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DECOR ADVICE: Let there be light

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Increase the charm of your outdoor spaces with good lighting. Atmospheric and essential outdoor illuminations help make the most of your garden

As the evenings get warmer – and those post-sundown al fresco meals become a reality – it’s a good time to think about enhancing your braai area, patio, balcony or garden.

Good lighting can accentuate the assets of your outdoor space, while allowing less attractive elements (such as vibacrete walls and garage doors) to fade into the shadows. Smart choices will also minimise the possibilities of tripping and stumbling on uneven surfaces and add a layer of security.

As the key idea of any outside space is to decompress after a long day while enjoying the twinkling lights of the city or the dazzle of stars overhead, the best option is to have atmospheric lighting, without too much light in the foreground, says Nemone Bieldt of Indigo Architects.

“Paraffin lamps, candles and LED fairy lights are soft and gentle, while subtle footlights for safety are imperative, especially at any change in level,” Bieldt adds. “Quirky touches such as elaborate indoor lamps can add a touch of whimsy to a covered outdoor space, while overhead downlights on dimmers can lend supplementary lighting when necessary.”

Areas where you will be entertaining and relaxing with friends and family are the most rewarding spaces to light up.

“Well-lit patios, decks, balconies and pool surrounds can transform outdoor spaces and help you enjoy them more for longer periods,” says Melissa Davidson from The Lighting Warehouse. “Look for edges between surfaces, staircases and areas with varying or dramatic height differences. These should all illuminate any potential hazards.”

Davidson says the trick to beautifully illuminated outdoor living areas is to direct the light just where you need it, and to light it up in layers: “First think about how the space will be used, then plan the design around that,” she suggests.

“Keep in mind the importance of layered lighting – this is critical if you are to get the correct effect and be able to create various zones for different uses. Wall lights, floodlights and lanterns are great options for general lighting, while spots are perfect for task lighting. Post lights, bollards and spheres are ideal for lighting up pathways and defining the borders of spaces. For general lighting, up/down wall lights are ideal. They aim their glow up to the sky and down to the floor, thereby avoiding eye-level glare.”

Wall lights are good for general and task lighting purposes as they give off a good amount of light. Davidson adds. “They are good solutions for illuminating entrances and exits, garden walls, as well as for around areas where you will be performing specific tasks, such as serving drinks and braaing.”

While delicate lighting options such as fairy lights and lanterns are for creating a cosy atmosphere, they’ll generally need to be supplemented by brighter lighting, especially in high use areas.

LED striplights are another great way of creating some nightscaping features in your garden.

“These are becoming increasingly popular due to their many benefits, which include the fact that they are incredibly energy efficient because of their LED technology,” says Davidson.

They’re easy to install; are inconspicuous; great for use in small, awkward spaces and boast a long lifespan.

Bollards remain an excellent way to light up pathways, staircases and decks. And if they’re solar-powered, you don’t have to worry about wiring and electricity costs. Just place them in sunny spot, let the sun charge the batteries by day, and the bollards will switch on automatically at night.”

Lighting is also a good way of maximising the security of your home – your front and back door, side gardens, driveways and paths for example, should all be well lit,” Davidson says.

The spillage of borrowed light from adjacent rooms also adds significantly to the lighting of any outdoor space and should not be underestimated. “As long as the spilled light is on dimmers, the effect can be gentle and often very little additional outdoor lighting is required,” Bieldt says. “Atmospheric, cosy and essential outdoor lighting helps you to make the most of your garden.”

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