Q & A Session with Paul Gosselin of NightScenes
For our third feature in our series, we asked Paul Gosselin of NightScenes in Texas to participate in our Lighting Designer Q & A Session.
NightScenes, recognized as a leader in the industry, was asked to participate in the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition construction of the O’Donnell home in Austin. Paul’s landscape lighting advice has been quoted in Landscape Construction magazine, Austin Monthly HOME magazine and This Old House magazine. Currently, he is serving as President for the Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals—a national non-profit organization working towards improving safety and training in the landscape lighting industry.
What first attracted you to landscape lighting?
I was first attracted to landscape lighting by chance. I was an electrical contractor when a client asked me to “do a little lighting” in an area where he and his wife liked to sit in the evenings with a glass of wine. He had a small water feature there and some nice plants, not much. I took some notes and headed to the home improvement store (like any good electrician would) and came back with some “copper” bullet and path lights a transformer and wire. I installed what I thought might be a pretty nice lighting system and came back that evening with my wife, daughter and mother-in-law to see how it turned out and I was hooked!
I spent the entire weekend learning about low voltage landscape lighting (who knew that there were “professional” landscape lighting products?) So, to answer the question, seeing what lighting could do in a space at night is what attracted me to landscape lighting. Seeing the expression on a client’s face when the outdoor lights come on was priceless – I never got that when installing lighting in someone’s home.
What sets you apart from other landscape lighting companies?
I would say that there are a few things that separate us from other local landscape lighting companies. First would be our passion for creating something special on every project. Where most landscape lighting companies use 3-5 types of fixtures in every project and use the same lamp in just about everything, we may use 10 or so different lighting products with about the same difference in lamps or lighting effects.
We also take our time in the design process itself. Most companies just put the same fixture in front of each object that they are “lighting” where we will carefully choose where we place each fixture and the lumen output and beam spreads to create the desired effects. The other guys become light fixture sales people, while we are a lighting design company that also installs and maintains them. What we actually “sell” is atmosphere.
What was your most challenging project?
I would say that the most challenging project would be the project that we did for the television show, Extreme Makeover: Home Addition. We had less than a day to do the design, and only from plans. Once we got approval the next day, we had 4 days to procure all of the products needed for the project. Then we had less than 24 hours to install everything, which had to be done along with the landscape installation. We left the shop at 4am on one day and got back at 2am the next day. It was a great experience, but we haven’t gone looking for another one yet!
Why did you first begin to experiment with LED lights in your designs?
I first began to experiment with LED because I felt that this was the future of lighting, and one way to insure success is to stay ahead of the pack instead of bringing up the rear and trying to catch up. I also could see there would be a lot of benefits of LED, once the kinks got worked out.
What lighting issues did LEDs solve when you started incorporating the lamps into your designs?
Using LEDs in my designs has helped solve a few issues. First is the issue of voltage drop. Since these lamps operate at such a wide range of voltage and we use multi-tap transformers, voltage drop ALMOST becomes a non-issue. Then there’s the labor of installation. Since we’re using different wiring methods, we don’t have to cover as much wire which is the most labor intensive part of an installation. Then there’s the color of light issue.
Using LED, I can just choose the lamp color I want instead of having to use filters to create different colors. I use a 4000K color temperature for down lighting which is a great match for natural moon light. I then use 3000K color to mimic halogen and 2700K for incandescent lighting.
Which past, or present, lighting project truly defines who you are as a lighting designer? And why?
One of my favorite projects – which I think defines me as a designer – was a few years ago. It was an all LED project about 85 miles away. We used several different lighting effects in their back yard accenting different yard art and specimen plants. We were able to use just about every different lighting technique on the same project. We did some moon lighting with 4000K lamps. We back lit a tree, front lit a couple of trees, did some cross lighting and some mirror lighting as well as accenting some yard art focal points. It was a LOT of fun to do and the client loves it.
What do you see as being the future of the lighting industry? Challenges? Opportunities? Threats?
I think the landscape lighting industry is just starting to gain some steam. More and more people are spending money on their homes, and outdoor lighting is always in the top 5 things that they want to do! The biggest challenge will be to educate people on the benefits of professional lighting as opposed to the box store products and self design. If we can show people that there is real value in hiring a professional to design and install a high quality, professional system that will last, we’ll go a long way in solidifying our industry. I think the greatest opportunity ahead is in retrofitting all of the current professional grade outdoor lighting to LED. Just think of all of the existing professional grade outdoor lighting out there today!
There are, however, a couple of threats in our industry right now. The first is cheap (in every sense of the word) outdoor lighting products. Just like when CFLs came on to the scene several years ago, they failed miserably and left people with a bad taste in their mouths for those products. When our future clients go out and buy cheap LED lighting products that have ugly color and only last months instead of years, they will not trust the products or those of us who are trying to use well-made LED fixtures and lamps. This will be very hard to overcome, so we have to diligently educate people as often as possible about choosing superior LED products instead of cheap stuff.
What advice would you give other landscape lighting designers and installers about using LED lamps?
The best advice I can give other landscape lighting designers and installers about using LEDs is to GET GOING! Get some good LED products and start experimenting just like you probably did when you started in the business. Take some time to learn about chips, drivers, VA versus watts, and more LED specifics. Become an LED expert and start using these products in your projects right away.
Every day that you sit on the sideline, you are falling further and further back toward the end of the line – and no one likes being at the end of the line. I also recommend joining and becoming involved in the AOLP (Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals). The AOLP offers a multitude of resources for outdoor lighting designers/contractors.
About NightScenes Landscape Lighting Professionals
As a long term resident of the central Texas hill country, President and Chief Designer, Paul R. Gosselin, Sr., has built NightScenes Corporation around the small town values of integrity and hard work. He is passionate about providing top quality service for a fair price and appreciates the value of relationships over making a fast buck. Although Paul worked as a trade electrician for fifteen years, cultivating an education specific to his field as a lighting designer has been an ongoing priority since he started his own company in 2003. That heartfelt desire to learn—and then share his knowledge and experience—has set his work apart from the ordinary.