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Home Trends by Melissa Birdsong

RISMEDIA, Oct. 20, 2008-Fall means shorter days and shorter windows of opportunity for showing off the curb appeal of a home. The right exterior lighting draws attention and adds drama-and also a level of safety.

When it comes to enjoying natural surroundings, some people prefer gazing at the ocean and other beautiful views. For me, it’s all about discovering the nature of interesting neighborhoods and houses…a little like architectural anthropology, finding inspiring references for personal and professional use along the way.

Invariably, there are a few homes that are always more inviting and have a bit more curb appeal than others. And when the sun goes down, what makes them stand out is well-executed landscape lighting. The subtle glow of low voltage lighting layered with a few dramatic spots and uplights to highlight focal points adds warmth and dimension to landscaping as well as structure.

Low-voltage pathway lighting creates a welcoming beacon for visitors, but it also means that the journey from driveway to door is well-lit and safer to navigate. Anyone who has tripped over a reclining pet or a parked bicycle can attest to the value of pathway lighting. Aside from the safety aspect, this low­-key lighting is very inviting, literally drawing you up the path and into the front door. To avoid what I call the “runway effect,” break up a monotonous run of lights by varying placement and allowing greenery to soften the edges. And today’s offerings also include new solar options that are environmentally friendly and the easiest of all to install.

Floodlights create drama in landscaping for spectacular visual effects. Uplighting directed to a tree, statuary or interesting architectural detail emphasizes textures and illuminates dark corners to provide a heightened level of security. Surface and deck lighting mounted onto walls, fences, decks and other flat surfaces serve to direct foot traffic. This type of lighting, cleverly placed, extends the evening by beautifully illuminating outdoor spaces used for relaxing and entertaining.

Buyers and sellers alike recognize that a well designed exterior lighting plan can add a whole layer of sophistication to make any home look its best. And when you consider the absolute cost to buy, install and operate-and measure that against visual and safety enhancement benefits-the sum of it all consistently delivers perceived and actual value far greater than the cost of its parts.

Melissa Birdsong is vice president for Trend, Design & Brand, Lowe’s Companies, Inc.

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