Kyle Adamson has found his niche — lighting.
Armed with a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Kentucky — “Go ‘Cats,” he said — Adamson designed and built stone patios, paver systems, walkways, stone fire pits, water features and other outdoor amenities early in his career.
But later, Adamson decided to switch gears a bit. Now, all of his work involves the technical and specialized field of illumination, and he hasn’t done a single landscaping project since making that transition.
A 20-acre estate in Mt. Sterling, Ky., is just one of many completed lighting projects on his professional resume. It was done in four phases. First, he did the front of the home. Then came the garden in back of the house. The fountain was next, and the pool area was last. The project started in 2012 and was completed this past May.
“If you combined all the phases, it took us around five weeks. They (the homeowners) were pretty open-minded as far as what we could do,” Adamson said, so he had some leeway to get cre- ative with this particular endeavor.
Adamson owns and manages Red Oak Design, a company he started in 2006, and now most of his business comes to him by way of word-of-mouth, returning clientele and referrals.
With two employees on his payroll, Adamson and his crew dug all the trenches by hand to lay the conduit and wiring. They also had to install two 600-watt and four 300-watt transformers.
On occasion, his crew ran into tree roots. “You don’t want to just hack through them,” he said. “Otherwise, the project went pretty smoothly.”
He put in all the light fixtures to illuminate most, if not all, of the exterior of the home. This included an outdoor fountain, backyard garden, fences and a block wall, trees, shrubs and an arbor, among other areas of the estate.
Adamson was drawn to landscape architecture as a long-term career because of his love of outdoor spaces, “and how these spaces can be enhanced by good design,” he said.
He worked for a landscape company after graduating from college. Then Adamson began Red Oak as a design/build company that provided outdoor lighting as an ancillary service.
“I enjoyed the landscape design as well as outdoor lighting, but felt I could not be successful just designing and installing outdoor lighting,” he said.
Red Oak completed about 30 design/build projects, and then he attended a conference on outdoor lighting that changed his whole perspective — and his business model.
“I was blown away by all the possibilities of outdoor lighting,” he said. “I decided to phase out the landscape installation and focus on lighting, which I did about five years ago.”
Adamson said he enjoys taking his clients outside and seeing their faces when the lights come on for the first time.
“So many people invest in a beautiful home, outdoor spaces and landscapes and cannot enjoy them at night,” he said. “I would like to change that.”
Adamson said he felt good about making the change to outdoor lighting, in part, because of the very nature of his home state of Kentucky.
“I felt confident about the shift in the company’s focus, because of how many beautiful residences, estates and horse farms I would see that did not have outdoor lighting, or had poorly designed lighting systems.”
Since he began concentrating on lighting, Adamson has completed about 300 lighting systems, ranging from two to 250 fixtures. He installed the two fixtures for a woman who wanted to illuminate a birdbath her kids had given her. The 250 fixtures were for a horse farm.
Interestingly enough, both of these transactions happened in the same week. “It was hard to tell who was more excited,” he said of the two clients with whom he worked.
His most challenging lighting project was his first. His clients were hav- ing a wedding at their home, and the job required an extensive network of fixtures, LEDs and wires. They asked Adamson if he had ever installed such a large project before.
“Of course, I said yes,” Adamson recalled. That was over nine years ago, and the system is still going strong today. “And yes, I eventually admitted that was the first lighting project I had installed.”
Adamson’s experience in landscape design has definitely benefited him with his lighting career.
“Having a landscape design background has helped my lighting designs by understanding how landscapes change and mature over time,” he said. “We have four distinct seasons in central Kentucky, so to explain to a client that the lighting will change as seasons change provides a unique opportunity for the effects of outdoor lighting.”
Six years ago, when Adamson was still in the design-build stage of his career, he completed another challenging project, one that is his favorite to date.
He designed and installed a paver patio, outdoor lighting and a water feature with a small stream and pond. Adamson also trucked in natural boulders that became rock outcroppings and doubled as retaining walls.
“The area was relatively flat, but he wanted it to be like a nature preserve for any animal and bird that would want to stop by and say hi,” Adamson said. “We brought in 30 yards of topsoil to change the topography and eight tons of boulders to naturalize the berms.
Adamson also planted numerous ornamental trees and shrubs that instantly provided the mass greenery they wanted, because the client said he didn’t have time to wait for the plants and trees to grow.
“They (his clients) are still kicking and enjoy their animal visitors to this day.”
Full article originally published in Landscape Contractor magazine. Read full article.