outdoor landscape lighting illuminates a house with art deco inspired architectureOutdoor landscape lighting has evolved since its inception. As new lighting technologies have been developed, installation companies have been able to create fresh, innovative lighting systems for their customers. As the technologies have changed over history, so have the aesthetics of landscape lighting. Houston Lightscapes explores these changes.

Lighting Technologies

Transformers are devices that transfer an electrical current through one circuit into another. This occurs through the use of two coils and a magnetic field. Outdoor lighting systems depend on the use of a landscape lighting transformer to conduct energy.  While induction, a crucial element in creating transformers, was discovered in the 1830s, the first toroidal transformer was built between 1878-1883. 

Transformers in the 1880s relied heavily on DC power – Direct Current power. The main thing to understand about this type of power is that it flows in a constant direction and is therefore hard to transmit over long distances. This is due to the fact that high voltage is unsafe for Direct Current and you need high voltage to transmit over a distance. Early on, electrical engineers created a solution to this problem – AC power. 

AC stands for Alternating Current power. The first AC system was created in 1886. AC power uses high voltage to transfer electricity and then uses a transformer to manage the level of voltage before it reaches its destination (for example, your home). This is what is widely used today to transmit power. The landscape lighting transformer has come a long way since the first transformer in the late 1800s. Modern advances have allowed for efficient solutions to landscape lighting that are inconspicuous and capacious. But transformers aren’t the only thing that has advanced over time. A look through history will reveal how the aesthetics of outdoor landscape lighting have changed. 

Outdoor Landscape Lighting Design

Up until 1846, gas lanterns made up the majority of street lamps. In 1846, a British engineer patented an electric light to be used for street lighting. It was called the electric arc light. Arc lights had straight posts with clear glass surrounding the light. The appearance mimicked gas lanterns that were popular at the time. You can still find modern lighting today that references the style of arc lighting. 

The early 1900s were known for industrial style lighting and decor. They often used bronze and brass and had sleek lines. Houston Lightscapes uses brass fixtures in all of their designs. They remain some of the best quality fixtures on the market.

The 1920s were known for Art Deco designs which relied on geometry and line work and decadence. It was a time of luxury and enthusiasm, and this was reflected in the indoor and outdoor lighting. 

outdoor landscape lighting illuminates a tree next to a pond at nightMid-century modernism gained popularity after the war in the 1940s. It lasted through the 1970s. In fact, it has regained popularity in the last few years. The style is known for its simplicity and organic nature. Many outdoor landscape lighting styles drew inspiration from nature and fit into their environment seamlessly. 

Lighting technologies and styles are constantly evolving. But while tastes change, we often gravitate towards what is tried and true, whether that be mid-century modernist light fixtures or the reliable AC power transformer. Who knows where the future will lead us in technology and design. Houston Lightscapes is excited to find out.

If you want to learn more about outdoor lighting design for your property, get in touch with our designers for a free consultation.  


History of Transformers – M. Whelan, Steve Rockwell and additional research by Steve Normandin


History of Lighting – The Victorian Emporium


Early Arc Lights


Design by Decade 1900s – Lightology


Design by Decade 1920s – Lightology


Design by Decade 1940s – Lightology


Mid Century Modern – Wikipedia


The team at Houston Lightscapes takes pride in their many years of experience in the landscape lighting industry. They've been serving the greater Houston area for over 30 years bringing innovation and elegance to their designs. Learn more about Houston Lightscapes here.