Decorating With Outdoor Lights

Posted By: admin  //  Category: Outdoor Design

Outdoor Landscape Lighting for Your Homes

For many, summertime means outdoor entertaining at home. And in order to entertain well and keep those sunset parties going, you need to have sufficient outdoor lighting.

“Landscape lighting has increased in the last 10 years. Almost all new landscapes installed today have some sort of accent lighting,” said Chuck Evans of Illuminated Concepts in Laguna Hills, Calif. Evans has been in the lighting business for 25 years starting with stage lighting for bands and orchestras in New York. He is in touch with the many trends in lighting for homeowners this season.

“The trend is to use 12 volt lighting instead of 120 volt lighting. That’s because 12 volt lighting can be very bright and when I show clients samples of illumination that the fixtures produce, they are amazed how bright these low voltage fixtures are,” he said. “Many homeowners however have had bad experiences with the low voltage or 12 volt lighting kits that can be bought at home improvement stores.”

The performance with these kit lighting systems is not adequate to truly accent the necessary landscape features, he said. “Also homeowners buying lighting kits are not aware of the only real problem with low voltage lighting, that is voltage drop, if not wired correctly the lights at the end of the line can be VERY dim,” he said.

If wired correctly with the new multi-tap transformers the 12-volt lighting system can produce a lot of light and be very dramatic, Evans said.

There are numerous other key benefits of the 12-volt lighting systems vs. a 120-volt traditional system:

  • It is very safe for children and animals ( almost impossible to get shocked).
  • Very flexible in fixture placement and fixtures may be moved very easily to compensate for the changing landscape.
  • Fixtures are very compact and easy to fit in small places.
  • About 30 to 50 percent more energy efficient than most 120-volt lights is gained.
  • Much less evasive installation because you do not have to dig 18-inch trenches and install conduit which can destroy and existing landscape.

Newer developments in lighting

Fiber optics which look like neon and can change color are another idea for outdoor lighting that has caught on recently, Evans said. These lights can be found outlining pool edges and walls.

Lighting using LED (light emitting diodes) is another trend that is also very energy efficient and has 100K-hour lamp life. LED lighting “has limitations on the amount of light it can produce and the cost of lamps are high, but with current lamp improvements it could soon find a big place in the landscape lighting industry,” he said.

Evans recommends that consumers said stay away from solar landscape lighting products that are sold at home improvement stores. These, he said, are a “total waste of money.”

“Many of my clients have bought them, and they were all very disappointed. They do not provide illumination, they only act as markers,” he said.

Why is lighting important in a front yard or backyard?

The philosophy for lighting the front and back are very different, according to Evans.

“The front is the curb appeal. I try to bring out the architectural features of the home. Such as accent columns, highlight stone or brickwork, accent arches over entries, shadow front of house,” he explained. “Also, I try to accent certain landscape features such as trees, colorful bushes and color in the planters. Drawing the eye and leading guests up the front path to the front door is also very important. By artistically illuminating a home, you also achieve two other very important benefits of lighting – security and safety.”

While landscape lighting the front yard is primarily for curb appeal and to make guests feel welcome, once the owner is inside his house he never sees the effects, he said.

“However the back yard is a different story,” he said. “There are two main benefits for lighting in the back yard. These lights are for the homeowner to enjoy the entire evening.”

The back yard is where a lot of entertaining takes place, so, by accenting key outdoor elements such as palms, rockscapes, water features, fountains, and seating areas one can transform the home into a mini resort.’

So, let there be light!

Decorating With Potted Plants

Posted By: admin  //  Category: Outdoor Design

Decorating Your Patio with Outdoor Potted Plants

A patio isn’t a patio with just outdoor furniture; it needs a touch of personal style to give it that added zip. What better way to give the area a boost than with plants and pretty containers? It’s one of the best backyard patio ideas to adding character to your home.

Whether you live in an apartment or a large home, outdoor potted plants and their containers can add color and style to your garden. When adding containers as a patio decor item, keep these three elements in mind:

* The type of plant for the climate and effect
* The right planting medium
* The correct pot for the plant and decor

Your local nursery or garden supply store will have information on which plants will are best suited for you area. When selecting plants, be sure to find out how much maintenance the plants will require. Some plants require significant amounts of plucking and watering to remain healthy and attractive. Ask if the plant is annual or perennial. A plant can behave as an annual or a perennial depending on they type of plant and the local climatic Annuals perform their entire life cycle within a single growing season and die annually. Perennials live longer though some types lose much of their fullness each winter.

Choosing the right planting medium is more than buying quality potting soil. The key is to create a healthy growing environment for the plant’s roots. For a healthy root system, water must be able to pass quickly through the soil. As the water drains out, air replaces it in the soil and an exchange of carbon dioxide is made with the plant roots. This movement of water and air is essential to a healthy plant.

When searching for a pot, pick the spot for your garden first and then find a container to suit it. For example, a wooden trough may look better in a rustic garden, and classic urn shaped pots are better choices for a casual country garden. In addition to style, pay attention to size and proportion of the containers. Consider the weight of the container – not only empty, but filled with wet soil and plants. If there is a strong wind that cuts across your outdoor space, the container needs to be heavy enough so it doesn’t tip. On the other hand, the structure on which the containers sit should be strong enough to hold them.

Here are some tips to help choose from the array of pots, troughs and boxes available at local home improvement and hardware stores:

* Clay/terra cotta pots: These are attractive and complement a wide range of foliage and flowering plants. These are the traditional potting container because, in addition to draining well, they hold in moisture through their sides. This provides a drier root environment, which means less opportunity for root diseases. However, it also means more frequent watering is needed. If you tend to underwater, use terra cotta pots for only drought tolerant plants, or choose another type of container.

* Plastic pots: These are inexpensive, lightweight and functional, and come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors. If you don’t like the look of plastic, try adding a faux finish or slip plastic pots inside other containers. If you tend to underwater your plants, plastic is a better choice than terra cotta, but they may need to be weighted down to stay in place.

* Wood containers: These look great when your patio decorating consists of a lot of natural elements, and most plants do well in them. Wood drains better than plastic and can be heavy when planted. Choose containers made of hardwood, such as redwood, cedar or cypress, which doesn’t rot out easily. Lining wood containers with plastic garbage bags will give added protection from moisture, but remember to provide proper drainage.

* Metal containers: These look good in contemporary settings. A wonderful patio idea is to get galvanized containers. They are the best for planting – they don’t rust out. Unless the container was designed as a planter, drainage holes should be added to the bottom of the pot, or place other pots inside it.

* Fun stuff: If you’re highly motivated or creative, miscellaneous items can add variety and whimsy to the garden. If you’re going to plant directly in such items as watering cans, old boots, teapots or wheelbarrows consider drainage and air movement around the roots of the plants.

Selecting the right outdoor garden plants, planting medium and planter are very important to the success of your garden so be sure you’ve chosen the proper combination before “digging” in.

Decorating Your Deck

Posted By: admin  //  Category: Outdoor Design

Decorating Tips to Help You Deck Out Your Deck

Sweep the deck, sweep it clean, and sweep it so no dust can be seen!

For those lucky enough to have a deck, they know it can be an asset to any home. A deck can provide additional living space; a place to relax, entertain and eat meals.

The way you decide to adorn your deck can make owning one even more enjoyable and inviting. Here are some decorating tips on outdoor design you can use to deck out your deck. If you do not have a deck, do not worry; you can always try some of these ideas on a patio design, porch design, and even a section of grass in your backyard.

Add Lights. How about lighting up your deck with light sets? These are sold in a wide range of colors and designs and are similar to Christmas tree lights. The come in many fun shapes and sizes and can add a bit of romance to the entire backyard. If you really want to splurge, try adding lights to a potted plant ‘- wrap them around the stalk of a potted palm or large tree on the deck. Voila! Instant art.

Use Potted Plants. Another way of jazzing up your deck area is by using plants in unusual containers. Before planting, think about the wide variety of items that will work for container plantings such as old furniture, football helmets, wagons or wheelbarrows, wicker baskets and teapots. Just be sure the container has proper drainage by drilling holes or adding an inch or so of a layer of gravel to the bottom. Plant your container with plants that will complement it. If you do not want to use live flowering plants, how about trying artificial ones? There are some great silk plants out there truly resemble the real thing.

Shop for Furniture. You can also add some pizzazz to your deck area by updating your furniture. This does not necessarily mean go ahead and throw out what you have but just try to dress it up a little. Perhaps add some new seat covers to the chairs or a new umbrella with a pattern for the table. This will brighten it up and make it more inviting and comfortable. If you do want to purchase new furniture, there is plenty to choose from including wicker and wrought iron.

Add Accessories. Usually the deck has some wall surface because they are usually built onto the house, so this is an opportunity to decorate it with such items as flowers, wicker baskets to hold items, wooden plaques or even birdhouses.

Here is a list of other items to try on your deck:

* Welcome mats
* Wind chimes
* Sea shells (these can be used as ashtrays)
* Drift wood
* Pretty rocks
* Candles (don’t forget citronella to keep the bugs away)
* Wicker baskets to hold small gardening tools or snips of herbs and flowers
* Vases or other containers full of flowers and/or herbs

Remember, even if you live in a warm sunny climate, there is the occasional rain shower so don’t want to store books and magazines or any other items that might be ruined or faded by the sun’s harsh rays on an uncovered deck. If your deck has a roof, you have a lot more options like sprucing up the area with pillows, throws, games and furniture that won’t fade or get ruined by the occasional rain drop, salty air or dust storm.

Creating a unique deck area can help make your time spent outside much more enjoyable and definitely, a more interesting place to entertain.

Patio and Porch Design

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Decorating a Patio or Porch

Indoors, four walls define a room but outdoors you set the stage. Approach outdoor decorating like you would any other space – by choosing furnishings and accessories that celebrate your style. Begin your decorating project by clearing everything from your porch or patio area. This not only gets you creative juices flowing, it gives you a more accurate impression of the space you have to work with. Options for patio surfaces are extensive. Be sure to pick a surface that matches your style and remember, every surface will have its pros and cons and no surface is truly maintenance free.


A porch not only welcomes visitors, it gives visitors a first impression of your home and adds to your curb appeal. Make your home’s entryway a visual treat that set the mood for what’s to come. A key element in decorating a porch is the doormat. Visitors always look down at their feet before entering someone’s home so make sure your mat is not worn or faded and that it presents the image you wish to covey.

Other display items that add character to your porch or patio include door art, plants and stands, vases, wall art and wind chimes. Lush garden plants that frame outdoor areas also add color and texture to your design. When choosing to use potted plants, be sure to keep in mind the amount of care they will require. A simple cactus or no plant at all is more inviting than a stylish Terra Cotta pot filled with brown, wilted petunias. Also, avoid over decorating. Too much of anything will make the space feel cluttered and messy.


The type of furniture you select for your porch and patio will depend on the available space and how that space will be used. Will you be entertaining, grill outdoors, or tanning and relaxing in the sun? An area used for parties should have space for mingling. If your patio will be used for relaxing or dining, include shade trees or arbors in your planning. If it will it be used year-round, consider adding a fireplace or outdoor heaters for those brisk evenings. For small areas like a terrace or balcony, choose simple, compact furnishings like a galvanized bistro set that can turn the space into a cozy place to relax and entertain.

The next step is to determine a focal point. If you have a view used it as your focal point and give every seat unobstructed access to the view. If your patio has no obvious focal point, you can make one of a firepit, a water display or an outdoor table. Once you determine your focal point, select and arrange furniture in relation to it.

Patio design is not only important to the comfort of a home – it is a selling point. Don’t underestimate the value of staging curb appeal when selling your home.

Home Staging, Curb Appeal

Posted By: admin  //  Category: Outdoor Design

Home Staging: Not “Just” an Inside Job

Never under-value the power of curb appeal

Studies show, that people generally make a list of ten houses when they start their search for a new home. They scour real estate agents and MLS sites to develop those lists and then seventy seven percent of them drive by before they contact a real estate salesperson.

It is a given that the location and size of house generally initiates the interest in seeing a property; in fact we hear it’s approximately seventy eight percent of the decision to actually consider viewing a property. Many articles have been written about first impressions and how quickly they are formed. Malcolm Gladwell suggests it only takes the “blink” of an eye to determine a home’s curb appeal. Think of that; one blink and an impression is formed – good or bad.

The power of the internet is illustrated again with the blink factor when less than stunning photographs are advertising the property you represent. Great photos can have such a positive influence on the viewer – and actually help get the property onto “the list”. Home staging a property before you rush to market will save time, effort, anguish and money.

The “drive by” or the “look see” means curb appeal has a huge impact on the viewer. It’s the lure, or bait to get an interested buyer into the property. One of the most difficult things a seller has to do is, view the property objectively. A helpful hint from Janet Wickell is to have the seller take digital photos of the property, view the color versions first, then remove the color and look at them in black and white. Many people believe it is easier to see problems with the absence of color.

Here are ten things to consider when assessing curb appeal:

* Pressure wash siding, decks and walkways

* Clean windows, gutters; check downspouts

* Check the growth of trees and bushes – ensure they don’t block light from any window

* Kill any mold, mildew around the property

* Mow the lawn, eliminate weeds, rake and dispose of leaves, especially if a wooded lot

* Paint the front door. Color choice has a big impact – so get professional advice

* Make the front entry sing “welcome”. The degree of what can be achieved here depends on the size of entry and, of course, budget. However, even minimal improvements will make a huge difference, consider flowers, kick plate, new mailbox, hardware, lights and numbers

* Don’t forget the rear yard – buyers may attempt to see the back yard during a drive by, even from another street.

* If your outdoor design has lighting it is a huge plus as fifty percent of viewings take place at night. Today we are fortunate to have access to inexpensive but tasteful low voltage lighting. Consider placing along sidewalks, driveway or attractive landscaping elements. Take extra care to ensure your front door and numbers are clearly visible from the street

* If the inside of home is visible at night be sure the lighting enhances what is seen

Remember you never get a second chance to make a great first impression.

Written by Christine Rae,
Home Staging Expert, Author, Keynote Speaker
President of Certified Staging ProfessionalsTM (CSP)