Lighting designer Paul Nulty on how to make the most of a garden terrace

Garden lighting design by Paul Nulty

DECIDE WHAT MOOD YOU’RE GOING FOR

While daylight offers balanced illumination and “makes sense”, night time illumination evokes a series of subconscious responses from intimacy to fear. The first question you should be asking is, “how do I want myself/my guests to feel?” Illumination of all corner spaces creates a sense of opening up and invitation against blackness. And even the most hardened lighting designer still believes there’s nothing as romantic and atmospheric as a candle, which remind us of huddling round an open fire.

CREATE CONTRAST AND DRAMA

Contrast and drama through light is vital to creating an intimate and comfortable outdoor space. Positioning different types of lighting at various height levels tucked within foliage around the terrace will create pockets of illumination and shadow. Outdoor lighting needs to complement the changes in natural light as the sun goes down and individual light sources provide the flexibility to subtly change the scene as it gets darker.


Position different types of lighting at various height levels

KNOW THE QUALITY OF LIGHT YOU WANT

Consider the quality of light from LED sources, know what you want to achieve and ask before you buy. Light is measured in degrees of Kelvin (K) so the lower the figure, the warmer the light; 2700K is usually warm and similar to incandescent, while 4000K is often cold and uninviting. Invest in good quality LED lamps from reputable manufacturers to produce the best lighting for your garden.


Extend indoor rooms with simple illumination

CREATE INTIMACY WITH SOFT LIGHTING

A mistake that many people make is trying to create a terrace focal point with direct illumination, especially of dining tables and BBQ areas. The result is a harsh light that shrinks the space by shutting out the surroundings as night falls. Softer lighting in the form of candles, oil lamps, and festoons not only create a more intimate glow across a whole terrace but are far cheaper, too.

EXTERIOR LIGHT SHOULD COMPLEMENT INTERIOR LIGHT

Spend time practising how to make your interior and exterior lighting complement, rather than overpower, each other. In partnership, interior and exterior lighting have the power to create a more interesting, varied and engaged space that looks like it has been strategically designed to flow together. Simple illumination of a patio or outdoor seating area in the evening can extend the rooms within, while interior lighting will cast a glow on outdoor space creating a soft overarching ambiance and adding shadow and depth.

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