Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Top Ten Reasons I Love My Career in Landscape Lighting by Chad Rodvold

Definitely a flip flop kind of day when I designed the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami, FL

Definitely a flip flop kind of day when I designed the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami, FL

I get to spend the majority of my days on job sites or at someone's existing home. Over the course of the year, ninety percent of my design work is on high-end residential homes and they are split pretty evenly among homes under construction and existing estates. The weather and days agenda dictates quite a few being boots or flip flops! Even the guys at the supply house know how my day will be if I show up in "chancletas"...poco trabajo!

I enjoy playing in the dirt. OK, so it's not like I'm out there with a shovel, but during the final walk through on a job, I am usually "fluffing" the planting beds and "primping" the trenches to take care of the little details of a job. We always try leave the property better than we arrived so clean up is extremely important...meaning their property looks like the maintenance landscape crew just left, not a storm that just blew through.


I've had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know some truly wonderful people. Over the years, I've designed and worked at the homes for people I wouldn't have been able to meet otherwise. Folks on lists like the Forbes 400, America's Top Landowners, or people inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the Pro Hockey Hall of Fame. I've been fired by the wife of a billionaire, only to have Mr. Billionaire personally call to ask me back, then walk the property with me with a glass of wine to discuss their lighting and talk a bit about business. I've also been called a mother ****** by a gentleman on the Forbes List, only to holler back at him and then continue to work on the crusty old bear's estate for the next ten years. I have some "unique" clients and stories, but one client most people probably have never heard of is my all-time favorite.

Comer Cottrell, a businessman in Dallas, was building a "big" house and I happened to meet him while snooping on the job site. During our final negotiation for his project, we had several cocktails and I think he mixed mined a little stiffer than his because he had no problem recalling all the numbers and I was having difficulty remembering my occupation! When it came time to sign the agreement, Comer wasn't about to spend what I proposed and when I wouldn't meet his demands, I got up to leave his house. At the door, he looked at me and said "You walk out that door, you lose the job. The first rule of business is never let a deal get away." I left and Comer called me two weeks later to accept our proposal. It was a very large project that took almost a year to complete so Comer and I had numerous conversations about the Negro Leagues, Pro-Line Corp and the "curly kit", being a black Republican, his investments (successes and failures), and just life in general. He gave me a lot of his extremely valuable time and made me feel more like a friend than as someone working for him. As a young(er) business owner and entrepreneur, I really appreciated all the time we had together before his passing in 2014.


I get to enjoy some amazing properties! I think my passion is landscape architecture but I'm a little late in the game with too many mouths to feed to change professions. So being able to work among the creation of some spectacular spaces is a close second.

I've been blessed to be retained to design and construct landscape lighting in states throughout the country, including Florida, the North and South Carolina, Georgia, and New York, but this estate in Connecticut ranks tops on the list. Orchards, intimate gardens, trees, lakes, golf, tennis, pavilion, elevations...this property has everything and I always enjoy going back to review their outdoor lighting.


Travel! You may not know, but I have five kids under 13 years of age so any chance I can get away from them is a rest:)! I enjoy driving more than flying so of course driving through Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma to do landscape lighting design and construction is actually pretty relaxing for me. Also, I enjoy Florida and the Carolinas where landscape lighting a tropical environment really brings the landscape to life. Designs in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey are typically the most challenging due to the size of the estates, but being there in the fall when the leaves change is breathtaking.


I still love to climb trees. Depending on the trees, weather, and generally how stupid I'm feeling, I still enjoy challenging myself and climbing trees. Not necessarily to do any work, but to see the world from a different perspective. I think it comes from my all time favorite movie growing up Swiss Family Robinson. Looks like a couple of my boys have the tree bug as well.


I get to learn about landscape architecture and landscape design. Learning everything from design principles, plant materials, plant sizes at install and maturity has been both a blessing and a curse. It's definitely made me a better landscape lighting designer over the years but also frustrates me because I can't afford to do what I'd like to on my own home. Maybe someday...


I get to learn about high-end construction and architecture. Definitely a curse because I expect way to much when I do or have done anything at my house! Really though, being able to see what goes into an estate and the highest quality craftsmanship involved, makes me bring my "A" game to the table. I'm usually the last one to finish the job on a mega estate project like this and I like to think we're the ones that put the finishing touches on a project. Seeing the clients reaction to the transformation of the landscape when the outdoor lighting comes on for the first time never gets old...and when the architect and builder don't have to add anything to the punch list is an added bonus too.


There is always a new project somewhere!  I believe there are very few companies that have the experience and ability to design and install landscape lighting throughout the country while maintaining the highest standards in construction and customer service. I think it says a lot when they have to wait for you to get to them and then "STILL" like and refer you. 


I get to tell people I draw and color for a living. I shouldn't have to say anything beyond this, but I should note my son drew a picture of his sister recently.(see above) He and his brother were talking the other day about what they were going to be when they grow up and my artist said either a professional baseball player or he was going to run E2 Illumination Designs. Warms daddy's heart but thinking the lighting designs are going to be crazy!!!

Let us know if we can help you create the dream for your home's nighttime ambiance.