Q: What’s a good strategy for lighting a yard?
A: I suggest following a less is more approach. You don’t want your yard to be lit up like a theme park, and I promise your neighbors don’t either. Too much exterior light can be blinding, uses unnecessary electricity, and contributes to the brightening of the night sky, making it difficult to see stars and disrupting animal habitats. Instead, focus on installing fixtures where you need them — near a patio or path, for example — and accentuating a few special features in the landscape. In addition to making your yard feel inviting when you’re outdoors, these pockets of illumination give you something to gaze out at (other than a black window) when you’re inside your home at night.
I recommend down lighting, also known as moonlighting, as an environmentally friendly means of landscape lighting. You can place downlights, which have a cylindrical casing around the bulb to eliminate glare, high up on tree trunks and aim them at a walkway, seating area, or the tree’s own foliage for a moonlit effect. Path lights — typically 18- to 24-inch posts topped with canopies that direct light downward — are a good choice for highlighting plantings in a garden. Modern versions, such as those shown above, are also available. Place path fixtures about 20 feet apart to create glowing areas that draw the eye from one plant to the next versus a single blast of illumination. Avoid stationing these lights at regular intervals along a path, which conjures a landing strip, and using them on lawns, where they are vulnerable to lawnmowers and weed wackers.
Opt for solid brass or copper fixtures, which hold up well in Maine weather and can withstand the occasional ding from a power tool, and use 20-watt equivalent LED bulbs. These last up to 20 years in a landscape setting (compared with six months to a year for halogen bulbs), a lifespan you’ll be especially thankful for if your fixtures are in a tree.
By Sanford Fogg
Photo Courtesy of Tech Lighting
Q: What’s the proper way to light a bathroom?
A: While the most critical need is adequate lighting at the vanity, I recommend incorporating additional layers of ambient and task lighting in a large space. In a master bathroom, these might consist of a centrally located ceiling fixture, a recessed light over the toilet, and recessed light(s) in the shower. In a powder room, vanity lighting alone might be sufficient (although I always recommend a recessed fixture over a toilet). Every situation and budget is different. But if you spend $10,000 to tile your walk-in shower, you should allocate $200 more to light it properly! For those on a smaller budget (i.e., most people), installing an exhaust fan with a light over the tub/shower is also a fine solution.
Sconces mounted beside the mirror at approximately head height, 65 to 70 inches above the floor, provide the best vanity lighting. These produce even illumination across the face. A sconce or bath bar installed above the mirror provides the next-best lighting. Most lighting designers advise against having recessed fixtures over a vanity as they create shadows under the eyes, nose, and chin, making tasks like shaving and applying makeup more difficult.
Opt for sconces with opal versus clear-glass shades, as the latter tends to produce glare. When choosing fixtures, I recommend ones that accept a minimum of 60-watt light bulbs, or the equivalent in an LED, per sconce. Like all lights, these fixtures should be on a dimmer that you can crank up when you’re getting ready in the morning, and down when you want to relax in the bath.