"Outdoor Lighting Is 'Next Big Thing'"

By Eva-Mane Nve


Styles are low voltage and low key

In the 1970s everybody wanted track lighting. Recessed lighting was very popular in '80s. In the 1990s people will not be hanging lamps from a rod or implanting them in the ceiling. In fact, the hottest trend in lighting is not even indoors.

Outdoor lighting is "the next big thing," according to Constantine Pergantis of Nite Lites a North Potomac lighting design firm.

To Pergantis, outdoor lighting for the '9Os does not mean twin spotlights stuck on the corner of the house that light up the lawn as if it was a baseball field. Modern lighting can be both attractive, highlighting important features in the architecture and landscaping, and provide security.

Contemporary exterior lighting is low voltage and low key, says Pergantis. What it is not low in is drama. Showing off his work, Pergantis points out lamps submerged in the earth below trees that shine upward through branches. Spotlights low to the ground silhouette a shrub's shape against the wall of a house. Paths and drives can be lit, or a certain feature in the yard highlighted.

These are not the bulky pagoda style lamps that people installed in their yards twenty years ago. Modern lights run on low voltage wire and many are ''invisible.'' Pergantis explains that when a lamp is shaded from the top without a lens, it casts its light downward and the fixture is invisible. "You can see the light, but you can't see where it is coming from," he says.

Low voltage means the lights are powered by 50 to 150 watts. They are the only lights safe to use around the pool Pergantis believes. If someone cuts the line accidentally, the voltage will not kill them, Pergantis extols.

"Florescents are becoming more popular," Pergantis adds. Fluorescent lighting is also very low voltage. Previously most outdoor lights employed the same bulbs found in car tail lights and tractor headlamps. Florescents can lend subtle shades ranging from blues to reds that enhances brick or trees. The trick, according to some lighting catalogues, is not to over light, but to choose the right type of light and place it precisely.

Aside from the drama, low voltage exterior lighting is not very expensive or destructive to install. One has to look very closely to see that Pergantis is working in someone's yard.

"We do everything by hand," Pergantis explains. The single wire that a string of lights can work on is laid into a single slit made by a shovel. The yard is never dug up for the lighting, Pergantis says. If for some reason a light is not satisfactory, one can be moved, added or removed easily.

"You'll never know that I was here," Pergantis says.

Nite Lites, Pergantis's three-year-old company, has lit homes that range from townhouses to some of Potomac's most impressive mansions.

"I don't advertise," Pergantis says, "it's all word of mouth." "There's a lot of one-upsmanship," he says pointing to the houses around one of his projects in Avenel.

The average project takes about two, 8 hour days and ranges from $1,500 to $3,500 Pergantis says.

Although Nite Lites does not offer a service contract, Pergantis says he often drives by houses he has lit and stops to fix things. He is also more than willing to return to people's homes to show them how to change bulbs or even replace burnt out ones.





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