You may already love to look at your cottage, but if you’re letting it more-or-less disappear in the darkness every night, then you’re missing out on a whole other experience—one that could show you an enchanting side of your property that you never even imagined. Similarly, if you’re blasting garish light at or from your cottage, you’re not doing it, or possibly your neighbours, any favours. When properly done, landscape lighting not only makes it safer to be outdoors after dark, it also elevates the aesthetic of your property and buildings in a whole new way.

“Technology has really evolved this industry,” explains Chris Shirchenko, owner-designer at landscape lighting company Nightscapes of Muskoka. Nightscapes’ award-winning design and installation team has been artfully bringing light to the cottages of Muskoka and beyond for almost two decades now, and in that time, Chris has seen the previously impossible become reality. “Today, cottagers aren’t turning the lights on and off anymore,” he explains. “They’re selecting from an incredibly customized menu in order to meet the mood or occasion of any given night.” 

Programmable Themes

That menu includes options for dimming and colour change, making it possible to create a wide range of effects, depending on the aesthetic you’re looking for. Chris’s team sets up the lights and then groups them into discrete zones, each of which can be individually adjusted and programmed into larger themes. 

Let’s say that along with other lighting, Nightscapes has installed lights in ten pine trees on your property. Those ten pines can then be grouped together into one zone, or separated into multiple zones. Chris and his team will then program a theme that lights each zone by colour and brightness—different pastels for Easter, for example, or green and red at Christmas. For the cottage owner, it’s as simple as selecting the theme from their phone. 

“For clients, choosing a theme is basically the same as choosing a playlist,” says Chris. “You open our app on your phone, make your selection, and move on to other things.” 

The Art of Subtlety

While landscape and architectural lighting plays a vital role in making it safer to move around outside your cottage after dark, one look at a property lit by Nightscapes of Muskoka makes it clear that that functionality can be transformed into fine art. Subtlety is the key here. “You don’t want to shine a bright light on anything,” explains Chris. “The light should actually never trespass past the object that it’s intended to illuminate.” A pathway, for example, can be lit by downlighting installed in nearby trees. When carefully placed, the light not only illuminates the stones for safe travel, but silhouettes or shadows the patterns of the foliage onto the walkway below. 

By installing architectural lighting as well as landscape lighting, Nightscapes of Muskoka really enhances the impact of a building’s most striking features, drawing the eye to them in a way that can’t be done in daylight. “Landscape and architectural lighting complement each other beautifully,” says Chris. “If done properly, you end up with an effect of continuity across the whole property that provides an elegant ambience.”

Getting Started

If you’re building a new cottage from the ground up, the ideal time to get Nightscapes of Muskoka involved is at the architectural and landscape planning stage. That way, lighting installations can be incorporated into the overall design, making it easier to conceal wiring within built structures like gables and docks. That being said, existing cottages can be retrofit, and Chris and his team are expert at installing lighting into existing structures and hiding the evidence: “When we do a job, people wouldn’t know we’ve been there until the lights come on at night.”

A lot of Nightscapes’ clients have some lighting in place already, but they may be looking to up the impact. “A typical scenario would be a client that has path lights leading to the dock, but the firepit has never been lit up and the garage is in total darkness,” Chris explains. “So we introduce light into those other areas in a way that makes the whole effect cohesive.”

In terms of investing in your property, landscape lighting pays big returns without requiring much in the way of maintenance. All lighting is low-voltage, making it both safe and low-impact on hydro consumption. Just as importantly, lighting opens up the potential of your property, so you can keep enjoying it as much after the sun sets as you do during the day. 

The final dividend is visual. It’s hard to overstate the effect of a professionally designed lighting system. As Chris puts it, “When we’re done, what you see is not just your cottage and property lit up in the dark. It’s more like we introduce you to a whole different side of them. We often have clients who the first time they see it, they just can’t believe their eyes.” 

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