The City Magazine Since 1975

Time to Shine

December 2018
Time to Shine
WRITER: 

Bring year-round luminosity to your landscape with pro tips from Charleston-based Moonlighting

Live oaks and palmetto palms often take starring roles in Moonlighting’s Lowcountry lighting designs.

Candles in windows, colored bulbs swirling up trees, white lights twinkling around doorways: there’s something magical about arriving home to a house lit for the holidays. But what happens when it all goes dark come January?

“Winter is such an important time for landscape lighting,” says Moonlighting’s Mike Rollins. “You get more time to enjoy it—from the outside, but also in; lighting carries your vision past a dark window.”

If you want to take a DIY approach, Rollins recommends investing in a low-voltage system and skipping solar power (“The technology just isn’t there yet,” he says). Here, he shares more pointers for illuminating outdoor spaces:

Start small. Focus your resources on lighting one focal point really well, then grow from there.
Be practical. “Aim to make lighting functional as well as aesthetically pleasing,” offers Rollins. You could illuminate a backyard grilling zone or brighten a bed by the front door for added security.
But not too practical. “If I could only light one area, I’d pick one I love and that I’m going to notice,” he says. That might be a tree you see upon pulling into the driveway or an arbor outside the kitchen window. “Do it for yourself. Don’t do it for the neighbors.”
Look to the all-stars. Still not sure what to focus on? “Live oaks are basically living sculptures,” Rollins notes. “And I call palm trees ‘the jewels of the night’. Their pale-colored bark and the shadows created by the boots contrast nicely, while the graceful fronds pick up light well.”
Glow in the dark. Place your lights, then “Play around. Reposition them. Consider how many you need,” suggests Rollins. Does it look best if you put a light in front of the subject or behind it, creating an intriguing silhouette? Or should you place one light on either side?
Keep it up. Remember to adjust the fixtures as your landscape grows and changes.

Meet the Expert:

In 1992, Mike Rollins established Moonlighting, which designs, installs, and services lighting for homes and businesses (they just wrapped up work at The Dewberry’s Citrus Club and Timbers Kiawah). Rollins recently brought his own accent light to market: a brass and copper fixture manufactured in North Carolina that can be adjusted in all the ways he found lacking in the standard foreign-made options.

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Photograph (Moonlighting design) by Newport 653