John Souza: What motivates me is that I love what I do. I truly get inspired when I go to the job site. Not every job is the same. You have to work with existing light sources, plant materials and the architectural details of the house. You also have to address safety for walkways and driveways.
I like a three-dimensional look to my projects. I place fixtures at random — so that it’s not a typical “runway” effect — with some fixtures in trees pointing straight down. Placing fixtures on small tree limbs, so light dapples through leaves and casts interesting shadows on the lawn, enhances the look.
Besides placement, I take into consideration the wattage of lamps, their coverage and beam spreads. LED is amazing technology. We use retrofit LED T3 bi-pin lamps for path lights. They consume 3W of electricity and produce almost [the equivalent of] 18W of illumination. Even on existing projects, we’re able to convert uplight fixtures over to LED MR16s. 1W, 3W and 5W LED lamps produce [the equivalents of] 20W to 35W light levels. They save the consumer so much money in energy use. The 15-to-18-year lamp life reduces maintenance costs.
On one project, the customer’s goal was to use the most energy-efficient, low-cost lighting systems possible. We did the whole project in LED lighting. I illuminated walkways for safety. Then, I added a three-dimensional feel by illuminating different trees in different areas leading to the backyard. It added so much to the visual effect and opened up the view. The customer’s daughter has a friend who lives on the property right behind theirs. They wanted illumination coming up the steps, sweeping from property to property, for moving back and forth at night. So, we bounced the tree lights down and staggered them, creating a very interesting moonlight path.
The stucco house project was fantastic. We did this project with halogen sources. The customer wanted to bring attention to the front of the house. They wanted to softly wall wash the stucco. The house itself was illuminated with a 20W PAR36 lamp. We used MR16s with a spread lens and 10W to graze the sides of boulders in planting beds to the left and right of the front of the house. We did the same thing on boulder outcroppings to the left and right of the house, and uplit some trees to add another effect.
When I design, I like to graduate my light sources starting with lower wattages in front of the property and then slightly increasing light levels as we get closer to the house. If you are illuminating at too high of a light level in the front, it plays down what’s happening close to the house, which is more important.