Lots of homeowners are getting bright ideas about landscaping.
Take an evening drive through many neighborhoods and notice how the homes' architectural features, blooming flowers, inviting walkways, and lush leaves are all aglow, thanks to a new attitude toward outdoor lighting.
Many people are getting away from the "runway" look - ground fixtures aligning a path or driveway - and are going for total landscape lighting, says Pam Kurth, showroom manger for Gross Electric.
"They're packing a punch on the house itself and accenting their foliage," she says.
Jeff Rutter, a Holland lighting specialist, says, "I very rarely put in walkway lights ... I tell folks to light up the house first and then add walk lights later because they might not even need them.
"I have a client with a driveway who lives in the woods. When he plowed the snow, he was constantly knocking into the ground fixtures. We put lights in the trees to shine down and it solved the problem."
Sylvania homeowners Steve and Katie Branam know a thing or two about outdoor illumination. The couple six years ago had Mr. Rutter install 55 lights in their landscape.
"We have a lot of different types," says Mrs. Branam. "We have path lights, and scallop-shaped dome lights near the pool. Some are in a gray granite color, others are brass with shields over them, and others pop out of the ground. Some are hanging out of the trees, others are mounted on the house - one on the side door near an area by the driveway - and we have rope lighting around the deck."
Outdoor fixtures also are available in whimsical shapes such as dragonflies, umbrellas, and mushrooms.
Mr. Rutter says few customers know about the array of landscape lighting options available.
"Most will say, 'We want lighting on our house, but we don't know what we want. We want it to be low-maintenance and not anything real bright,' " he says.
Effective outdoor lighting is a delicate balancing act, Mr. Rutter says.
"Your eye goes to the brightest source, so you have to be very careful to have enough lights to illuminate the house," he says, adding that casting not enough light on trees, walkways, and foliage can leave the house in the dark.
Ms. Kruth suggests taking advantage of various shapes, colors, and sizes of outdoor lighting.
"People are getting away from brass, which can turn nasty after a short period, and are going for colors on their home lighting, such as on the garage, porches, and patios. What's in are mostly bronze tones and pewter for the house," she says.
Mr. Rutter says landscape lighting can be pricey: The average project ranges from $2,500 to $4,000 or more; fixtures usually start at about $185.
Landscape light fixtures should be cleaned after each winter, he says, adding that homeowners should straighten the lights, and bulbs should be changed every two years.
Mr. Rutter says customers need to be mindful of a home's color when choosing the proper bulbs. Halogen is very white and bright, while incandescent bulbs emit a warmer light, he says.
Mrs. Branam says in addition to illuminating their landscape for safety, she and her husband wanted their home to remind them of a special place.
"Our yard is nothing but trees in the back," she says. "Many neighbors took down their trees, but we wanted our home to remind us of our lake house in northern Michigan. We have a shade garden and a woodland garden and we love it.
"Steve and I also felt that it was very dark at night and our home and yard needed the lighting. Now that we have it, it adds some dimension and depth to our residence, but it's subtle and isn't offensive."
Contact Rhonda B. Sewell at: email@example.com