The quality of artificial lighting outside is a significant ingredient of good design here in the Pacific Northwest. Winter solstice releases the sun at 8am each morning and seizes it back again at 4.30pm. Shave off a bit of time for dawn and dusk and the day is left with less than 8 hours of natural light. On top of this brief amount of daylight, it’s not unusual for the sun to hide behind a blanket of clouds for days (even weeks) at a time. But us Seattleites try not to get depressed about it; we use those scant few daylight hours judiciously, we drink a lot of coffee and we appreciate good design in lighting. There may be a bourbon or two mixed in there as well –because nothing warms the soul in the dead of winter like a 15 year Pappy van Winkle on the rocks. Where were we… ah, yes lighting, exterior lighting to be exact.

So the idea of exterior lighting becomes a psychological matter as well as an aesthetic one. Exterior lighting, under the conditions here in the Pacific Northwest, involves a variety of different applications; so for today’s post we decided to get all scientific and break exterior lighting into 8 different species relating to the application. We’ve provided the manufacturer and model for the lights we use in each of these applications. There are inevitably many more and we’re always interested to hear from you.

On residential projects, a clearly lit path to the front entry is mandatory; with a bit of help from the right lights, the sequence can also be interesting and serendipitous. On the Davidson Residence, Hinkley 1579SS path lights illuminate the sidewalk from the street to the front door. The rigid geometry of the path lights clearly defines the walkway and gives a nice subtle light to the landscape.

[Photo courtesy of A House by the Park]

We typically strive for a feeling of openness and clarity in our projects; this is usually achieved with floor to ceiling glass and the appropriate lighting. Often, the interior lights can have a significant impact as an exterior lighting strategy. The Davidson Residence puts the interior can lights on double duty and the Lightolier 5” 1000 AICM recessed downlights with 1013 trim, clear alzak baffle and 75W PAR30 illuminate the interiors clearly enough to provide a view from the front yard, straight through the house, to the view of the Olympic Mountains a beyond.

[Photo by Benjamin Benschneider]

Mid-century modern homes with exposed car-decking ceilings can limit the use of recessed ceiling lights. The Mackie Residence makes use of ceiling mount track lights with simple pendant fixtures to maintain a clean transparency between the kitchen and adjacent deck.

A well designed project integrates the landscapes and hardscapes with the architecture itself; all of these elements should be taken into consideration with the lighting design. We like to pick out a couple of key features within the landscaping to highlight; the lighting package for the Innis Arden Residence takes advantage of a mature Japanese maple relocated to an interior courtyard space. Malibu 20 watt cast metal flood lights are strategically located around the courtyard to feature the tree from different perspectives.

Did we mention how gloomy it gets in the middle of a Seattle winter? A nice visual glow is like giving your psyche a hot-toddy. We typically create the effect with an aluminum and obscure glass door from Select Garage Door, then backlight it with Lightolier 4’ or 8’ fluorescent lamps for garage applications, or Lightolier 5” 1000 AICM recessed downlights for habitable spaces. The Magnolia Residence does a nice job of illustrating a glow effect on the lower level while maintaining a transparency above.

Providing visual warmth is essential when it comes to exterior lighting in the Pacific Northwest. We often use warm woods like cedar in conjunction with outdoor lighting to create a welcoming look at a front entry. Greeting visitors at the Innis Arden Residence is a cedar slat fence lit by Malibu 20 watt cast metal flood lights embedded in the landscaping below.

On the Davidson Residence (below) we used four puck lights mounted to the bottom side of the entry canopy; because of the minimal amount of space within the canopy cavity these were the perfect lights for the situation. There are some nice modern puck lights made by Sea Gull Lighting and Hera which also help highlight the natural woods without overwhelming the entry with light.

When it comes to urban multi-family work, there are some lighting strategies that relate specifically to the density and conditions of cities. The idea that more “eyes on the street” leads to safer environments is something that we subscribe to and it was a driving design concept behind our Park Modern mixed-use building in Seattle’s U-district. Lightolier 5” 1000 AICM recessed downlights with 1013 trim, clear alzak baffle and 75W PAR30 are used inside and out; in conjunction with the cedar wrapped decks and floor to ceiling windows the look not only warms up the building but also creates a street presence. The clear visual between the units and the street below discourages graffiti artists and other urban-shenanigans that coincide with city life. Vista HID/120 volt series in-ground well lights embedded in the sidewalk shine up on the building’s main vertical elements and give the building more night-time pop.

Flood lamps are typically part of any residential exterior lighting package and finding attractive flood lamps that aren’t totally aesthetically offensive is, how shall we say… challenging. Because of its low profile and simple design we typically spec the RAB Stealth Economy Flood Kit STL110R in a natural metallic finish, it uses 2 PAR38 75W lamps and has an optional motion sensor.

For specific outdoor tasks (BBQ-ing, watering the plants, etc.) we like to use the RAB Exterior soffit mount VC100DG with clear glass, a die-cast natural cage and a 150W lamp. It’s a super tough light that can take a direct hit now and again. Shown on the Davidson Residence (below), the fixture provides lighting to a BBQ area on the main level and seating at the deck above.

This light is also available in a wall mount version, the RAB VBR100DG is great for general exterior lighting like on the Innis Arden Residence terrace.

The soffit-mount fixture mentioned above can also be attached facing up, like at the concrete fire box on the Whidbey Cabin.

Night time can bring out a whole different side of forms and space, giving the architecture a new dimension with the help of good lighting. Using light and dark synergistically, certain elements of the house and landscape can be pushed to the background while others highlighted; lighting techniques can also break down the massing of a building or house. The Innis Arden Residence uses three different lighting strategies to lessen the mass of the garage, emphasize the cedar fence, and highlight the shed roof entry. 8’ Lightolier fluorescent lamps in conjunction with a P516 Modern Classic clear anodized aluminum & obscure glass door from Select Garage Door provides a glow to the front courtyard from the garage, Malibu 20 watt cast metal flood lights emphasize the cedar slat fence, and Lightolier 5” 1000 AICM recessed downlights highlight the shed roof and entry area.

A long garage wall on the Davidson Residence is broken up with the use of the BK Lighting Alpine PAR 30 downlights, basically a wall mounted can light that looks modern and clean.

That’s the quick hit, let us know if you’ve come across any lights, methods and tricks out there…