Exterior Lighting: Lighting Up The Summer Night

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house in the woods night solar lights

Looking for a way to enjoy your yard at night? This journey through LEDs, solar lights and more can help you find inspiration for your own landscaping.


I have a confession to make: Until recently, I rarely stepped outside of my home after dark.

I had good reasons for this.

We live out in the woods. We have plenty of little wild animals hanging around that are much more frightened of me than they are of them, but why give us both a scare? On the other hand, we also have some large wild animals hanging around: Like bears. Very big ones.

And the lighting around our house has been, until quite recently, rather dismal.

Floodlights are great for those “what in the world was that sound?” moments. The porch lights are good for those times I need to scamper out to the deck to secure the wayward grill cover or some other small emergency. Motion sensing lights work wonders to scare off the aforementioned bears when they attempt to climb into the trash cans.

But ambiance? I hadn’t given it much thought until lately.

Making good lighting a priority

Ample lighting inside the house has always been a priority. But the outside has been neglected for far too long. My desire for fresh, new lighting was spurred by a neighbor’s property. Every walkway was lit up with tiny solar beams, the handsome windows were spotlighted with small lights above them, and old-fashioned tall lights flanked the driveway, creating a welcoming glow.

Envy ensued. Why couldn’t my house look like that?

I started by doing a great deal of research. I already knew that a well-lit property was safer: It helps avoid trip hazards, and discourages would-be thieves. And I knew that the right lighting could greatly increase curb appeal and property value. But then I began learning about LED lights, spotlights for certain architectural highlights, and so much more.

Here’s what we chose to do to spruce things up.

Light up the stone walls

solar lighting pathWe live in an area with not only big trees, but big boulders. Stone is everywhere, so it makes sense that previous homeowners took advantage of it to create stone walls throughout the property.

They are one of the defining points, so they deserved to be showcased. Small LED lights along the sides of the walls transformed what was just a dark, hulking mass at night into a work of art. Suddenly the yard had not only character, but definition.

Highlight one thing

The walls looked so good that we chose to highlight a few other things — like the fast-growing and enormous hostas that line the walkways, and the Japanese maple tree that has a prime spot right in the center of the driveway circle.

By directing light upward toward the maple, we were able to create an ambiance that made the whole yard look better, and it gave us great lighting to see the way. When it’s bedtime, we just flick a switch in the house and the maple goes dark.

Solar lights work wonders

Then we set out to tackle the deck and the driveway. We had attempted solar lights in the past, but they always seemed to get lost in the vast darkness. This time we were dedicated to making it work.

Rather than turn to smaller lights that were stuck into the ground with stakes, we chose lights that were substantial and tall, so that they could compliment the trees around them. The lights were capped and thus the glow was directed downward, to help avoid light pollution. The result was a long, winding driveway with charming lights.

Light up the deck, too

Why not do the same with the deck? Rather than line it with small lights, we went with a few well-placed larger ones. Again, the glow was directed downward, which suddenly made our deck quite attractive for nighttime use. Smaller solar lights were placed along walkways that led from the deck as a precaution for safety, but the stars of the show were the larger ones.

Solar light endurance

Another interesting point about solar lights is how long they last. The ones we purchased do not last until morning. Thanks to our intense shade, they tend to have only about four hours of juice in them after the sun goes down. That’s perfect! It allows us time to enjoy the deck at night, but by the time we are ready for bed, the lights have flickered down to nothing. That means that once we are safely tucked in, the nighttime animals can still prowl to their heart’s content.

Enjoyment after the sun goes down

I’m sure there are other ways we could spruce up the lighting around the house, and we might get to that eventually. But right now, this is more than enough to ensure that we can step outside at night, enjoy the property after the sun goes down, and keep ourselves on good terms with the resident bears. That sounds like a win to me.


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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.