Most cottages in Muskoka probably have at least a rudimentary form of landscape lighting right now, and for good reason: it’s driven by necessity. It doesn’t take a wise cottager more than one or two perilous nighttime treks from the cottage to the dock—perhaps balancing a blanket, glasses, and a bottle of blanc noir while trying to direct a flashlight beam on the flagstones—to conclude that a little light is urgently in order.
But like anything else, you can opt to cover the basics, or you can up your game and do it in style. At Nightscapes of Muskoka, the inspiration is to expertly employ lighting design principles in ways that address safety and security while elevating the aesthetic beyond their clients’ wildest dreams. In the process, Nightscapes of Muskoka typically shows each client a whole other side to their property—one they can’t take their eyes off of.
While a new build provides the artist’s proverbial blank slate, Nightscapes of Muskoka is adept at designing and installing lighting for established cottages and properties as well. Owner and designer at the Muskoka-based family-run business, Chris Shirchenko, explains it like this: “Our goal with every client is to install a landscape lighting system that looks like it was part of the plan for their property all along. If it isn’t seamless, it doesn’t meet our standard.” To that end, Chris and his team have developed a number of processes to incorporate lighting into existing landscaping and structures, including trees, railings, soffits, and docks. Through these processes, retro-installed lighting gives the impression of being part of the original buildings and structures.
Similarly, where there’s landscape lighting already in place, Chris and his team work with their clients to incorporate it into a larger design that accentuates the property’s aesthetic strengths. And those strengths that play best in the dark may be different than the ones you’d think of in broad daylight. Darkness provides a backdrop to show off specific details of your landscape or cottage that might otherwise be easily missed by someone trying to take it all in while passing on the lake.
Well established as Canada’s elite landscape lighting expert, Chris and the rest of the Nightscapes of Muskoka team have designed and installed outdoor lighting for some of the world’s most notable celebrities at some of North America’s most extraordinary properties. It’s put them on the cutting edge of trends in the industry. “These days we are seeing a lot of interest in colour-changing lights,” explains Chris. With these, you can adjust light to any colour in the spectrum depending on factors such as the mood you’re looking to create, the occasion, or the time of year. “The other big trend right now is underwater lighting,” says Chris, “and when you use these two together—colour changing lights under the dock, for example, or beneath the water in your boat slip—the effect can be extraordinary.”
Obviously, given the individual nature of each property, every landscape lighting project is one of a kind, but technological advances over the last few years have put the power of incredible customization into the hands of the homeowner. In addition to changing colours, Chris’s clients can also increase or decrease the intensity of individual lights, such as by brightening the lights in a boathouse when people are getting in and out of the boat and at other times opting for a more ambient glow. Powered by wifi and the owner’s smartphone, changes like these can be made on the spot or pre-programmed.
Nightscapes of Muskoka often serves repeat clients who build on their landscape lighting over the years as circumstances change and technology advances. The arrival of grandchildren, for example, may necessitate more lighting on pathways and docks. But ensuring safety doesn’t mean glaring lights or hotspots. Paths can be illuminated by moonlighting set in nearby trees or path lighting arranged to contour with the stones of the pathway, producing a rolling amount of light, elegantly balanced so that each light slowly fades and gives way to the next. When properly designed, landscape lighting provides a beautiful, meandering illumination without hard shadows.
The ultimate effect is achieved through a continuous flow of lighting, starting at the driveway and rolling through the property and down to the water. To that end, Nightscapes of Muskoka takes pride in being able to work with whatever the client’s property has to offer, from inserting pocket lights in granite to installing strip lighting underwater to layering lights in a picturesque dormer.
“We can get our equipment in just about anywhere,” says Chris. “If you can dream it, chances are we can make it happen for you.”