Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Light up the Night

In my earlier days of design, I rarely paid any attention to lighting. It was, I’m sure, a novice mistake. I was too swept away with the “big” stuff, like furniture and fabric and accessories. But after awhile, I began to realize that lighting is often what makes a space feel (as opposed to just look) cozy or inviting, energized or cold. This is the reason we use candles when entertaining, or turn on table lamps instead of overheads.

Creating Feeling
It is also the reason that we should consider how lighting can create feeling outdoors. Because the evening, after the sun sets and the air is cooler, is undoubtedly one of the best times to enjoy your outdoor spaces. There is something magical about a summer night--and part of that magic comes from lighting.

My husband, who apparently understood the importance of outdoor lighting Way before me, has been carefully layering outside lights on our property for years. First he snagged a chiminea (an outdoor fire pit in stone), where we’ve been known to roast marshmallows. Then he grabbed some tiki torches and arranged them around the perimeter of our patio. Next came outdoor electric lights to highlight the silhouette of the trees and shrubs at night. And finally, on occasion, strands of twinkle lights will make an appearance.

Illuminating Your Options
It is obvious from the list above that outdoor lighting comes in all shapes, sizes and costs. Here are a few to consider for your lawn/patio:
* battery operated paper lanterns. My neighbor has a set of these glowing globes that s
he hangs from her table umbrella every summer. I love to see them lit up during her annual barbecues.

* twinkle lights: white is best for summer, lest your
neighbors think you’re doing Christmas in July. With these, I personally think less is more, and particularly like them draped over a balcony or lining a gravel path.

* candles. Low tech and low cost, these are perfect outdoors. Just make sure they are out of the way of kids and pets (you don’t want to start a fire in your yard!). Bonus: buy citronella candles and fend off mosquitoes as well.

* fire pits: more maintenance, certainly, these pits come in all different shapes, sizes and prices. Make sure you know what you’re doing when building a fire, and to check with local ordinances about burning restrictions.

* lawn lighting: the most expensive and difficult to install, lawn lighting creates unmatched ambiance around a property in addition to providing security. I love the way my trees cast shadows across the lawn with a light peering up at them from below. You can also purchase solar lighting for lawns, although they tend to be rather dim and cost a pretty penny.

Your Lights?
How do you light your lawn or patio? Share your secrets with me by posting your comment below. Or, take a photo and upload it to Retro Summer '09's Flickr page!

Previous Outdoor Living Posts:
**check out fun summer event ideas at the Retro Summer '09 webpage!**
Taking my Design Obsession Out
Furnishing Your Outsides

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