Photos Courtesy of Preferred Properties Landscaping
Interview with Landscape Lighting Pro Michael Gotowala
We sat down with award-winning lighting and landscape designer Michael Gotowalaof Preferred Properties Landscaping to talk about what a homeowner should know about landscape lighting.
Outdoor lighting is the fastest growing landscaping trend out there and one of the most dramatic improvements you can make to your home. “The three basic benefits are beauty, safety and security,” he notes. Illumination can be breathtaking in its beauty as well as extremely practical because it keeps your home safe and secure and enables you to enjoy more hours outdoors.
“My customers are really excited about the whole artistic aspect. Think of it as painting a picture of the landscape at night, using lights to achieve the look a homeowner wants. I tell them that outdoor lighting is both functional and aesthetic. It is an art to understand how much light to place on a house or determine where the focal points are.
“So it’s important to hire a designer that understands outdoor lighting design. A skilled professional can add beauty and artistry to your landscaping while bringing your property to life. You want a variety of effects, fixtures to be placed properly, avoiding glare and direct viewing of any fixture, balancing down lighting and up lighting, and the use of strifing that hides fixtures behind plants.”
Michael identifies several technology and
design features you should know about:
Go with a low voltage system. It is cleaner and sharper and subtly accents a space vs. line systems which provides too much lighting and draws away from the fixture and away from the area you are trying to light. Low voltage can be installed without disrupting your surrounding landscape. In most cases it is the better choice.
Technology has changed the way lighting is used and displayed. For example consider using a smart timer vs. the less sophisticated pin timer. The smart timer adapts to power outages, automatically changes with Daylight Savings Time, and adjusts to changing seasons. You have complete manual control, too – and as many keypad controls as you wish. You can set up multiple configurations of lighting zones and program each zone to automatically turn lights on and off.
Today’s looks offer all kinds of opportunities to transform your property. They range from accent lights used for highlighting specific features to large cylindrical floodlights to entryway lights. Keep in mind that there are different types of lighting for the front as well as the backyard.
What most people don’t realize is that lighting systems are expandable and can be adapted to properties as they grow and owners’ needs change. As landscapes mature, lighting fixtures can easily adapt.
Less is more. Overlighting is a common problem, focusing on the source rather than the effect. The bulb and fixture should disappear when the lights are turned on. All that should be visible is the glow of light on the flowers, the wall or the path.
A key element of any lighting design is cohesion. This refers to an illuminated scene where the elements are tied together in a way that looks visually pleasing. You can do this by selectively illuminating various plants and trees. If it’s not done correctly, these areas would have been in complete darkness – such darkness distorts the impression of the property, exaggerates the impact of areas that are illuminated, and compromises security of the premises.
When looking for professional lighting landscapers, keep in mind they should have experience in how lighting fixtures coexist with plant systems and how illumination affects the visual appearance of various types of plant materials.
After you hire a professional, he or she will need to visit your property at night because it looks completely different. Several visits should be scheduled to get a grasp of the property’s advantages and limitations. Properly placed, lights can dramatize trees, highlight favorite shrubs and accent statuary, fountains and flowerbeds. Like any creative work, there are myriad options.
Coming up in Part 2: Michael discusses how to work with a professional lighting landscaper and why talented landscape lighting designers are also landscape professionals.
Find out more about Preferred Properties Landscaping and Michael Gotowala.