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Lighting Site Amenities
From Fountains to Pergolas


To illuminate this fountain at a house in Omaha, Nebraska, McKay Landscape Lighting used Focus underwater lights with pivoting bases for precise aiming. In the basin, they installed four fixtures with five-watt lamps with 40-degree beam spreads. The two bowls above the basin have two fixtures each with four-watt lamps with 60-degree spreads. Around the fountain are six path lights. Ground-level bullets uplight the trees in the background. Downlights are used to uplight the dormers.

McKay Landscape Lighting
The owners of a residence in Omaha, Nebraska, where this company is also located, recently did a major home and landscaping expansion. Being that they were one of McKay Lighting's very first customers when they started installing landscape lighting in 1992, the homeowners hired them again to illuminate their new landscape, and convert everything from halogen to LED in the process.

Among the new features were two pergolas and a fountain. The first pergola is located in the far back corner of the yard and the customer wasn't sure if it would be used at night, so the decision was made to just light the columns. Each one has a white, Lumiere Cambria 203 downlight with a five-watt LED lamp with a 40-degree beam spread.

Because the lighting crew was on site while the pergola was being built, they were able to run the wires under the paver patio, cut a hole in the pavers, and continue the wires through a PVC sleeve, up the hollow columns, and out through the caps at the mounting position.

"It was very important for us to get in on the pre-construction to be able to get our wiring positioned so that it could be concealed," says company owner and designer Jerry McKay.

The second pergola is next to the house and in addition to lighting the columns in the same manner as the first one, two additional lights were added to illuminate the seating area. They were put on a switch so the homeowners can use them as needed, and mounted on adjustable arms.

"If the furniture moves at any time, the lights can be aimed in different spots within the interior of the pergola," explains McKay.

This pergola has a retractable screen and the additional lights had to be mounted in such a way that they did not interfere with its performance.

For the fountain, the crew installed Focus underwater lights in the basin and the middle two bowls. The basin has four fixtures with five-watt lamps with 40-degree beam spreads. The bowls have two fixtures each with four-watt lamps with 60-degree spreads.

"We had to widen the beam spread as we moved up," McKay says.

The crew was on site as the fountain was being installed with the help of a crane, so they were able to run the wire up through the concrete footing and the center cavity. McKay explained that because the fixtures had long leads (with waterproof jackets), the crew could make the connections within the dry environment of the cavity.

Six path lights surround the fountain. Trees in the background are uplit by bullet lights and the dormers on the house are uplit by the same downlights used on the pergolas.

Vernon Daniel Associates Landscape Illumination
This company based in Manassas, Virginia, prides itself on their exclusive and proprietary approach to landscape lighting. Though most of their customers are on the East Coast, they have worked throughout the country; offering customized designs and installations, and using fixtures specific to each project. Many of the fixtures are made to their specifications and manufactured only for them.

Kurt Snyder, a landscape architect and the vice president of Vernon Daniel Associates, provided these illustrations of two recent projects that involved lighting different structures.


For the residence's rear pergola, an architectural spot downlight was installed on each of the columns. The fixtures were outfitted with 5-watt LED lamps with 40-degree beam spreads. The direct burial wiring was run along hand-dug trenches from one of the two 300-watt transformers, through holes drilled in the paver patio and then up the cavities of the hollow wood columns as they were being set.

The Gazebo
We were contacted by a homeowner in New Jersey who had an existing illumination system for their resort-style property. They were unhappy with their original design and the company's failure to provide maintenance. Upon my analysis of the existing lighting, I determined we would have to start over, as none of the existing fixtures were appropriate to properly bring out the beauty this pool garden and gazebo deserved.

The gazebo is a strong background focal point in this garden with the pool in the foreground. The front gazebo posts are downlit with miniature, shielded, low voltage, integral LED fixtures concealed in the upper beams. I chose 3000 K to bring out the natural wood color. Spill from these fixtures illuminates the steps and walk up to the gazebo. (Path lights, which are always a last resort, were not needed on this project.) The interior sitting area and table were also illuminated with concealed miniature fixtures.

The wooded nature of this scene called for creating a backdrop composition. Our customized 4100 K fixtures create a beautiful contrast between man-made and natural foliage. The icing on the cake was my ability to illuminate the rooftop of the gazebo. This was achieved with a 120-volt LED, 3000 K downlight mounted at about 50 feet high in a nearby tree, shielded from the pool patio.

Our client loves the images I've created, and we return once a year for routine maintenance.


For the second pergola, McKay used the same design strategy with the addition of two more downlights to illuminate the patio furniture. These extra fixtures were mounted on the inside of the columns on arms that allow them to be adjusted as needed. One challenge was having to mount the interior lights in positions where they would not interfere with the pergola's retractable screen.


For this gazebo at a New Jersey residence, Vernon Daniel Associates Landscape Illumination, which has fixtures designed to their specifications and manufactured for them only, used miniature, shielded, low voltage, integral LED fixtures concealed in the upper beams to downlight the posts and the interior. To bring out the natural wood color of the posts, 3000 K lamps were selected. The steps up to the gazebo are illuminated by natural spill. To achieve separation of the gazebo from the background, 4100 K fixtures were used on the foliage. The rooftop of the gazebo is downlit with a 120-volt LED 3000 K fixture mounted about 50' high in a nearby tree.


A major challenge for Vernon Daniel Associates on this pool house was to make sure no light source was visible while inside or outside it. In addition, the entire pool house was completely surrounded by pavement, requiring all fixtures to be "building-mounted." To achieve this, miniature, shielded, low voltage, integral, 3000 K LED fixtures were concealed up in the beams and projected down on the front posts and the latticework. The rear posts were kept dark to create depth. Two fixtures were mounted on beams and aimed up at the ceiling, producing reflected indirect light for functional illumination of the table and chairs.

The Pool House
Our existing client in northern New Jersey built a custom-designed pool house, which he wanted to illuminate. After my initial design study, I suggested addressing both its functional use and aesthetic attributes. Unfortunately the architect had not included any lighting in his design for the functional use of the space. My client gave me full reign in defining objectives and scope of design.

It was certainly going to be a challenging project. The pool house was already built and the only provision for electricity was a junction box 18 inches off the ground on the backside of a rear column. Additionally, the entire pool house was completely surrounded by pavement, requiring all fixtures to be "building mounted."

My first challenge was to bring out the aesthetics: the strong nature of the front posts and the rear latticework, and in such a fashion that no light source was visible while inside or outside the pool house. This was accomplished with miniature, shielded, low voltage, integral LED fixtures concealed up in the beams, projecting down. The rear posts were kept dark to create depth. I chose 3000 K lamps to bring out the natural off-white color of these features.

My second, and most challenging, objective was to satisfy my requirement to provide functional illumination for the space and table top, without any light source or glare into the viewer's eyes when looking up. The decorative ceiling structure was off-white, indicative of reflective surfaces. Two fixtures were mounted on beams aiming up at the ceiling, completely shielded from the view below. Reflected indirect light produces the perfect amount of light on the tabletop and pavement.

The third challenge was my requirement for no visible exposed wiring, except on the backside of the pool house. My team of expert installers and electricians were able to accomplish this! Total watts for the pool house is 34 from a 50-watt transformer on the backside column above the junction box.

The reflection of the pool house in the pool water is always an added bonus.

As seen in LC/DBM magazine, April 2016.

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May 19, 2019, 8:24 am PDT

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