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Accent Lighting Tips for Outdoor Structures & Statues

Wondering how to accentuate your outdoor structures and statues? 

Read on for our accent lighting tips for outdoor structures & statues.

If your home has a unique outdoor architectural feature or if you have a landscape structure or a sculpture in your yard or a decorative feature such as a water fountain, why let its beauty be shrouded in darkness at sundown? With the right outdoor lighting, you can create a dramatic effect with accent lighting that highlights outdoor structures, statues, and features, while adding a stunning appeal to the entire area outside your home. The best part is that these additions not only create an awe-inspiring look but also add to the overall value of a property. So, here are a few tips for outdoor accent lighting that can showcase your outdoor artifacts in the most unique way.

Start with the goal in mind

accent lighting, accent lighting for statues, landscape lighting for statuesYou probably already have yard lighting that offers functional value, so when installing accent lights, you have to ensure that they blend with the overall lighting plan of the area. A clash will create a harsh effect that can actually take away from the aesthetic appeal of outdoor structures and statues as well as the plants, shrubs, and other yard features. Although accent lights are meant to turn specific features and elements of the outdoor area into focal points, you will want the lighting to be subtle. Go overboard, and no matter how painstakingly curated the area is, it is bound to look garish. A rule of thumb to follow is that the lighting (including its color, type, and intensity) should complement the features, and not stand out on its own.

When you work with the design experts at Mike’s Landscape Lighting, we start by drawing up a plan of your yard, the existing lights, vegetation, illuminated and dark areas around the property, and the structures and features that require accent lighting. This enables us to create a coordinated design in which all aesthetic and functional elements blend together to create an elegant yet eye-catching effect.

Yes, there is such a thing as too bright!

Of course, you want the focus to be squarely on the sculptures and architectural features that are the highlights of your yard. But, simply bathing the entire structure in bright light, won’t do it. Think of it this way, even if a particular work of art is a through-and-through stunner, some aspects of it are often more beautiful than others.

Now, while you want all of the artwork to be seen, you will need to highlight these specific aspects, ones that particularly showcase the artist’s/creator’s mastery. For instance, when using accent lighting for statues and sculptures:

  1. If the subject is human, (think, man, woman, child, angel, fairies, cupid, etc), the focus of the lighting should be the features that bring out this human-ness. So, this could be the face of the statue or the hands or body that’s performing a particular act, like playing a musical instrument or the arms and legs lifted in a ballet pose. 
  2. If the subject is an animal, the focus should be on the aspects that highlight the realism of the artwork. For example, the detailing used to create the mane of a lion or the canines of a wolf or the gallop of a horse.
  3. If it’s an abstract or geometric artwork, the focus should be its shape and also its depth. For a fountain, depending on the theme, you could play up the flow of the water or give primary focus to the artistic aspects of the piece.

But if you are highlighting the most prominent features, then what about the rest? outdoor landscape lighting, statue landscape lighting, statue accent lighting

As stated earlier, you don’t want parts of the artwork to be drowned in darkness and hence invisible. The idea is to layer the lighting such that you have a broad swathe covering the artifact in its entirety and then focused lighting on the most prominent aspects. Another way to do this is with the angle of lighting such that the center/brightest part of the beam falls on the prominent feature while the periphery of the beam illuminates the rest of the structure. The goal here is to combine the “not as bright” with the “quite bright”. So, don’t try to mix complete darkness with too much brightness. In fact, it’s the appropriate use of the light gradient that creates the most profound emotional effects like a romantic or serene look or a tranquil aura.

Tailoring your outdoor accent lighting for specific structures and sculptures

There are a variety of techniques when it comes to light fixture placement that can be used to create a multitude of effects. Also, specific techniques are better suited for certain types of architectural and artistic features. Here are a few that are popular and effective:

Uplighting: This is the most suitable for artifacts with soft lines and the most dramatic architectural structures or those that you want to play up to the maximum. In this form of lighting, the fixture is placed at the base of the aesthetic element. The result is a broad swath of light that illuminates everything from the top up. If the fixture is placed at the center of the base, you will get almost equal light distribution. Place it to the side and you can create the light and shadow effect that can add immense drama to a sculpture. Depending on the scope of illumination needed and the scale of the structure/sculpture, the designers at Mike’s landscape Lighting often use central up lighting to bring all-around, soft brightness and then narrow beams to focus on specific features.

Down lighting: As the name suggests, in this technique, the fixture is installed at a height above the structure or statue. This type of lighting works exceptionally well when you want to focus on an architectural aspect that is at a height and on artwork with sharp lines and contours. Because the beam of light travels from the top of the structure to the ground, the shadows are also cast below as opposed to on the body of the artwork. So, the distinctive areas of darkness owing to the sharp lines don’t take away from the beauty of the sculpture but the shadows on the ground do create an interesting and appealing pattern.

Silhouetting: Also known as backlighting, this technique helps to focus on the overall shape of the feature/artifact. So, it works very well for abstracts and geometric artwork and also for architectural features with sharp lines. To achieve this effect, the fixture has to be installed behind the artifact or at the periphery of the design element.

outdoor structure lighting, accent lighting for outdoor structuresShadowing: Think of this as downlighting in the horizontal plane. This technique can create the most unique and stunning shadows on vertical surfaces behind the artifact or vegetation. In fact, often the visual impact of this technique brings out the beauty of even the most mundane aspects of a yard in a way that daylight never can.

Bistro lighting: We have an entire article devoted to this one, so if you are interested in this technique, you should check it out here. It’s certainly not suitable for works of art but it works exceptionally well for illuminating structures like pergolas and other landscape features. While it does not harbor the timeless appeal of other lighting techniques, it does lend an unmistakable festive, homely, and happy feel to the area, all while accentuating the beauty of the structure.

Grazing: This form of lighting is best suited for focusing on the textures of vertical surfaces. So, if you have unique brickwork or tiling details, grazing will showcase it in the best light. To achieve this effect, you would have to place the fixture such that the light beam goes straight up vertically, parallel to the structure it is meant to highlight, grazing the exterior surface and illuminating all of it.

And what about the fixtures that will get the job done?

There is a myriad of options on this front too. From the beam angle to the luminescence of the lighting and from the voltage to the color of the light, you’ll find choices for just about every aspect of your outdoor accent lighting plan. Picking the right fixture will undoubtedly make a difference to how well your lighting goals are achieved as well as the current cost of the project and your utility bills in the future. Check out our gallery to see how we’ve accentuated statues and outdoor structures before.


Call Mike to help with your accent lighting!

At Mike’s Landscape Lighting, we meticulously study every aspect of the lighting project. because the emphasis is on creating that perfect ambiance in the most cost-effective way for our clients. When you’re ready to accentuate your outdoor structures & statues, give Mike’s Landscape Lighting a call. We can help create the outdoor space of your dreams!

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