The Rural Life—Living the Good Life … Living Rural

Night Lights

Illuminate your stable and enjoy the glow of subtle night-lighting while increasing security and access.

By Katie Navarra


Whether you have a commercial boarding stable full of colorful horses or a handful of your own beloved Paint partners, landscape lighting allows you to take enjoyment of your barn and surrounding property to a whole new level long after the sun sinks below the horizon.

But outdoor lighting adds more than ambience and atmosphere; it also offers added safety, security and functionality.

The key to outdoor lighting is knowing what features to emphasize, how to highlight those areas and where to place the fixtures so they disappear into the surrounding landscape. With advice from landscape architects and a landscape lighting specialist, you can illuminate your landscape and escape to your stable around the clock.

Light It Up
Well-planned, strategically placed outdoor lighting is both aesthetically pleasing and functional.

Joel Mayor, founder of Texas Outdoor Lighting in Austin, notes that outdoor lighting has the potential to increase the perceived value of a property by nearly 20 percent.

“We’re seeing more and more property listings showing the front of the house at night with the dramatic lighting on,” he said. “I think the lighting for any stable property would be similar.”

Heather Lewis, a principal partner at Animal Arts in Boulder, Colorado, loves giving stables a welcoming, home-like, safe feeling through night lighting.

“Dark stables might feel scary and unwelcoming. Lighting can do a lot to make riders and boarders feel more at home,” she said. “Light also keeps away varmints, such as raccoons and rats, that prefer to move around in the dark.”

Joe Martinolich of J Martinolich Architect PLLC in Lexington, Kentucky says landscape lighting should guide visitors toward the barn.

“It’s not unusual for people to be at the barn before dawn or after dusk, and because barns are in rural areas, there is not a lot of ambient light from other sources,” Joe said.

John Blackburn, president and senior principal at Blackburn Architects, P.C., in Washington, D.C., approaches projects with security and access in mind, considering how to achieve those goals while highlighting a unique feature of the farm.

“That might be using uplights to create a glow in skylights, or it might be an interesting tree or the cupola of the barn,” he said. “Ultimately, the goal is to create something aesthetically pleasing that adds value to the property.”

Shine the Light
Landscape lighting designers speak in terms of fixtures and lamps. Fixtures, similar to the ones hanging inside your home, hold the lamp. The lamp is the equivalent of a light bulb. Fixtures and lamps are used for three basic techniques: downlighting, uplighting and path lighting. Each serves a purpose and creates a different effect.

A fixture placed above an object with the angle of light pointing down illuminates what is below it—the result is a soft, cool light that mimics moonlight. Used in shorter bushes and trees around a barn, the light source nearly disappears and visitors only notice the residual glow. Downlighting is a popular choice because of its practicality and environmentally friendly features.

“Downlighting on the outside of buildings is best because it will not contribute to light pollution,” Heather said. “It’s more practical because the lamp is not as likely to collect dust and debris.”

Conversely, uplighting is a design approach that places a fixture below the object to be lit, with the angle of light directed upwards. It’s often used to light building façades or to silhouette.

Because uplights are often installed at ground level, they can create tripping hazards or be easily broken by equipment or horses. Joel chooses “in-grade” uplights—those installed flush to the ground—and says they often require less maintenance for stables.

“These fixtures are flush with the ground and can be stepped on or even driven over by most equipment,” he said. “This provides a clearer look with less maintenance and still gives a dramatic effect.”

The third type of outdoor lighting is path lighting. These fixtures can be basic or more elaborate and decorative. In public places and private homes, they are often placed along the edges of walkways to help guide people along the path without tripping. Because the circle of light from each fixture looks small, it can be tempting to place them close together; designers, however, avoid a runaway look by leaving adequate space between each fixture.

“There are a variety of wonderful path lights, from simple residential-style lighting fixtures to commercial options, which come in a variety of forms,” Heather said. “We prefer commercial fixtures for paths to and from barns because they will be less likely to be broken and destroyed by heavy foot traffic or snow removal.”



This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Winter 2016 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.


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