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How To Light Your Outdoor Entryway

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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 offering 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.

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 outdoor entryway lighting plan.

Q: What types of outdoor 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.

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 can be used with a roof or overhang?

A: There are multiple options. You can use pendants, like the Fora; ceiling lights, such as the Niki, 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.

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 entryway lighting 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.

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 Collection. You can also choose to make one piece the focal point and have the others blend in with the surroundings.

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Jeff Jones

Extensive resume of experience in the lighting and furniture industry spanning over 25 years with the last 18 years spent exclusively in lighting. Established clientele of both Trade and Celebrity clients. Enthusiast of modern design with a personal preference for Mid-Century.

  • Sheila Colombo

    Could you tell me how to determine the correct size pier mount light for my stone piers that are 33.5″W?

    • Stephanie Weldon

      There isn’t really a formula for determining how to choose. A suggestion to help keep it proportionate is to consider keeping the measurement at one-third or one-quarter of the width, similar to determining the size of wall lights. But, it is really based on your personal aesthetic. If you can’t find a pier mount that suits your style or your design vision, outdoor wall lights look great on the front face of the pier too.