Step Lights – Tips from a Landscape Lighting Designer

Step lights on deck, by Twilight LandscapingThere are many design considerations when choosing a step light for your project. To help navigate through the many choices available, we turned to a professional landscape lighting designer.

Flush Mount vs. Surface Mounted Step Lights

According to David Bilik, owner of Twilight Designs in Las Vegas, flush mount (recessed) step lights are often the fixture of choice when used indoors. He credits this to how easy it is to cut into and run wiring through drywall, especially when installing step lights after construction is completed. “While planning ahead is helpful,” says Bilik, “there are many products available for running wires post-construction.” He recommends 110v wiring to fish through walls and attics or low voltage wiring when 110v is not an option.

For less penetrable surfaces like concrete and stone, surface mounted fixtures are ideal because they mount directly to a wall or flat surface. These step lights commonly have a profile of as little as 3/4-inch up to 3-inches and a trajectory that directs light at the wall or at the surface below.

Open-Faced, Louvered, Shrouded Step Lights

Open faced, louvered and smooth step light faceplate stylesRegardless of whether you are using a flush or surface mounted step light, you must consider the type of cover (or faceplate) the fixture has. Bilik says that in his experience, most covers will fall in one of three categories, each with its own series of benefits:

  • An open-faced step light will offer the most amount of light with only a frosted glass lens to soften glare from the bulb. There is nothing to deflect or redirect the light with an open-faced step light, so proper placement is crucial as to whether or not the fixture will complement the design elements of the area, or overwhelm the space. Avoid this by mounting the fixture to the left or right of a staircase instead of on the face of a step.
  • Louvered fixtures have a cover that functions much the same way as an air vent in your home or car would. They have a grated cover that directs the light down. Although a louvered faceplate blocks the most amount of light, it is ideal for mounting on the front of a step as they mount flush with the surface and block all glare.
  • Shrouded fixtures capture the light coming out of the front of a fixture and redirect it down, focusing the light on the ground where you need it most. However, even with flush mounted fixtures, the shroud itself still sticks out making this fixture unsuitable for mounting on the front of a step.

Retrofitting Step Lights

Although LED fixtures are becoming more popular, a lot of step light fixtures are still outfitted for conventional light bulbs, but this does not mean that you are saddled with inefficient lighting. Retrofitting a conventional fixture with LEDs is sometimes as easy as changing a light bulb. “Look for LED bulbs that are direct replacements for their conventional counterparts, and use socket adapters when necessary,” says Bilik.

Many step lights are universal in size, meaning they are designed to fit within a single gang electrical box. For landscape lighting designers like Bilik, this makes the process of upgrading to LED step lights simpler and more cost-effective for the client.

 

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Battery operated LED fairy lights in decorative setting

Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers

2015 Holiday gift guide, stocking stuffers

Stockings brimming with novelties, gadgets and various goodies are one of my favorite holiday traditions. Small, unique and inexpensive gifts make perfect gifts for holiday stockings.

You’ll find some of my favorite stocking-stuffer lighting gifts below (all under $20!), along with a few bonus ideas that will add some jolly to your holly.


Solar LED Mission Umbrella light stocking stuffer

Clip one several of these solar-powered lights on a patio umbrella, tent, gazebo, awning, etc. to create an outdoor party atmosphere.

Solar LED Mission Umbrella Clip Light, $6.90
HOLIDAY2015 Eligible!


Super magnetic puttyThis is nothing like the putty I used to get in my stocking every year. Set the putty near the magnet and it will “come alive” and stretch itself out to reach it. Wild!

Super Magnetic Putty, $15.00


Battery operated LED fairy lights in decorative settingCall me biased, but these fairy lights have appeared in just about every gift guide I’ve done. I love them for decorating all year round and with the current discounts and promotions, you can load up on these for yourself too!

Battery Operated LED Fairy Lights, $14.90 $11.90,
HOLIDAY2015 Eligible!
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Holiday gift ideas for Do-It-Yourself'ers

Holiday Gift Guide: DIY Enthusiasts

2015 Gift Guide - Holiday Gifts for DIY Enthusiasts

Do you have a Do-It-Yourself’er in your life that refuses to hand over a holiday wish-list, leaving you scrambling for ideas?

The trick to good gift-giving is seeking out things that match the DIY’ers project personality. It has been my experience that DIY’ers fall into three categories, and you may recognize your friend or family member in one or more of them. I call them Dreamers, Renegades, and Perfectionists.

The Dreamer: Gifts for DIY Creatives & Thinkers

This type of Do-It-Yourself’er always has an idea, a grand plan for the Next Big Project. Everything they see gives them inspiration. They enjoy building and repurposing, but the real fun for The Dreamer is coming up with the idea. Look for gifts that harness their creative energy:


Sketchbook for DIY'ers to record ideas and plans

Make sure all of those killer ideas get recorded in style with a large sketchbook that has plenty of room for notes, drawings, and measurements. A pocket-sized sketchbook is another must-have, because you never know when inspiration will hit.

Colorful Pastels Hardcover Sketchbook, $10.95


Artistic prismacolor pens from Blick

Naturally, sketchbooks need something to write in them with. Premier pens like these Prismacolors come in a multitude of colors and sets in all price ranges.

Prismacolors, prices start around $25 (more…)

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2015 holiday gift guide for the host and hostess

Holiday Gift Guide: Host & Hostess

Holiday gift guide for the host and hostessThis is the third installment in our 2015 Holiday Gift Guide Series. So far we’ve looked at great gift ideas for co-workers and grandparents, and today I’m sharing a list of unique gifts that your holiday host or hostess will love.


A successful holiday party host juggles a lot of responsibilities – preparing food, monitoring the grill, mingling with the crowd, and keeping drinks topped off. And they do all of this while making it look completely effortless.

If your group of friends has an undisputed epic entertainer in its midst, you’ll want to give them a gift that’s as great as they are. Here is a collection of 10 party-ready gift ideas that will guarantee you a spot on next year’s invitation list too…

10 unique gift ideas to bring to the host or hostess at your holiday party

  1. Your host will want to use these battery operated fairy lights year round to decorate every celebration. Fairy lights consist of tiny LED lights (about the size of a grain of rice) on an ultra-thin bendable wire. The wire molds around just about anything, or you can simply place them in a clear jar or vase like the ones pictured.
  2. Stainless steel dachshunds decked in holiday gear are the theme for these festive salt & pepper shakers from Ballard Designs.
  3. Whether these Bespoke flavored sea salts are partnered with your ‘dashing’ salt & pepper dachshunds or given as a gift on their own, they’ll be a delectable addition to many future parties.
  4. Your party host will never have to worry about guests forgetting which wine glass is theirs with this set of 12 colorful Kate Spade holiday light wine tags.
  5. Dangling from tree branches or filled with baubles and used as a patio table centerpiece are just a couple of ways your hostess can use decorative solar lanterns at holiday parties and beyond.
  6. Your host may choose to share this tin of exclusive Neiman Marcus cookies with the crowd, or stash them aside as an after-party reward for a job well done.
  7. The warm glow of antique style string lights draped from tree to tree are equally dazzling at an elegant garden party as they are at a back yard barbecue. Your host will love the versatility and uniqueness of this gift, whatever the occasion.
  8. Make food preparation easier with this personalized kitchen stand that can hold an iPad full of recipes, or a favorite recipe book.
  9. With all the busyness of mingling and monitoring, it’s likely to take a while for your host to finish a drink. Make sure their favorite spirit stays cold without getting watered down with a whiskey wedge!
  10. Solar tiki torches are safer than open flames, and just as charming for ambient lighting at an evening party. If children or pets are a part or your holiday host’s event, they’ll also appreciate this safer alternative.

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2015 holiday gift guide for grandparents

Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Grandparents

Gift ideas for Grandparents

This is the second installment in our 2015 Holiday Gift Guide Series. Last week we looked at great ideas for the office gift exchange, and this week we’re talking about gifts for grandparents, both old and new.


Grandparents are notorious for spoiling their grandkids rotten and sending them home to mom and dad. Today I have rounded up a list of practical, fun, and sentimental gift ideas that will let you spoil them this year.

Fun, unique gifts for grandparentsUnique, Fun Gifts

For the globe-trotting grandparents that traverse the great wide open in a sedan, an RV or even on a set of Harleys, custom bobble heads designed to look like the recipients are a fun gag gift that is guaranteed to be one-of-a-kind.

If your active grandparent hasn’t discovered the outrageously fun sport that I can only describe as a cross between tennis and ping pong, then gifting them with their own beginners Pickleball set is a must. Pickleball is fun, easy on the joints and great exercise.

You’re never too old to learn something new, and gifting your grandparents with a new experience might be just the thing. If they’ve never been to the theater, buy them tickets for a local play or musical, or splurge on Broadway tickets. Some other ideas for great “new experiences” are wine tastings, kayaking lessons, or lessons to learn how to play the guitar! (more…)

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2015 Holiday gift guide for co-workers

Holiday Gift Guide: Co-Workers

Holiday gift guide for your coworkers

This is the first in our 2015 series of Holiday Gift Guides, pulling together some of our most “give-able” lighting products with unique items from around the web.


Office gift exchanges can be tricky, especially when they involve some type of Secret Santa game. They usually include each employee randomly drawing a name, and often go one of a few ways:

A) You and your pal finagle a way to draw each other’s name, so that you can mutually agree NOT to participate in this ridiculous game. (Bah-Humbug!) You’re only reading this post because you can’t get out of getting something for your boss.

B) You overhear your office mates whispering about you in the break-room, “Man, I hope he doesn’t draw my name. Did you see those lame gifts he gave last year?” and you vow that this year you will be the BEST. SECRET SANTA. EVER.

C) Last year you gave gifts SO EPIC that you have the Secret Santa Superstar reputation to uphold but you’ve run out of clever ideas.

Whatever the case, here are a handful of ideas that can help for around $25 or less.

2015 holiday gift guide for coworkers (more…)

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