dimmers and lighting zones can be helpful:

  • Play areas: When it’s an adults-only night, a play area zone with dimmers can still provide safety but keep the focus off these areas when they’re not in use.
  • Entertainment spaces (including fire pits): Dimmers can come in handy to make sure you can get the right amount of light right where you need it, depending on what type of entertainment is in the plans: meals, conversation, games, and so on.
  • Ponds and water features: The option to have brighter light for safety when people are enjoying your pool or dimmer light for ambiance (but also for safety) when the pool isn’t in use is important in these areas. It’s the same for water features. Depending on your backyard nighttime plans, you’ll want to be able to control the amount of light at all times.
  • Gardens: You’ve worked hard on those gardens, so make sure they’re seen in their best light when the sun goes down too. Here’s where you can have a lot of fun creating the perfect garden lighting zone to showcase your beautiful plants and gardens, and adding dimmers can help you create safety all the time and ambiance when, where, and how you want it.

Below, we break down some spaces even further.

3. Lighting Entertainment Spaces: Patio Lighting Perfection

Imagine yourself sitting by an outdoor fire, enjoying a glass of your favorite wine, with your favorite food cooking away on the grill just as the sun is setting. Sounds amazing, right? Now imagine said area with blinding landscape lights coming from an overly lit, one-dimensional design OR lackluster lighting coming from a poorly designed lighting plan that makes it hard to even see what’s going on. Either of these is sure to dampen your dream summer night.

So, how do you create that lighting perfection no matter what’s going on in your entertainment spaces? The overall thing to remember here is that you don’t need the same amount of light outdoors as indoors, as in, less is more. Think about using pendant lights, wall/fixture sconces, string lights, recessed lighting, spotlighting, and floodlighting, among other options. Just make sure that your lights focus downward instead of upward to create that atmosphere you’re wanting without any annoying glare.

4. Focusing on Pools + Water Features

Without outdoor lighting, taking a dip in your pool can be more thrill-seeking (and dangerous) than you might otherwise enjoy. Why dive into a pool if you can’t physically see it? This is where safety lighting is important, but just because it’s safety lighting doesn’t mean it needs to take away from the mood and atmosphere you’re wanting. When planning your pool and water feature lighting, keep the following in mind for light placement:

  • Where the deck ends and the pool begins: You have to have a clear boundary between your deck and your pool, so be sure to incorporate lighting that sets this boundary clearly for everyone and anyone. In-deck lighting and pool wall and floor lighting can be useful here, as it won’t cause a tripping hazard. And it can be beautiful, also, so you don’t have to sacrifice aesthetics for safety.
  • A visible deep end: Not being able to distinguish where the deep end begins in your pool can be extremely dangerous, so lighting that makes your pool users aware where the water is getting deeper is a must.
  • Glare: If your surrounding lights cause a glare on your pool, or if the lights in your pool walls and floor cause a glare, this is not only annoying to your eyes, but it can also be dangerous as it can seriously obstruct your view of what’s going on in and around your pool. So be careful that any lights you add to your design will be soft enough to provide safety but not too bright to cause glare.
  • Ambiance: Let’s be honest...When you have a pool and/or water features, the nighttime ambiance of these favorite parts of your landscape can be breathtaking. So make sure to highlight the unique aspects of your pool in a way that contributes to the mood you’re wanting while still adding that safety element that is of the utmost importance. You might also want to think about using dimmers in your pool area so you can decrease the amount of light while still providing safety and that peaceful mood lighting when the pool’s not in use.

5. Safety

In addition to ambiance, landscape lighting also provides safety for homeowners and their guests. Whether it’s in your pool and water feature area (like we mentioned above), or in your entertainment spaces, gardens, flowerbeds, pathways, play areas, or anywhere else in your yard, safety is the #1 priority when creating your landscape lighting plan. Again, be aware of any glaring lighting that can temporarily blind the eyes and cause unsafe shadows and dark spaces, and make sure to incorporate lighting that will not only appropriately highlight all the amazing spaces and places in your yard but will also keep anyone enjoying your backyard oasis safe.

Ready to create the landscape lighting of your dreams? Our experts are ready and willing to help make those dreams come true, so contact us, and let’s get to work!