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Advice + Inspiration

How to Light Your Outdoor Entryway

Outdoor entryway lighting serves several important purposes: It welcomes guests, enables a bright, safe passage towards the door and a way to identify visitors, as well as offers a favorable first impression with a hint of "jewelry" at the front of your home. From selecting the proper size to style considerations, we help you find the lights that are right for your outdoor entryway.

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Q: Which factors influence which lights you choose?

A: You'll want to take note of your home's architectural style so your outdoor fixtures complement it. Also, large windows near the entrance that allow indoor light out affect how much light you'll need for your entryway. A roof or covered porch over the entrance will similarly influence your lighting plan.

Q: What types of entryway lighting are available?

A: The range is almost as extensive as with indoor lighting, and includes sconces, hanging pendants, flush and semi-flush ceiling, and recessed lighting. Typically you'll choose a few to work together and the lighting can be layered, similar to indoor areas.

Niki Outdoor Wall or Ceiling Light by Artemide

Q: How bright should these lights be?

A: In the dark, a little bit of light goes a long way. Incandescent wattages can be kept in the 25 to 40 watts range (200 to 500 lumens). If you are using multiple fixtures then stay closer to 200 lumens per fixture. If you have large windows that let the indoor light out, you may use even less light.

Q: Which fixtures are used with a roof or overhang?

A: You can use pendants, like the Fora; ceiling lights, such as the Nikki, which provides ample diffused light; or recessed lighting, like the Tesla 3.5 High Output. The bottom of the pendant should be about 6 inches above the height of the door and the scale of it should be in proportion to your door. Flush-mounted ceiling lights and recessed lighting will keep the emphasis on the entryway itself and provide ample lighting. Place recessed lighting closer to the door to reduce shadows.

Q: What about wall lighting?

A: Wall lights can be used in combination with ceiling lighting to fill in gaps in illumination, or on their own. Sizing of wall lights will be determined by the height of your door. If you are using one wall light, it should be approximately one-third the height of the door and the Ethos Large is a nice option. With two lights they should be approximately one-quarter the height of the door and the Raven 18-inch is a good size for this. In both cases they should be mounted so that the center of the lamp is 66 inches above the floor.

Wind Outdoor Pendant Light - 4075 by VIBIA

Q: What about diffusers?

A: Choosing fixtures with translucent white or frosted diffusers will help the whole fixture be seen and prevent glare or a beacon effect in which you only see the bulb filament through the clear glass. The Jedi 18-inch white glass provides an attractive column of diffused light.

Q: How do you protect lights against the elements?

A: Outdoor fixtures will be in contact with the elements, so it is important to select those that are "wet-location listed" and designed for outdoor use. Damp-location fixtures can be used under a roof or overhang that keeps them from direct contact with rain and snow. In coastal areas look for fixtures made of brass, solid aluminum (distinct from cast or spun aluminum), glass, or plastic as these materials hold up better in salt air. The Surf features marine-grade finishing.

Axis Medium Outdoor Wall Sconce by Hubbardton Forge

Q: Should the fixtures need to match?

A: That's up to your personal taste, but having a consistent style starting at the curb with post- or pier-mount lights helps create a unified feeling across your property. Many manufacturers offer complete outdoor collections that provide a cohesive look, such as the Atlantis. You can also choose to make one piece the focal point and have the others blend in with the surroundings.

—Ulla Vinkman

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