How to create the perfect ambient lighting to accent your new decorative water feature.

Water introduces a reflective light catching surface that can be emphasized by using mirrors. A mirror can create an illusion of more space, but it needs to be carefully sited to avoid reflecting any unsightly element in the design space. Placing the mirror at an angle will prevent you from seeing your own reflection and creates the illusion of a larger space. This can be even more effective if a convincing surround, such as a wooden arch, is used to hide the edges. Fountains generate feelings of excitement with their splashing.

A wide range of fountainheads and outlets are available to create various effects and features from simple jets and sprays to foaming boulders, brimming bowls, and more sophisticated sculptural pieces. A fountain will always draw your attention, so it is important to locate it carefully and choose a feature that will suit the style of your design space. Fountains can either be set into the water feature itself or mounted to the side to spill into the water. They can even be suspended above, as in the case of a water curtain, where water is pumped up to an overhead pipe or rail that is perforated to allow it to spill back down through the holes. Fountains can also be installed without the need for a water feature lighting.

Lighting your water feature or  will add to its appeal, enabling you to enjoy it into the evening. Provided you keep interior lights low, you will even be able to appreciate it from inside the house. Lighting can almost create another design space—a night design space is totally different in appearance and atmosphere than a daytime one. It may be necessary to light your water feature as a safety measure, and it is certainly a good idea to light stepping stones and bridges if the design space is to be used at night, but lighting need not only be functional. Underwater lighting can be placed beneath a deck or bridge to make the structure appear to float or it can graze up an adjacent wall to create rippling effects across the surface. An underwater light can be mounted beneath a waterfall to provide a spectacular effect, causing the falling water to glow. This, combined with the sound of the fall, introduces a real sense of theater at night.

Illuminating a fountain will make the water droplets sparkle when seen against a dark background, and lighting waterside features, such as a sculpture or specimen plants, doubles their effect as they reflect in the water below. A spotlight can also be directed at fountain features such as wall-mounted spouts and bubbling urns to draw focal points out of the darkness. Lighting should be designed to provide a subtle and magical effect, so restraint is the watchword. However, it is important to light both the water feature and the supporting elements around to create a complete nighttime picture. Remember that it is the lighting effect you want to see, not the light source, so try to keep the light fittings as unobtrusive as possible (many are finished in matte black or copper verdigris to help in this respect). Finally, do not ignore the possibilities of simpler options such as design space torches and candles, perhaps in combination with more permanent lighting, to create a magical atmosphere.

Once you have considered all the  design choices available   you will be in a position to select the most appropriate type of water feature or  to suit both you and your design space. Whether you opt for a raised o sunken water feature, a stream, or a self- contained fountain, it will inevitably become a focus in the design space and so its style and location within the wider setting are paramount. Mistakes can be expensive or impossible to rectify later, so careful planning at the outset is essential.Image