Using Outdoor Lighting to Create an Urban Oasis

December 10, 2012 by

Partner Post

Photo via Stylepie.

Welcome to today’s guest contributor, New York City-based lighting designer, and fellow BlogTour team member, James Bedell.

The topic of urban green space has always been fascinating to me. I’m a lifelong Queens resident and I’ve almost always had access to some kind of yard space. I’ve found having access to even the smallest, private outdoor space provides immeasurable pleasure. It becomes our little oasis in the bustling city–a place of relaxation and peace.


Three Basic Rules
When it comes to creating the urban oasis there’s a question that often goes unanswered–how to light it? I have three basic rules when it comes to outdoor lighting, especially for smaller, urban spaces.

• Focus on warm, ambient light.
• Create focal points.
• Keep it simple.

Photo: Estiluz.

Focus on Warm Ambient Light
This is my big takeaway for the urban garden space. The typical city-dwellers outdoor space is small and multi-purpose. You might be hosting a BBQ one weekend, and looking to quietly read a book by your fire pit the next night. Unlike interior spaces where a balance of ambient, accent, decorative, and task lighting is the key outside we can focus on making welcoming warm light with a glow. Here are my two favorite ways of accomplishing this…

There are hundreds of different sconces out there. Whether your style is more traditional or more modern, you can find something. The warm glow of a nice bright sconce is a thing of beauty. This sconce from Estiluz (below and left above)is a beautiful shape and can be outfitted with warm compact fluorescent lamps for long life. Remember when it comes to sconces you’re looking for a fixture that throws light in all directions, rather than one that throws up or down light.

Outdoor Rated Table and Floor Lamps
A high-quality wet location table or floor lamps make an incredible statement. These lamps are designed to get wet and usually come with very heavy bases so normal winds don’t take them down. I happen to love these thin arch-shaped fixtures from Vibia with warm white LEDs but there are more traditional varieties. High-end outdoor lamps can be pricey, but when you encounter these lamps they make light that’s amazing to experience outside.

Design: John T. Unger Studio. Photo: Chris Rush.

Create Focal Points
The key to great outdoor lighting is creating focal points. My inspiration image is a campfire. In the darkness of a forest, a campfire becomes a glowing, welcoming center of attention. The key is that you’re not trying to light every inch of your outdoor space. At night, it’s important to let some corners fall off. So decide what your focal points are…a chair used for reading, a dining table, the fire pit, whatever. Then Find fixtures that can make that focal point glow.

Vibia Halley 4155 Lamp.

Keep it Simple
Lighting a huge yard or long driveway presents its own set of unique challenges. There are countless architectural fixtures meant for marking pathways, uplighting facades or flood lighting driveways. The vast majority of the time these are unnecessary for the urban garden. Focus on creating a cozy spot for a glass of wine or a book and you’re lighting will help accentuate the beautiful urban oasis you’ve created.

James Bedell is a New York-based lighting designer, and an enthusiast for lighting as a discipline and a study. Bedell is the author of the inspiring book Losing Edison: Beautiful Sustainable Lighting at Home  and his recently released collection of Instagram images, Lightstagram. He has also contributed articles for Live Design Magazine and PLSN. He shares his passion on his website James Bedell Lighting Design, his blog on Tumblr, and on Twitter as @jamesbedell. In September,  I got to spend five design-filled fun days with James in London during the Modenus BlogTour, where he was one of the few who completed a twenty-mile night hike for Maggie’s Centres. 

1 Comment »

  1. Flexible Furniture for Small Space Hosts: The Quad Micro Bar - Urban Gardens Pingback said:

    […] you figured out where to place yours yet? I am thinking in the corner of a terrace, with a creative light fixture on top, until of course I am entertaining. Then it will come out in full bloom to host good […]

    — May 29, 2014 @ 00:16

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