Part 2: Focal Points & Specialty Fixtures
We work with some very talented lighting designer/installers and I often get to visit their sites with them in the evening to witness their artistry in full bloom. There are key points that all of their designs have in common. Careful attention is paid to creating full scenes, avoiding large dark voids, and moving the client safely along paths, steps, and entryways. But I then get to see each of their designs diverge and where they begin to apply their unique fingerprints on the project. They address the base needs and then look to enhance the design by pushing themselves to “boldly go where no one has gone before.” To achieve these effects, we sometimes need to put away the tools we are used to and grab the rarely touched ones. These are the fixtures buried deep in the back of the catalog or possibly from a manufacturer that we don’t often utilize. I’d like to highlight a few of my favorites.
Creating Focal Points: Nightscaping Shadow Casting Bollards
Focal points are a very important part of good lighting. Strategically placed focal points can draw the eye to specific areas and can act as guide for leading people through a space. Typically, there is an element in the landscape such as a specimen tree, sculpture, or planter urn that can be utilized. The designer will often slightly elevate the lighting levels on these to make them stand out from surrounding areas. However, in some instances, such as a new landscape, there is a lack of vertical elements to achieve this.
Nightscaping makes a large, shadow-casting bollard designed to fit this type of application. The bollards are internally lit from the top and cast cool shadows on the landscape below. They come in a variety of patterns, widths, and heights so a designer can size them for the space. I particularly like the interesting shadows they cast on snow to replace the dull round glare you see in winter with traditional pathlights. Nightscaping also offer toppers like their Planter and Tiki Flame. I installed a 42” 6×6 Spiral with the bird bath topper as a focal point in our garden and its one of my favorite parts of our lighting. I would encourage you to check out this line.
If you are looking to diverge from the traditional pathlight on a particular project, take a look at the smaller Nightscaping 2×2 24” corten steel line. These have the same shadow casting features of the bollards but have a smaller footprint so they can be used in multiples to create intrigue along a wooded walk or lake pathway.
If your client has a prairie style home, I like the solid brass Market Light from Brass Light Gallery. The verdigris patina is beautiful and the pyramidal look drifts from the traditional round heads or contemporary styles we often see.
New for 2021 is the Prairie Flower Pathlight made exclusively for Reinders by master coppersmith Lowell Pajari. These are solid copper and hand sculpted and torched to resemble a prairie flower. We think these are beautiful and would fit well along gravel pathways and native planting areas.
For gathering spaces under arbors and other structures, consider using interesting pendant lighting over the main seating areas. Lowell Pajari, our talented coppersmith, has created a wonderful handmade Moonflower pendant and a smaller Moon Drop version. These are really illuminated hanging art pieces and add a lovely customized look to lighting designs. We had Lowell make a giant 36” version of the Moonflower with pinholes of light that now hangs in the Donor’s Arbor at Boerner Botanical Gardens.
Speaking of pinholes, Kichler has come out with a cylindrical hanging pendant reminiscent of Bill Locklin’s Starlighter fixture. These can be hung within structures or in tree canopies above seating areas to brush the space below with conversation light while producing star like beams of light from its sides. We like designing them in multiples at varying levels to create interesting scenes.
Illuminating grasses in the landscape can be a challenge. We often wash them from the front but they change so dramatically from season to season that the light level is often too bright or obscured. CAST has introduced their Bamboo Cattail Lights which provides a different approach to grasses and other taller planting areas. These are illuminated thick rods of polycarbonate on 36” & 44” thin rods. These fixtures can stand out, or blend into any outdoor design using a slim profile that melds into the natural surroundings of outdoor plant life creating a soft ambient light. Arranging them in clusters in areas around poolscapes can illuminate the space without causing glare. I think if a designer gets one of these in their hands it will spark new ideas on how they can be introduced in future lighting plans.
I encourage you to explore these options. Reach out to myself or your local Reinders lighting rep to see these products close up.