An illuminating guide to outdoor lighting

Article by Homes to Love

Landscape designer Myles Baldwin shares his top tips on exterior lighting

Outdoor lighting

Downlights make this outdoor room the ultimate space for outdoor dining. Photo: Armelle Habib /


Outdoor lighting enhances and extends the useability of outdoor spaces and should be integral to all garden design. Gardens need lights for safety after dark as well as aesthetic reasons.

Making a scene

I always use lighting to frame a garden entrance or gateway, and whenever there’s a change of level on a pedestrian route. I like to uplight trees and textured walls, but it can sometimes appear too obvious. The key is to create mood, not just illumination.

Subtle hints

There are many types of outdoor fittings: spike lights (spotlights on spikes that you push into the ground), hanging lights, in-ground lights (which give a clean and flush finish), wall lights, step lights, bollards, pedestals, poles, feature lights and submersible lights for pools.

Outdoor light fittings need to be either in sympathy with the architecture of your home, or invisible. Subtle bronze or tarnished copper fittings blend well with most settings. If you have painted walls, consider coloured fittings to match a wall or accent colours.

Make an entrance

Entryways look great framed by light at night; you can’t go wrong lighting either side of a gate. For this purpose, we use everything from wall-mounted coach lights to downlights and in-ground fittings.
A spike light is best for uplighting trees or garden features, and I always use LEDs. For small trees I recommend using five watts; for trees taller than 15m, use eight watts. A trick I like to use is to angle the light to reflect off the tree trunk into the foliage.

Outdoor dining

I recommend wall lighting for outdoor dining; overhead lighting directly above a dining table can be too harsh. A well-lit entertaining area will usually provide enough light for dining. However, if you’re lucky enough to be seated under a large tree, think about tree-mounted fittings to create pools of light, which can look very cool and casual.

Outdoor lighting

Light a path

To light up a pathway, I find bollards are usually best. I prefer small, machined fittings made from bronze to blend with the plant material. Lots of people use spike lights for this purpose, but I find they produce too much light for paths, and often the light source is too much on display.

Favourite fitting

Outdoor lighting

Myles Baldwin. Photo by Chris Warnes.


Article by: Australian House & Garden
Photography by: Chris Warnes/, Armelle Habib/

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