I am often asked what sparked my interest in landscape lighting when family and friends visit my property and see my lighting system in person. I used to just say, “the Internet”, but the interest started long before my family had a high speed Internet connection.
Now that I reflect back on it, what sparked my interest in lighting would be a MagLite®. A long metal and bright flashlight with a xenon bulb allowing a flood of light or a beam of light. The story comes from when my family got home from a small weekend trip to a resort in Lake Geneva, WI. While at this resort I was amazed by the landscaping and of course as a young 14 year old the pool. The pool had these lighted arches of water that would jet out of the deck into the water with a color changing light placed to create a fiber optic light effect. I was impressed at how this splash of color totally transformed the pool area from what it looked like during the day. Being a young and always curious, I decided to walk around and just observe the different ways light was illuminating the property.
I noticed how the lush landscape was lit using bullet lights providing a up-lighting effect, allowing guests checking in to see the lush landscape even after dark. I pointed this out to my Dad and asked “how hard would this be to do at our house?”. My Dad has surely gotten himself in trouble with my Mom because he always supported my “projects”, even when they included cutting open walls and jackhammering concrete, his response “easily”.
When we got home at the end of the trip, it was dark outside. My Dad was finishing up unloading the car when he grabbed his MagLite®. He then walked over to some bushes on the side of our house and started shining the light into them. Focusing the beam from being wide to narrow showing all the ways we could light up the bushes that lined the side of our house. Being excited to see the final product we agreed to take a trip to a local home improvement center and pick up low voltage lighting supplies. Year after year I kept adding to our system and before I knew it I was needing a larger transformer, 77 watts was not going to do more than a few bushes. Of course after some convincing from my Dad to my Mom I was able to get a 600 watt transformer, what I thought was going to be enough to light up our whole property, keyword, thought.
Year after year I kept expanding and then realized 600 watts is only going to do a small portion of the property. By this time I am about 15 years old. While teens this age are out at the Mall, I am poking around in the dark playing with wires and electricity. By the time I hit 16 years old my property is fully lit, neighbors calling it the castle of light, I have fixtures up-lighting trees, bushes and plants. Wall wash lights and fixtures in the pond, and light fixtures 30 feet up in our trees in the back yard. Lets not forget to mention almost 3500 watts of low voltage and about 2 miles of low voltage wiring. I guess you could say significantly more than the 77 watts I started out with. It takes a lot to make me impressed with my own work, but I had several “wow” moments myself.
I then created the Lights of Illinois Holiday light show which brought crowds to my families house to watch my synchronized light show. After graduating high school and enrolling in College I did not have enough time to continue doing holiday light shows but kept my domain lightofillinois.com thinking I may used it again in the future, I declined several very generous offers to purchase it.
I have continued the low voltage lighting year after year changing and adding light fixtures, even working with a supplier overseas to obtain LED fixtures made to my specifications. Every time someone visits my property they always say “why don’t you do this for a living its very impressive?”. To that I say this is the story of how Lights of Illinois Low Voltage was born.
MagLite ® is a registered trademark of Mag Instrument Inc, Lights of Illinois is not endorsed or sponsored by Mag Instrument Inc.