Lighting an outdoor entryway serves several important functions for the threshold of your home. A well-lit front entry welcome guests, enables a bright, safe passage, let’s you identify visitors and, of course, makes that ever-important first impression of your home. Selecting the right lighting in this space includes choosing the right size, style and more. This FAQ will walk you through finding outdoor entryway lighting that suits you best.
Q: What are the main considerations for choosing an outdoor entry light?
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.
If you have a smaller stoop, a direct downlight or two is likely all you need. Look for an outdoor wall light that creates a wash of light down the wall to brighten up the area around your door. For a large porch, an even, diffused layer of light will illuminate the square footage without any Christmas Vacation exterior illumination references from the neighbors. Instead of one large and powerful outdoor light, go for many small patio lights instead. A couple of wall lights with a down wash and a few path lights with a puddling effect will be far more pleasing than having one giant, bright fixture flanking the house.
Q: What types of outdoor entryway lighting are there?
A: The most common choice is outdoor wall lights, but you could also look to hanging pendants, flush and semi-flush ceiling lights 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 are some tips for choosing 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. With two lights, they should be approximately one-quarter the height of the door. In both cases they should be mounted so that the center of the lamp is 66 inches above the ground.
Q: How important is a diffuser?
A: The easiest way to ensure you have enough light without going overboard is to look for an outdoor wall light that covers the light source with a shade, plate or heavy diffuser. You don’t want a design that will have you looking directly into the light source (think of those old-timey nautical fixtures with exposed bulbs). Choosing fixtures with translucent white or frosted diffusers will help the whole fixture be seen. It prevents a glare or a beacon effect, where you only see the bulb filament through the clear glass.
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. Some are paid especially to stand up to climate in these areas, such as Hinkley’s Surf, which features marine-grade finishing.
Q: Should my outdoor lighting fixtures 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 outdoor design. 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.
Q: What is Dark Sky lighting?
A:Depending on the region you live in, you may or may not be familiar with Dark Sky Compliant lighting, which aims to reduce the harmful effects of light pollution by utilizing a number of design elements. Various parts of California and many coastal areas go so far as to require that your outdoor lighting be Dark Sky compliant, which means 1) the light is no brighter than necessary; 2) blue light emissions are minimized, and 3) the light is fully shielded.
Lastly, consider the lumen output of your front porch light. Many, if not most, outdoor lighting fixtures are available in LED, with the brightness measured in lumens. Getting familiar with the Kelvin color temperature, lumens compared to watts and CRI (color rendering index) will help you ensure that the level and comfort of the front porch light you choose is precisely what you’re looking for. And, if you need any more inspiration, don’t forget to check out our outdoor lighting ideas.
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Team Y is a dedicated group of design devotees. We love everything that has to do with modern design, from products like lighting, furniture and decor all the way to interior design, architecture and city planning. What inspired the design? How does it work? What does it mean? We want to know. And once we know, we are constantly inspired to share what we've discovered with others who love design as well. That's Y.