Outdoor lighting: what you need to know

Install lighting in your garden for a functional, beautiful space after dark.

By Andrea Manley | 28 May 2020

Expert design advice and practical considerations for illuminating your garden with an exterior lighting scheme.

highbury garden with ambient lighting - grand designs

Image: Moonlight Designs 

Whether you like to use your garden after the sun goes down, or you’re just looking for a way to connect your home to your outdoor space to enjoy it after dark, lighting is a much overlooked aspect of garden design.

Whether you’re looking for wall lights, path lights, uplighters or downlighters, take a look at some of this expert advice.

Strategic placement

Planning is essential, as it’s important not to over-illuminate an area – in the dark, a little light goes a long way. A well thought-out scheme will include a combination of practical path, step and patio lighting and more decorative options for features such as trees, benches and sculptures.
This will help turn an outdoor space into an extension of your home.

‘When your garden is unlit, your windows look like black mirrors from the inside, reflecting the internal space,’ says Sian Parsons, senior designer
at John Cullen Lighting. ‘By lighting up a tree or pergola, your view is extended, increasing the sense of space.’ 

Highlight architectural features with a selection of light fittings designed to bring out the building’s unique details. Recessed uplighters can be used to cast interesting shadows and emphasise the texture of cladding or masonry. You can also use up/downlighters to dramatically frame a doorway, providing a wash of light to make it feel more welcoming. Or draw attention at floor level with recessed linear lights running along a path, while recessed LEDs are great for brightening a set of steps. 

Trees and shrubs can be uplit with an LED-adjustable spike spot and floodlight. For large trees on a lawn consider a recessed lawn fitting, installed flush so a mower can go over it.

Seating areas benefit from wall-mounted downlighters for background illumination. Link indoor rooms that open to the garden by using matching or similar fittings in both spaces.