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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Chevron lamp shade on thrift store lamp

Creative Lighting on a Thrift Store Budget

If an entire home lighting renovation isn’t feasible right now, a simple and affordable way to update your style is by getting creative with what you already have and combining it with what others have left behind.

Thrift Shops

There is nothing quite as rewarding to me as a good ol’ thrift shop gem. When my family moved into a new home last year, the builder-grade light fixtures didn’t do much for the decor, but upgrading them just wasn’t in the budget. I was faced with the challenge of incorporating my style into the house without spending a fortune — a perfect excuse to pay a visit to my favorite local resale shops. Check out what I came home with…

Chevron lamp shade on thrift store lamp
I spray painted the wooden base on this old $1.00 lamp navy blue and topped it with a lime green chevron shade – perfect for a kid’s playroom. Total cost ~$10
Blue Ball jar lamp
I always had big plans to DIY a Ball Jar lamp but when I came across one for $5 at the consignment shop, I jumped on it.

QUICK TIP: Don’t forget about Ebay, consignment stores, flea markets, Craigslist, Freecycle, local yard sales, or non-profit donation centers like Goodwill, The Salvation Army, or Habitat for Humanity ReStores.   

Work with What You’ve Got

I always loved the height and elegant shape of this lamp. When the shade was damaged in our move, it was a perfect opportunity for me to get creative. A new lamp shade ($9.95 on consignment), a decorative finial (taken from another old lamp), and some leftover twine gave this light new life!

Burlap lamp shade on a table lamp.
A $10 lamp shade, decorative finial and some twine gave this old lamp new life.

Maybe you already have a gorgeous lamp or family heirloom that you just can’t part with but haven’t found a way to make it work in your home. Consider updating the base with a new lamp shade, get out the spray paint, or switch out a dated bulb with the warm light from a trendy vintage-style antique light bulb. Even small changes can have a dramatic effect and completely change the look of the light.

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The healing powers of chromotherapy feature image

Chromotherapy: The Healing Powers of Color & Light

Chromotherapy, the Healing Powers of Color and Light

“Mere color, unspoiled by meaning and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.” – Oscar Wilde

Oscar wasn’t the first person to appreciate the power of color. Holistic healers have long heralded the combination of color and light as an effective method of treatment for a variety of mental and physical ailments. Chromotherapy (or Chromatherapy) is the marriage of these two methodologies. Simply put, it’s mood lighting.

You may be familiar with phototherapy or light therapy, a popular method of treatment for seasonal depression, insomnia, fatigue and a host of other maladies. Supporters of light therapy believe that deficiencies in daylight (say during winter months) can muck up our bodies’ natural clock, or circadian rhythm. Artificial light, when presented in measured ‘doses’ targets the deficiencies, leaving you with increased energy, wakefulness, and positive mood.

In addition to light, the psychology of color is thought to play a vital role in mental and physical health. Specific colors on the spectrum target different areas on the mind/body spectrum… (more…)

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Love with sparklers wedding photo

11 Stunning Photos of Romantic Lighting

February 14th, one day among 364 others that demands a little romance. In preparation for this amorous holiday, I present to you 11 tantalizing, captivating and love-inducing photos of delightfully lit spaces that virtually radiate with romantic appeal.

1. A Wedding at Dusk – Exposed antique light bulbs are a graceful touch above this wedding reception table. Vintage bulbs cast a beautiful, soft light without a harsh glare.

Hanging antique bulbs at a wedding.
via Style Me Pretty

2. Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, Finland  – It’s the romantic lighting double whammy. Lie in bed inside these softly lit glass igloos in Kakslauttanen, Finland while you gaze upon the most fascinating light exhibit on earth: the Aurora Borealis. Bam. (more…)

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Three layers of light

Apply the Rule of 3’s for Perfect Lighting Design

The rule of 3’s. They’re the triple threat of lighting design. Three types of lighting: ambient, task and accent. Three levels of design: top, middle & bottom. For today’s blog post I’ve put together a quick reference guide on what the different layers are, along with a few tips on how to use them to pull your space together.

Three Layers of Light: Ambient, Task & Accent

Three layers of light1. Ambient lighting is used primarily for general vision. It is not directed at one particular item or area of the room, but instead uniformly brightens the space. An example would be an overhead dome light. (more…)

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5 Media Rooms every football fan will drool over

5 Media Rooms Every Football Fan will Drool Over

5 Media Rooms every football fan will drool over It’s Superbowl season, which means we’re thinking about football. Whether you are a fan or not, it’s almost impossible to ignore the heated sports radio debates and proudly waving window flags of die-hard fans. To celebrate this (almost) National holiday, I gathered some truly awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, drool-inducing images of how 5 Houzz’ers creatively & effectively used light in some of the most elaborate media rooms we’ve ever seen.

1. I can’t decide… should I melt into the supple leather of these seats, play a quick game of pool, or belly up at the bar to watch the game? Decisions, decisions…

What I love about the lighting design: Colorful cove lighting is perfect for movie & game watching and can be matched to your favorite team. Using a color-changing LED tape light, you can keep it on one color, or program it to automatically change throughout the game. (more…)

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