“As head designer,” says HiFi House Chief Custom Designer E.J. Feulner, “lighting is important to me, and lighting control factors into most of my outdoor projects for landscaping, pools and other areas. My philosophy is that clients shouldn’t have to touch a light switch to turn on an outdoor light.”
Until very recently, outdoor integrators have dealt mostly with utilitarian lighting and control systems, “programming scenes for when you’re watching movies to turn the lights off on that side of the house, or for illuminating the path back to the kitchen where you get more food. Pretty straightforward stuff,” says Aurant CEO Jeff Anderson.
But our panel is intrigued by the idea of introducing color LED lighting schemes into future project plans. LED’s reliability is improving and its costs are dropping. “As color LED evolves,” says Classic Stereo & Video Custom Department Manager Jim Rinke, “there will be a whole new ‘wow’ factor or ego trip for clients to share with friends.”
Anderson was an early proponent of commingling colored lights with music for an outdoor experience. “When I was out in Cape Cod,” he says, “one design I did with light was pretty cool. We mounted P.A. speakers in the trees in the woods. Then we orchestrated a minor light show with some colors, which worked kind of like a computer screensaver that moves to the beat of the music. The speakers weren’t high-fidelity but they were big and loud, and the artists’ performances just sort of came out of the woods, with pulsing lights; Neil Young seemed to be right behind the trees, playing live!”
Anderson has just begun using color LED lighting for scene enhancements. “I really dig ’em and I’d like to do them more, but the lighting designers we work with really aren’t in tune with it yet,” he says. “They focus on putting lighting on sculptures and paintings as architectural accents.”
Integrated Media Systems Founder and President Tom Wells says his firm has begun promoting “color LED mood lighting in our showroom for exterior use. My hot tub has it, and it’s cool. You can do it in pools; eventually, we’d like to be able to integrate that into our control systems for A/V lighting, so people will have remote control of the color of their pools.”
Exterior lighting control, says Wells, “is huge. We do it on every large job. When we do lighting control, we tell them they just need to run the wiring back into the basement for exterior lighting. It can be done before you sod the backyard. We just get all those circuits down to a central dimming panel, and we can assign keypads to do anything and program them later.”
Wells suggests introducing lighting in stages to a client. “It takes a lot of stress out,” he says. “I built a house four years ago, and even though I’ve been doing this a long time, it gave me a whole different perspective on what it involves from a client’s view. A homeowner has to make all of these decisions before drywall; if you can take 20 percent of the immediate decision-making off their shoulders at this point, they’re relieved.”