A well-designed patio can serve as an extra dining room, lounging area or party space as long as it includes one important feature---lighting. No matter how you plan to use your patio, your lighting plan should include both functional and decorative lighting elements. Functional lighting consists of area lighting and fixtures that illuminate certain spaces for safety and security. Decorative lighting can be used to highlight attractive exterior features, or the light fixtures themselves may be ornamental.
The first type of lighting you should consider for patio spaces is area lighting. Area lighting spreads light across an entire zone and makes it possible to do things in the space like eating, playing games or reading. Area lighting may be provided by flood lights or other fixtures mounted on exterior walls, overhead structures or in-ground posts. Experiment with bulbs in different wattages to find the perfect intensity of light for your setting.
Accent lighting, or decorative lighting, can be used to add warmth and visual interest to both indoor and outdoor spaces. Examples of outdoor decorative lighting fixtures are table lamps, chandeliers, tree lanterns, lawn torches and candles. Beams of light can be pointed up, down, or on the back of architectural or garden features to highlight them against darker elements and create interesting shadow effects. Coloured bulbs or light fixtures with coloured shades create additional interest.
Lighting for Safety and Security
One final consideration when planning your outdoor lighting is safety and security. Although studies have shown that additional exterior lighting does not always decrease crime rates, it can be an effective security tool when used properly. Avoid light installations that cast deep shadows into your yard, as these can create excellent hiding places. Locate fixtures to limit glare, which can make it harder for you, your neighbours or your neighbourhood security officers to observe intruders.
To improve safety on steps and walkways, there are many low-voltage and solar-powered lighting systems that are simple enough for the average homeowner to install.
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