HARDSCAPE AND SOFTSCAPE
Outdoor living spaces have two basic ingredients: softscape and hardscape. Softscape is all that’s alive and growing. Trees, shrubs, lawns, flowers, succulents, and so forth. Hardscape is pretty much everything else. It’s not living. It’s brick, concrete, stone, metal, and worked wood. These are functional items like driveways, benches, walls, and pools, among others. Hardscape can also be purely decorative, such as statues and columns. Hardscape lighting is the art of combining function, safety, and beauty to enhance outdoor living.
A HARDSCAPE LIGHTING EXAMPLE
Outdoor kitchens are a good example of the challenges and opportunities in hardscape lighting. While in use, work surfaces and appliances need to be brightly lit from above. It’s a basic safety requirement when working with things that are sharp and hot. The cook needs plenty of light. When the cooking’s done, though, a good hardscape lighting design allows a transformation. The bright overhead lights are dimmed or shut off. Warm, diffuse illumination for dining and socializing is provided by downlight fixtures under benches, bars, and wall lips. This effectively “extracts” the kitchen workshop from the picture. Who wants to see the aftermath there spotlighted while dining? It leaves, instead, a softly-lit zone of leisure and comfort.
Designers can also use the “less is more” approach to balance hardscape and softscape in smaller lots. Driveways, outdoor kitchens, and outdoor dining areas can only be so small. Thus, smaller lots tend to have more hardscape in relation to softscape. Too much hardscape gives a property a commercial look-and-feel. Too much softscape? Every neighborhood seems to have a lot reverting to the wild. Thoughtful outdoor lighting design can de-emphasize hardscape with shadows while calling the eye to softscape with moonlighting.
The design and technical professionals at an outdoor lighting company like Houston Lightscapes love to be there when hardscape is planned. It’s much easier to design lighting into new hardscape than it is to retrofit. Hardscape is, well, hard. Drilling into stone or brick isn’t easy, but when (for example) flush fixtures are called for, we drill. It’s always worth the effort.
FORM AND FUNCTION
We tend to use hardscape, not just admire it. Accordingly, the aesthetic goals have to comport with the need for safety and utility. A beautiful pool deck lighting design is lacking if people keep falling into a shadowed-out corner. Similarly, an intimate conversation nook shouldn’t be a place where people bark their shins on benches. Hardscape lighting is a piece of the landscape lighting puzzle. It’s not hard for anyone to plop a few fixtures around a patio and turn ‘em on. However, the lighting designs executed by seasoned pros are orders of magnitude more rewarding. We look forward to satisfying all our customers in 2019.