Search through various property listings, and daytime scenes probably dominate the images you’ll find. It’s easy to make any house look great by day. Take away the light of the sun, and most properties become far less photogenic. Taking photos at night is an entirely different challenge for photographers.
The average homeowner tends to be most active during the day. You go for a stroll or do gardening in the mornings. Work, whether of the office or house variety, is usually a daytime occupation. Even those who are inclined to be nocturnal are happy to spend the evenings indoors, usually in just one room, facing a screen of some sort.
But ‘average’ doesn’t cover all lifestyles or functions. Sometimes we need to entertain guests and hang out after dark. The outdoor spaces of your property can accommodate more people and let them move around without fear of knocking something over. They get to sip and talk under the starry sky amid garden foliage with the pleasant smell of whatever you’re grilling nearby.
This creates a more open and relaxed environment. Before that can happen, though, your property has to look good and be comfortable and inviting after dark. Here’s how you can make improvements with this specific need in mind.
Consider the features
If you plan on having a lot of guests over for dinner and beyond, outdoor amenities are a top consideration. The grill is just a starting point. Some properties have a dedicated outdoor kitchen, with storage cabinets and a refrigerator for chilled drinks. You’ll want to ensure adequate seating, some cover in case it rains, and a measure of warmth against the cool of the night.
Now think about how all of those features will look after dark. Think about how the entire arrangement will be viewed upon arrival, as guests walk about, and when they’re seated. How does this affect their behavior and mood? Do you want to spread things around and encourage some casual wandering? Or do you want to have them clustered together so that people tend to huddle up and gaze out, soaking up the outdoor view?
The influence of light
We’re all familiar with the power of light and how it influences our lives, but for most people, it’s something to be felt rather than understood. As the sun goes down, the mood changes. Landscape features melt away into darkness. Details that would’ve stood out in the daytime, especially color, become muted.
If you want to enhance the evening experience, you’ll have to not only grasp these changes on a gut level but with your mind. And outside of lighting professionals, nobody thinks about the influence of light more than a photographer. Study even the basics of photography, and you’ll be able to make high-impact home improvements. Change your perception, and learn to see things like the quality of light, form, contrast, and texture, and how they change when artificial sources replace sunlight.
Working with light and features
Knowing the impact of light and the features you have, you can approach the task of improving your property as though it were a theater stage. Sometimes, you want to keep things functional. Overhead lighting for your cooking area, or accent lighting for driveways, paths, and steps, will be essential for safety and the proper use of these areas.
There are also critical features that can be used to draw interest and create a dramatic effect. A tree might be viewed as a background element during the day, but with an in-ground uplight, it becomes a focal point at night. The illumination from below emphasizes the texture of the bark and contrasts its form with the surrounding darkness. Larger trees offer a similar opportunity to create unique interest through ‘moonlighting’ or placing a light source high up within the foliage.
Art objects or even smaller shrubs in your garden can be enhanced with well-placed spotlights to cast interesting shadows on walls. The reverse effect, by placing a spotlight hidden behind these objects, can create dramatic silhouettes.
Don’t forget that light-colored objects will also be more perceptible at night, even without having light directed upon them. You can take advantage of this in your choice of materials for everything from the furniture to decks and paths. Even garden plants with white flowers or silvery leaves can be arranged to create subtle landscape patterns.
You don’t need to flood your property with light or install an illuminated fountain to generate interest. Understand the interplay between the lights and features of your property, and you can make select improvements to craft a great outdoor venue for an evening’s entertainment.