Make an Impact with Exterior Lighting

Use your home's exterior lighting fixtures to add safety and beauty to both architecture and the landscape.

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    Focus on Symmetry

    Exterior lighting offers an easy way for homeowners to complement an already established design aesthetic. Take symmetry, for example: It's used on facades to establish order and visual regularity. This Italianate-inspired exterior features pretty wood doors and metal railings, complemented by a matching duo of sconces.

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    Use the Details

    Critical details on lighting fixtures help to bolster the architectural style of a home's exterior. Crackled glass and burnished bronze in these lantern-style sconces enhance the Colonial-style wood shingles and hardware on the historically minded facade of this home.

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    Work Horizontally

    Although vertical scale is an important design factor in choosing fixtures, horizontal hierarchy is critical, too. The floor-to-ceiling height of this front porch isn’t overly dramatic, but the length of the space is significant. That helped provide design guidance for the sconces, which have a sizable glass orb in scale with the outside area.

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    Update Your Lightbulbs

    Advances in lightbulb technology have made it easier than ever to install fixtures that conserve energy and last longer. In these lantern-style fixtures, newer compact-fluorescent and LED technology equals bulbs that resemble incandescent features, but without the wasted heat and energy, and quick lifespan. Make sure to check your fixture’s recommended bulb size and style before choosing a replacement.

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    Rely on Lighting Families

    Choosing a single fixture family can be a good way to eliminate some decision-making factors for exterior lighting. Families generally have a single design style with multiple options -- chandelier, sconces, ceiling fixtures, and pendants, for example. This eclectic home relied on the same sconce for illumination at both the front door and on an upper deck, with a matching chandelier in an airy rooftop escape.

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    Look Closely at Lighting

    Different exterior fixtures have different arm styles; it’s a great detail to use to enhance existing architectural details on a home. Swing arms, commonly used inside, are movable and are perfect for tasks such as reading. These supported arm styles feature gentle scrolling and curls that enhance the ornate metalwork on the rest of the home.

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    Pick the Right UL Rating

    There are different UL ratings for exterior fixtures that will impact what fixture you use and where you install it. UL Damp Rated products can be used in covered patios and covered porches that offer full protection from water, while Outdoor Wet Rated products can be used in any location in which they may come in contact with water. Because it’s not fully protected, a fixture in a location such as this front entry should be Outdoor Wet Rated.

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    Adjust Wattage for Size

    When it comes to exterior lighting, smaller spaces benefit from several fixtures at a lower wattage rather than a large fixture with an intense illumination. This compact front entry utilizes an overhead fixture and sconce that work together to offer safe passage.

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    Illuminate Your Landscape's Features

    As with a home facade, other structures can benefit from well-considered exterior lighting. Sconces here -- placed at about head height -- offer pleasing illumination, particularly at dusk when natural light begins to fade. Paths are another area that benefit from exterior light. Choose fixtures that cast their glow downward or that use hoods; you'll prevent glare from blinding walkers.

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    Go Bigger Than You Think

    When homeowners install exterior light fixtures, they’re doing so with a close-up view. That’s misleading, because many lighting fixtures appear too small streetside. Keep that in mind when choosing sconces, porch ceiling fixtures, and post lanterns. The latter -- used here -- are a good replacement for individual path lights.

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    Create More Than One Purpose

    With the right placement, fixtures can often play multiple roles in exterior lighting schemes. Think about your home: Where can smart arrangement of sconces or overhead lights do double duty? Can a fixture outside an exterior door also provide illumination for a seating area? Here, a metal sconce offers enough light for both the front door and mailbox.

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    Work with What You Have

    If space restrictions prevent you from placing sconces to either side of a front door or overhead, look elsewhere to boost the overall illumination. Here, a single midsize fixture brightens and lightens the entryway, while complementary sconces add light to the garage arrival.

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    Measure Twice, Install Once

    Vertical placement is important to how well exterior sconces work for practical needs. Using the center of a light source as a guide general, mount sconces at least 5-1/2 feet but no more than 6 feet from the ground, which will help keep the light from shining too brightly in eyes.

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    Blend in with Details

    Exterior light fixtures often supply a distinct focal point for a porch or deck, but they can also be used more subtly to accent striking architecture. The small-scale sconces here play a supporting role for the pretty shingle patterning and striking garage door.

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    Pay Attention to Your Home

    Scale plays a role in the success and usefulness of exterior lighting. Too-big fixtures will detract from an overall assembly of materials and colors, while too-small fixtures won’t illuminate entryways and walkways successfully. For a small to midsize entry such as this, midsize sconces work well to complement the cottage-like collection of details and colors, while offering enough light for secure front entry.

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    Try Out a Ceiling Fan

    Exterior lighting schemes also include ceiling fans, which offer comfort, decorative accent, and -- if installed with a lighting source -- illumination. Here, the homeowners rely on this version for air movement. To provide illumination the homeowners instead rely on a transitionally styled lantern-influenced sconce.

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    Use Controls to Your Advantage

    Advanced lighting controls offer a boon for homeowners searching for more convenient ways to control their exterior illumination. Newer wireless controls also eliminate the need for expensive, intrusive wiring. Look into controls that can enable you to turn sconces such as these -- placed to enhance safety and the view of the landscape -- off and on from inside your home.

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