Outdoor living is the “lifestyle trend” du jour. Whether it's for entertaining friends and family or for relaxing and enjoying temperate weather, American homeowners are spending more time outside and more money spiffing up their landscapes. Lighting manufacturers are quick to point out that a gorgeous outdoor area is nothing without proper illumination.

Exterior lighting not only adds to a backyard landscape, it has the potential to make it exceptional. “Everyone I've ever encountered who didn't have landscape lighting and then got it says they don't know how they lived without it. When you start mixing shadows and light variations, it makes the landscape look completely different,” says Rick Baird, national sales manager for Vista Professional Outdoor Lighting. He sees showcasing of lighting fixtures as a big trend right now. Where homeowners and landscape designers have wanted to hide light sources in the past, they are now incorporating fixtures into the design, making a seamless transition from indoors to outdoors. With this in mind, one of Vista's path light models features a copper finish that's enjoying a renaissance right now.

Baird is quick to point out that there is more to lighting than good looks. Lighting design is key to making outdoor living spaces safe. “You have to make sure people see stairs, steps, and changes in elevation,” Baird explains. Homeowners also look to their outdoor lighting for added security through path lights, motion detectors, and facade-mounted fixtures.

For those who want a more discreet fixture, the Duplo from Energie provides a low profile and allows the lighting designer to tailor the light level to the homeowner's preferences. Smaller fixtures with powerful lamps are unobtrusive during the day yet will illuminate décor and provide security at night.

Baird encourages remodelers to make their clients aware of how much lighting can add to their outdoor project. “It's an educational process, more than a selling process,” says Baird. “Outdoor lighting helps extend and increase living space. Through proper illumination and use of space, your outdoor area can become a second living or dining room.”