The human eye is naturally drawn to the brightest spot in the field of vision. That’s one of the most basic principles experienced outdoor lighting designers live and work by. Our designs and installations use this understanding to shape the overall impression a home or business makes at night. It’s essential to maximizing the “wow!” factor. Ironically, though, experience and expertise produce smart designs which are… not too bright. Huh?
NOT TOO BRIGHT??
Brightness not only draws the human eye, it draws the rest of a person, too. In the darkness, we tend to go to where the illumination has drawn our vision. That explains the logic behind the common practice of putting the brightest lighting at a home’s front door. “This,” it announces, “is where to go.” Makes sense, as far as that goes.
Too many residential outdoor lighting installations overdo the front door illumination. Too much light, far too bright. While it surely does make it clear where the front door is, it unbalances the overall visual impression. Everything outside that illumination zone looks dark. Hence, the only way to restore visual balance is with bright lights in the rest of the layout. The end result, if visual balance is restored, is a house and grounds lit as brightly as an air terminal. This isn’t welcoming, or pleasing. It’s harsh and confrontational. A visitor standing on the threshold feels like the proverbial deer in the headlights.
A better approach is light layering. We can guide the eye and the person to a home’s front door, or anywhere else on the property, without that institutional look. We create the lighting working toward the center, the front door, instead of starting there and working outward. Well-hidden fixtures and subtle illumination draw attention gently toward the front door, rather than grabbing it. Leaving a property’s boundaries in shadows adds emphasis to its island of life, the home. Minimalist path lighting and gentle wall washes add safety and visual texture. When this is properly done, the front door illumination will still be the brightest in the lightscape, as it should be. But it can now be much less powerful. An inviting, warm glow rather than a harsh, utilitarian floodlight. Welcome.
OUTDOOR LIGHTING DESIGNERS
Developers, builders, and DIY homeowners often create (unintentionally!) fantastic opportunities for outdoor lighting designers. Through no fault of their own, to be sure. It’s human nature to act as though “if a little as good, a lot is great!”. This holds for a lot of things, but not for outdoor and landscape lighting. In our profession, the golden rule is “less is more”. It’s not hard to demonstrate the truth of this. That’s what free nighttime demos accomplish.