If the only light at an entrance is a security light, not only is it unfriendly and glaring, but also it makes visitors feel like trespassers. Framing the door with two wall lights, traditional or modern, or an overhead lantern – ideally slightly dimmed to take the edge off the glare – makes a far more welcoming approach. In a country setting, without the additional lighting from surrounding streets, this may not provide enough light. In this case, a soft uplight to planting, filtering dappled light across the sides of the building, will soften the starkness of the effect, although it will appear as if the wall lights are doing the work. Lighting the side of a building is a good way of creating some general light. Another way of emphasizing an entrance, if wall lights are inappropriate, is with recessed uplights close to the architrave of the door to emphasize this or to uplight a pair of plants either side.
Having established the lighting of the entrance, the next thing to think of is the approach. Lighting steps is important from a safety point of view. If the steps have sides, then a discreet light can be set into the wall to skim across each step, using a fitting with the lamp set deeply within it and either an LED or low-voltage halogen light source with a lens to direct the light and ensure minimal glare. Another way to light steps is with spiked spotlights. Once again, the best results are achieve when the light source is concealed, either by the surrounding planting or by using a fitting in which the lamp is set well back.
Floodlights an exterior can be a way of enhancing an approach, also creating reflected light to illuminate a terrace. Avoid the standard approach of floodlights offset from the building by several metres and directed towards it, as not only will this create glare affecting anyone looking out of the building, but it will also flatten any architectural details – whether a column, window surround or old textured stone façade. A subtle balance is required, because if the lighting is too close to the building it will emphasize any imperfections on the surface. Any light set into the ground will need some form of glare shielding, usually a honeycomb filter or a louvre.
It is not essential to light paths uniformly, but usually just as changes of directions or every 10-15m. Shielded fixtures set 400 – 600 mm above the ground with the light directed towards the path are ideal. The light may be those set in one direction or the old-fashioned mushroom lights, which provide a soft 360-degree light over all surrounding low-level planting and the pathway. In each case, both the light source and the light fitting should be concealed amongst planting. If there are no plants, other solutions can be explored, such as setting light into a large stone ball to graze against the gravel, or selecting a large freestanding floor lantern and concealing a light source at the top so that the light floods out across the path.