How to Pick the Best Outdoor Lighting

The right outdoor lighting can increase your home’s curb appeal and the functionality of your outdoor space.

Last year Chris and I decided to make some updates to our front porch. We spend a lot of time out there in the summer, enjoying a cup of coffee together in the morning before work or a glass of wine with mum at the end of the day. 

One of the easiest changes we made was updating our outdoor lights. There were a few reasons we decided to do this but the main one was that the lights that our builder installed were tiny – they hardly gave off any light. This made unlocking the front door at night or late evenings working in the driveway very challenging.

Types of Outdoor Lighting

While outdoor lights are definitely decorative, their primary purpose is mostly for safety. 

Wall & Ceiling 

A good rule of thumb is to have one light for each exterior door. A wall light will usually be installed next to the front door (or on both sides of double doors) and above the garage door. If you have a covered porch or back patio you may want to consider a ceiling light instead of a wall fixture. 

Path Lights & Lamp Posts

If you have a long path or steps on the way to your front door, you might want to consider path lighting or lamp posts to clearly light the way.

Flood & Security Lights

These lights are primarily for deterring intruders and are often motion activated.

Spot lights & Landscape Lights

These lights are mostly decorative and can be used to highlight unique architectural or landscape features.

What Style of Lights Should I Choose?

There are two main things you need to consider when pick the style of fixture you install:

  1. What is the style of your home? And,
  2. What style do you like?

Sure, an uber modern exterior will look amazing with sleek modern lights, and a decorative chateaux begs for a more traditional look, but most of our houses fall somewhere in between. Just because your exterior might be a little more traditional doesn’t mean your lighting can’t be modern (and vice versa). 

Our house has a bit of a Cape Cod/cottage vibe and would look good with lots of different styles of lights. When we were considering our options Chris really liked some fixtures that had a more traditional/nautical style where I was more drawn to the clean modern look (always the way). We ended up with lights somewhere in the middle – not too decorative but also not too modern. 

Should my Outdoor Lights Match?

That’s totally up to you! Most lighting manufacturers will create a “family” of lights that all match but are different sizes so your front door lights can match your garage light and your lamp post. But that doesn’t mean your lights have to match – ours don’t! If you’re going to mix and match different lights just make sure they coordinate. The easiest way to do this is to match the finish (chrome, black, white, etc.) and to make sure they are the same general style, in other words, avoid pairing a super sleek wall lamp with a gothic style lamp post. 

How Big Should Outdoor Lights Be?

Most outdoor lights I see are actually too small. A good rule of thumb is to use the size of your door as a guide. If you have one light aim for a fixture approximately 1/3 the height of your door. If you have a light on either side of your entry they should be smaller (1/4 the height). Lights around a double entry can be slightly larger.

We have one fixture on the side of our double entry and it is 13” in our backyard we have an 11” light on either side of our sliding doors. 

Remember! Some areas of restrictions on the brightness of outdoor lighting on certain by-laws you need to be aware of. Always check if there are any requirements you need to be aware of for your area before installing new outdoor lights.

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