As part of a three-month European roadshow through Brussels and Milan that tied up last week, Masiero introduced its glamorous new Venetian-style chandelier in a suitably dramatic fashion. Dripping with glass jewels, the large nylon chandelier was showcased submerged in a half-filled aquarium that continuously sprayed water onto the fixture. The theatrical gesture by the high-end Italian lighting maker was obviously meant to demonstrate that the chandelier – part of a line of outdoor light fixtures called DryLight – is waterproof. It’s also symbolic of just how far outdoor lights have come.
Forget flimsy Christmas lights, solar stakes and off-the-shelf lanterns, today’s outdoor lights are a much more fanciful breed. Unique, beautiful and well made, these striking pieces turn the terrace into a chic extension of the home.
Canadians are embracing the bright newcomers. “We’ve seen a big increase of high-end decorative product enter the outdoor lighting market, so much so that we’ve invested in creating new outdoor displays in our Toronto and Vancouver showrooms to showcase some of the amazing lighting,” says Cheryl Wilkinson, the Toronto-based communications manager for LightForm, a modern, design-focused lighting studio, where people can check out the DryLight line in person.
Janet Rosenberg, a landscape designer in Toronto, adds: “Traditionally our approach to lighting design has been about creating an ambience for a garden, where the features are subtly incorporated into the design, [but] there is such artistry to lighting design now, thanks to new materials and technology, which have allowed for innovations in exterior light fixtures,” she says. “There is a whole area of lighting design that is focused much more on the fixture itself as a design element in the garden, such as chandeliers and glowing urns.”
Or glowing tables. Designed by Antoni Arola for Metalarte, Dojo, which sells for $2,199 (lightform.ca), is an illuminated box strapped in stylish aluminum grills. With its basic shape and simple function, it works as a table for cocktails and as an outdoor sculpture. It’s also a way to highlight foliage as well as demarcating the pool.
Snazzy outdoor lighting is in such demand that Vancouver designer Omer Arbel’s lovely 14 series pendant was just reworked to be used outside. Originally conceived in 2005 for interiors, the fixture became instantly famous in the design community – and remains iconic – because it strayed from the traditional central chandelier design. The individual glass orbs can be clustered to create sculptural large-scape groupings, or left as ambient strands of lights. They are particularly eye-catching embedded into a living wall to amplify the plant life.
Arbel prefers to see it dangle: “The best application would be to use majestic trees as armatures to hang clouds of 14s on,” says the founder of Vancouver-based Bocci (bocci.ca), where they sell for $250 per light. “Or install them under an awning or roof – elements that would help to define a volume of outdoor space.”
Essentially, the thinking with outdoor lights is to treat them like you would indoor applications. Set the mood by highlighting an arresting architectural feature or a pretty shrub (warm LEDs are the preferred choice among designers).
Need romance under the gazebo? Suspend dimmable Santorini pendants. The brainchild of Valencia’s creative collective Sputnik Estudio for Marset (marsetusa.com), the blown-glass lights with shades in trendy grey, white or mustard were designed this year, “and are inspired by lanterns you’d find on fishing boats,” the designers (who work and answer e-mails as a group) say. “They’re charming pieces and we liked the idea of using them in a domestic context to create beauty and personality,” they add.
If your garden isn’t equipped with electricity, you can still get your glow on – and stand out from the lantern-lit crowd. When Valencia-based product designer Inma Bermudez created FollowMe – a portable, rechargeable table lamp with a smart-looking arm that can swing back and forth and sells for $259 (marsetusa.com) – she specifically “strayed from the camping look,” she says. “I wanted to upgrade the lamp, so it looked like it belonged at home, with an oak handle and a brass dimmer.”
These lights are taking the trend toward creating outdoor “rooms” even further. As Rosenberg says, “Lighting adds ambience and character. It can be very beautiful and moving.” Given these bright newcomers, there really is no reason to stay indoors.