What are Spotlights?
In a similar way, landscape lighting spotlights are used for emphasis – to call attention to specific architectural or landscape features. Unlike floodlights that shed light across a wide area, spotlights have narrower beams so they can focus on one thing at a time.
Spotlighting your House
The intention of lighting your house is not to flood it with light – then it would look over-lit – just like daytime. Instead, you want to selectively apply spotlights to create visual accents on the sidings.
- Spacing & Positioning
If the siding is plain (no windows) position spotlights so their beams overlap about halfway up the house. For a 60º beam, that would be a spacing of about 15 ft. apart on a 2-story house. If the house has windows along a side, position fixtures halfway between each window, and one fixture to the right and left of the outermost windows. Position each fixture about 1 ft, from the wall – farther if bushes are in the way. Angle the fixture upward until the hotspot in the center of the beam is spread out towards the top of the siding.
If columns are present, light them. One fixture 6” from the base of each column is ideal. If necessary, use a surface mount to mount the fixture nearer to the column. Use a very narrow beam (12º) for very tall columns. Use a 24º or 36º beam if the column is shorter or fatter. If there’s a nice white section under the eaves between columns, aim to have the beam from each column meet the next beam halfway under the eaves. Columns look best when the illumination starts at the bottom of the column. For this reason, some designers prefer a well-type flush-set fixtures
- Second Stories
One of the aims of lighting architecture is to reveal the shape of the structure even under an extremely dark sky. This is only accomplished when upper parts of the building are illuminated along with lower parts. This can be challenging since lights are best mounted in gutters or under upper-most eaves. An alternative method is to position narrow-beam spotlights from the ground aimed at the underside of these upper eaves. Care should be taken not to shine these lights into second story windows.
Spotlighting your Trees
There are several reasons to light trees on your property. They are impressive features of your landscape and often serve to define the extent of your property – both horizontally and vertically. Tree canopies (often unnoticed during the day) when illuminated can be reminiscent of the glorious ceilings of cathedrals.
- Small & Medium Sized Trees
Trees that are young or ornamental usually only require one spotlight. If the tree is short and narrow, then a 24º spotlight is appropriate. If the tree is short and wide (such as a Japanese Maple), then two 60º spotlights may be required. These can be positioned under the canopy a few feet from the trunk. Or, one can be positioned near the trunk with the other located outside the tree with a wide enough beam to illuminate the entire width of the canopy.
Tall trees such as Coconut Palms may only require one spotlight positioned near the base with a beam wide enough to encompass the entire canopy. Two spotlights will give better coverage.
- Large Wide Trees
Tall expansive trees such as Live Oaks always require more than one spotlight. Use 60º beams and position one light about 1 ft. from the base to illuminate the trunk. Position other lights out towards the outer edge of the canopy (drip line). If the canopy is very dense (such as with Blue Spruce), you should position fixtures far enough outside the drip line so you can illuminate out to the upper canopy edges. The number of fixtures you use for such trees depends on your budget and whether or not you want the tree to be a focal point of your design. Just as with architecture, you want your lighting to reveal the entire shape of the tree – not always an easy task, but the impact can be tremendous.
Spotlighting other Landscape Features
These quaint hexagonal structures are usually lit in two ways – from within and/or from outside. The lighting inside can consist of a very small spotlight (with 60º beam) affixed from the center of the roof pointing straight down. From outside, spotlights can be positioned about 1 ft. from outside columns – aimed up at the eaves to bounce light into the structure.
- Patios and Decks
Aside from deck and patio lights, these surfaces can also be very beautifully lit from the limbs of trees. Downlights are positioned to project through leaves and limbs to create a moonlit dappled light affect on deck an patio surfaces.
Ideally lit from a 45º angle above, statuary can come alive at night. The reason downlight is preferred is because lights from underneath a statue can create a “monster” effect. Still, if you must light from below, experiment with different positions to produce the most flattering shadows on the statue.
- Pools, Ponds, & Waterfalls
Again, light from above is most natural, but if that’s not possible, then position spotlights from angles that highlight the feature without shining light in the eyes of viewers. Using underwater lights in ponds and waterfalls are also an option.
- Small & Medium Sized Trees