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Exterior architectural lighting

Architectural lighting is not confined to interior design as exterior architectural lighting has become an area of interest for owners of both residential properties and commercial spaces in recent years. This is due in part due to the concept of biophilia - bringing the outside in.
Exterior architectural lighting is used for design-led objectives of accentuating features or creating dramatic mood lighting. In commercial exterior spaces, architectural lighting also provides safety lighting by illuminating walkways and signage.
exterior architectural lighting on steps

Introduction to architectural outdoor lighting

The purpose of architectural outdoor lighting is to emphasise surroundings or to mask areas that are to be hidden during night time hours.
Residential architectural outdoor lighting can be used to feature plants and ornaments with direct beams of light that provide a stunning contrast to the natural darkness.
For commercial buildings, architectural outdoor lighting illuminates points of interest and can be used to enhance facades, entrances, arcades and design features. Using recessed floor lights, spotlights and wall-mounted downlights, commercial exterior architectural outdoor lighting directs users to steps, entrances and routes.

exterior architectural lighting for residential property

Architectural exterior lighting - key considerations

The first consideration for architectural exterior lighting is the primary design goal. What do you want your architectural exterior lighting to achieve? Is the aim to accentuate key areas of the outdoor space or to create a safe pathway? Are you looking for party lighting or task lighting? Each area of the space should be defined and planned for separately, within a cohesive overall design.
Understanding the scale of your outdoor space will determine which type of outdoor lighting to use. A domestic garden and commercial grounds will require very different architectural outdoor lighting simply because of the amount of space to be covered.
Maintenance is a key consideration for exterior architectural lighting. Wet rated lighting fixtures such as wall lights and post lights are suitable for areas directly exposed to wind and rain, whereas outdoor ceiling lights and hanging lights are only damp rated. They are usually found in covered spaces where there is no direct exposure to rain and moisture.
Before considering any exterior lighting designs you should understand your power limitations. Most lights on decking, patios or porches will need electricity rather than external solar power. You will also need to choose between low voltage lighting of 12 volts which uses less energy and is usually easy to install, and line voltage lighting that uses 120 volts. Extra safety features will be needed to safely install line voltage lighting.

Types of outdoor lighting

Detail Lighting supply a range of outdoor lighting fixtures which fall into three main types.

Task lighting illuminates pathways, entrances and outdoor steps. It is advisable to use wet rated fixtures that are specifically identified as outdoor lighting.

Ambient or general lighting provides overall outdoor lighting, for which a low wattage bulb is usually adequate to provide a non-glare, comfortable level of brightness. This will usually be wall lights or post lights.

Accent lighting highlights certain features of the outdoor space such as trees and architectural detail, usually using uplighting spotlights.

Modern architectural lighting for Edinburgh restaurant

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For a no-obligation chat about your architectural lighting designs, please contact us using our online form, by email at, or by calling 01908 613256.

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