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"Resort Style" Lighting for New Landscape

By McKay Landscape Lighting, Omaha
Photography by Tom Kessler, Omaha

In 2013, the owners of this Omaha, Neb., home contacted McKay Landscape Lighting to overhaul the landscape lighting. McKay had installed lighting in 1999, and again in 2010 under a new owner. The new landscape on the property included a new paver driveway, a pondless water feature and a number of new plantings in the front and back yards. The client sought to light the dark corners for general security, but also wanted "curb appeal" at night. There are 283 fixtures on site, and seven transformers (900 and 1200-watt).

McKay Landscape Lighting, based in Omaha, Nebraska, recently completed a unique project at a local Omaha residence. The residence had existing lights installed by McKay in 1999, when a previous owner owned the home. The prior lighting design was fairly simple: uplights for the front of the home, and a few lights on the backyard trees.

Nine well-spaced 20-watt bollard lights (Hadco) give the new paver driveway a stately look, while providing what McKay calls, "the correct amount of light," combining esthetics with what is sufficient for safety and security. MR-16 20-watt down lights wash the brick column facades. Copper spots (MR-16, 35-watt) uplight the house, and the birch and crabapple trees. Copper lights (wedge base T3, Hadco) were also placed under the stone caps of the four natural stone walls and pillars.

In 2010, the current owner contacted McKay to bring more light to the front yard of the property and McKay installed a number of new uplights around the home as well as nine bollard lights lining the paver driveway. Later, in 2011, the homeowner continued to add lighting to the back yard, including around the pool area.

The unusual and spectacular "water bowls" in the front of the home each have 16 jets that spray water up. The bowl basins are filled with large river rock, and each has a bubbling jet that spills water over the rims. The water pools on the backside (bottom), creating two small waterfalls that dump into a pondless water basin where four large pumps recycle the water back to the jets. River rock and natural moss rock boulders add interest. The bowls are lit front and back by four underwater brass MR-16, 35-watt halogens (Focus Industries). Two spotlights (Aurora MR-16 20-watt halogens) also direct light to the water feature. Four MR-16 20-watt downlights are inset in the portico's vaulted ceiling, with two more beneath the caps of the brick columns.

A 2013 redesign of the entire landscape prompted the homeowner to contact McKay once again for another overhaul of the landscape lighting. The new landscape on the property included a new paver driveway, a pondless water feature, and a number of new plantings in the front and back yards. McKay temporarily removed a number of fixtures as the construction of the new landscape was being installed. Closely working with the landscape team allowed McKay to prewire much of the job during the construction.

This is a McKay's specially, hand-blown art glass balls (NightOrbs) on natural stone pillars. The stone caps are hand-carved to seat the orbs and allow removal for service. There are seven globes on the property. The smaller orbs are 13-inch in diameter and lit with 20-watt halogens; the larger orbs (18-inch dia.) have 35-watt lamps.

The project was slightly different than the typical McKay Lighting installation. Instead of working with a landscape architect, the company worked with a landscape contractor. The client's input was especially important in this project and great care was taken to include his vision in the plan. There were a number of major goals for the new lighting. The client desired a "resort-style" lighting design that would also minimize glare. Another priority was to keep the pool area, outdoor kitchen, fireplace and hot tub safer at night. Bringing light to these areas would allow the homeowners to extend their outdoor living time far into the evening. Another important priority of the client was general security around the property. McKay developed a design that brought light to dark corners around the home, as well as gates leading into the backyard. Finally, the client wanted the property to have strong curb appeal at night. By providing sufficient light in the front of the house, McKay made sure that the house "showed well" to neighbors and passersby.

This photo displays the raised eating area covered with a specially designed cedar pergola. Copper seatwall lights (Hadco, 4-watt) were installed under the paver steps. Copper 20-watt 'starliters' hang under the pergola, and copper Aurora spotlights (MR-16 20-watts) aim at the water feature. Also pictured are Nightscaping/Lumiere 20-watt MR-16 down lights in the locust trees. Vista well lights (20-watt MR-16) in the pavers up light the brick columns. The patio hardscape is large 'Yorkstone' concrete pavers (UniLock). The pillars are 8-inch 'Cedar Ridge' (Semco Stone) natural stone drywall.

This project provided McKay a number of unique elements to light. The paver driveway was a perfect opportunity to use bollards. These fixtures look stately and provided the correct amount of light for the large driveway of the home. Four stonewalls with pillars also provided a great lighting opportunity. The shadows around the stones from the lights below created a tremendous look at night. Two water features on the property also presented an opportunity to create some focal interest at night. The water feature in the front yard featured a pondless waterfall with three urns in a small pool of water. The water feature in the back yard had three waterfalls feeding into another pondless basin. Each of these features was lit with a combination of uplighting and downlighting, with all-important aspects of the features adequately lit.

The client's desire for "resort-style" lighting that would also minimize glare is evident in the judicious lighting design of the outdoor kitchen, eating area on the patio under the pergola, fireplace and the pool and spa. The safety and security elements were also met, allowing the homeowners to freely use their outdoor living area far into the evening.

The pool area provided yet another distinctive element for McKay. The pool was installed with LEDs around the rim, bringing dazzling color to the pool at night. A number of path lights were installed around the edge of the pool to offer greater walking safety a night. Seat wall lights were also recessed within the steps in the pool area. Three fire bowls provided a great deal of light and added another interesting element near the pool area.

The bottom of the back yard water feature is pictured. Powder coated aluminum spotlights (MR-16 20-watt halogens) aim at the waterfalls; 20-watt MR-16s down light the locust trees and the water.

With a project of this great magnitude, there will always be a number of challenges. The main challenge of this project was coordinating the installations with the other contractors working on the property. During the landscape construction, McKay wanted to prewire the property as much as possible. While certainly a challenge, prewiring saves time and makes the installation much less intrusive on a newly-completed landscape. Coordination with other contractors such as Elite Landscapes, Quality Irrigation, and New Wave Pools was extremely important. Avoiding cut wires can often be difficult when working in and around new landscape construction, but working closely with these contractors allowed McKay to minimize time spent repairing wire.

The lounging and hot tub area shows the LEDs rimming the pool and hot tub, and illuminating the water jets. Copper seat 4-watt halogen wall lights (wedge base T3, Hadco) are recessed in the paver steps up to the pool deck level, and under the capstones of the natural stone columns. Copper spotlights (MR-16 35-watt halogen) light the maple and evergreens. Well lights (20-watt MR-16s) in the lower patio pavers shine upon the fireplace. Three fire bowls sit atop the stone columns.

Another challenge was making sure McKay had the correct fixture inventories at the right time. If a fixture needed to be installed immediately, it was important to have the fixture in stock and a lighting technician able to install it right away. A final challenge for the project was making sure that each of the fixtures had the correct wattage. As explained earlier, the homeowner wanted a "resort feel" with minimal glare. Bulbs that were too bright were exchanged for lower-wattage bulbs, and continuously tinkering with the wattage was something important to the homeowner. McKay worked diligently to make sure that his vision for the lighting system was achieved.

The top of the back yard water feature is pictured. A MR-16 20-watt underwater light under the stone bridge illuminates the waterfall; 20-watt MR-16 down lights in the evergreen tree behind the water feature fill in the dark space.

The sheer number of fixtures on this property is striking. There are a number of unique aspects to the landscape of this property. The landscape company worked hard to make sure that the surrounding area looked great during the day. It was McKay's responsibility to make sure that the area not only looked great at night, but safe at night, too. The homeowner's vision played an important role in the design of the landscape and also the lighting of the landscape. McKay is confident that its designers were able to create a unique lighting design that catered to the specific needs of the homeowner and landscape contractor.

This is the west side of property, including the main drive and garage area. Copper MR-16, 35-watt spots uplight the maple trees. T3 wedge-base copper fixtures (Hadco, 10-watts) under the wall caps wash the stone walls.

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April 25, 2019, 1:38 am PDT

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