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The Best Landscape Lighting Designers

Your resource for the best house and garden services. New this issue: the best landscape lighting designers in Dallas.
By Peggy Healy Parker |

The Gold Pages
Best Landscape Lighting Designers

Outdoor lighting is both a security asset and a surprisingly affordable luxury. The initial cost of design and installation may be high, but that cost is prorated over a number of years, because the lights used are long-lived. (One mercury vapor fixture does the job it used to take 100 incandescent bulbs to do.) Landscape lighting designers are magic-makers – they know just what to highlight in your yard or garden, enhancing the aesthetics and adding grace notes of mystery and romance. And lighting can be installed incrementally in selective areas – a beautiful tree, a path, a patio, a pool – until you’re ready to do the whole shebang.

John Watson Landscape Illumination Inc. International Headquarters.
Before the 1950s, outdoor lighting meant lights strung in the yards of Hollywood stars by “garden lighters.” Landscape illumination as a profession didn’t exist. That is, not until John Watson wrote his master’s thesis on the subject and ended up pioneering an entire industry, which made Dallas a leader in garden/landscape and outdoor holiday illumination. As a child, Watson would hook up fruit cans with lights and string them on trees over his mother’s garden. He earned a degree in landscape architecture from Texas A&M, and later studied art at the Sorbonne. He went on to work for General Electric, where he learned everything they knew about lighting. In 1952, he returned to Dallas to form his own company. The firm provides artistic illumination to residences, hotels and resorts, corporate campuses, museums, schools, and religious centers around the globe. They’ve done work for a Saudi Prince and the Fairmount Acapulco Princess, for EDS and SMU, and for the Governor’s Mansion and The Mansion on Turtle Creek. Watson developed a number of environmentally friendly lighting designs and custom fixtures, and coined the terms Moonlighting and Moonshadows to describe the mysterious effects he creates. London’s Daily Telegram called his technique “The art of painting with light, the subtle, understated effect of intense moonlight – one of the most dramatic developments in luxurious living.” TIME magazine dubbed him “Mr. Moonlight,” a moniker that has stuck and which Watson sports on the vanity plates of his car. At four score-plus years, Mr. Moonlight remains CEO of the business (his son Shannon is president). An art collector and avid gardener, he helped brighten his surroundings and those of his neighbors in Glen Lakes by planting thousands of tulips and other bulbs (the flowering kind). He’s also a philanthropist with special interest in medical research. 1933 Regal Row. 214-630-7751. 800-886-7751.

Lentz Landscape Lighting
You might call Lentz the most romantic company in town. The firm illuminates landscapes to simulate moonlight flooding the garden and patterning the lawn, a rare specialty as it combines two dangerous occupations – electrical wiring and tree climbing. The mercury lamps used last 24,000 hours, about six or seven years, are maintenance-free, and serve for security as well as aesthetics. “When I got into the outdoor lighting business in 1986, few people were doing it, so prices were out of line. Back then, only one light-fixture size existed, so we used to cover incandescent bulbs with blue lenses to make them look like mercury lamps.” With more competition and a profusion of fixture sizes on the market, prices are much more reasonable. Clients might want to light a single, fabulous tree or highlight just the front steps. They might want to gently wash the house with light or illumine an entire estate. Lentz says, “The trick is to conceal the sources and to provide security without turning the property into a prison.” Their jobs conclude with a designer going on site to check that every light in every tree and shrub is spotted to meet the design criteria. Lentz started his company after 10 years of working for an engineering concern. “It was great training. I gained experience managing people and organizing things.” His experience has translated into the firm’s efficiency and ability to complete jobs in a timely fashion. They serve the Park Cities, Preston Hollow, Southlake, and Colleyville, as well as towns all over Texas and beyond. Lentz says that because Dallas has the greatest concentration of outdoor lighting in the country, Dallasites tend to take it for granted. In other parts of the country people are not so blase. “When we did a residence in Alabama, people lined the street to see the simulated moonlight. When we lit a huge estate in Virginia, same thing: People stopped their cars to gaze.” 11120 Indian Tr. 972-241-0622.

Unique Lighting Service of Texas Inc.
Four brothers – Johnny, Ricky, Larry, and Mike Moore – are equal partners in this enterprise, which Ricky, Johnny, and their father, Joel, started in 1985 after splitting from Whitley Electric. They describe their firm as “a small company that takes care of big people.” Their client roster reads like a register of Texas titans, sprinkled with names like Bass, Perot, Dell, Muse, and McCutcheon. Innovation is the firm’s forte. Their father designed the first treeless “Christmas tree of lights,” an 18-foot pole from which strands of glittering lights were suspended. Long before icicle fringes became popular, Unique invented and designed one-of-a-kind light icicles to hang from the eaves of the Allison O’Briant house on Armstrong Parkway. They once put tiny white lights on every doorway, window, and peak of a gingerbread house that was a replica of the Wyly home on Beverly. Yet Christmas represents only a fraction of their business, and they only install Christmas lights for their landscape lighting clients. The preponderance of their business is providing turnkey landscape lighting for primary residences and clients’ second, third, or fourth homes. Ranches are a specialty. To see the stars in their resplendence, ranchland lighting needs to be soft and devoid of ambient light. (Unique once lit 12 to 14 acres of a 98,000-acre ranch in New Mexico.) All their lighting is high-voltage and is set in trees. The wiring on the bases of these trees is totally camouflaged, because it’s painted with multiple colors to simulate tree bark. Those twinkle lights at the State Fair are their handiwork. So are the lights on the Henri Moore sculptures at the DMA, and the lighting of both the Concert Lawn and the Woman’s Garden at the Arboretum. Brother John Moore is the artist whose canvas is the gardens and pools and yards of clients in Dallas and Fort Worth and landscapes from Seal Harbor, Maine, to Woodside, California. He says “With outdoor illumination, you can entertain in the garden at night. You can’t see the cracks in the sidewalks or the dead limbs in trees. Even the ugliest tree can be made beautiful at night.” 1811 South Good Latimer Expwy. 214-421-2066.


FINDING GOOD HOME SERVICES is no easy feat. Our search began with mothers, friends, teachers – even the patients and staff at our dentists’ offices. Once we managed to compile a list, we researched the services, pricing, company history, and “unique selling propositions” of the most highly recommended. We contacted the Better Business Bureau to make certain these firms came up clean, with no complaints lodged. Finally, we checked references and asked ourselves if indeed these were people we’d want to do business with. If the answer was yes, they appear in the above listing..

Got a plumber you love? How about an electrician or jack-of-all-trades? D Home wants to know all about them. Send us your recommendations and contact info to [email protected].

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