Selecting outdoor lighting fixtures is much easier when you know how to look for and match the design elements of your home. Experts share the most common characteristics of popular home architecture and complimentary exterior lighting.
Outdoor Lighting Fixtures: How to Choose the Right Ones for Your Home
Outdoor lighting fixtures come in a wide array of styles, finishes, sizes and categories and knowing how to look for particular design elements in your home may help you choose the ones that highlight and present your home in the best possible light. Outdoor lights also come in an array of categories; each serving a purpose. All types add safety and security to your outdoor areas. Some types of exterior lighting serve the sole purpose of highlighting particular features of a home and landscape and are not meant to draw attention to them but rather emphasize the subject they are illuminating. The non-ornamental types of exterior lighting should be hidden from view. Decorative outdoor lights are placed on a home and landscape as illuminating gems; their ornamental features heighten the beauty and value of a home.
When planning and choosing outdoor and landscape lights it is probably easier and best to first buy your decorative fixtures. The decorative lights will be your main focal points. Every great home and landscape lighting design will have low and high focal points of interest. These outdoor lights are not low voltage and do not require a transformer. They can be directly wired to your home. They also come in many energy saving options to choose from. It is recommended to first buy outdoor lighting fixtures for the entrance to your home. In this way, you may see the range of their lighting on your front façade and add additional accent and landscape lighting as needed.
When upgrading your home from the generic builder installed outdoor lighting fixtures it’s good to know what most experts recommend. Exterior light fixtures should match the style or design elements of your home. The style should harmonize with the design and architecture.
The size of the outdoor light fixture is important as well, as you want to keep a proportional look. A common error in placing wall mounted light fixtures around the front entrance is selecting a small fixture that is not proportional and looks dinky on a house. A good rule of thumb is to select decorative front lights that are 25% the height of your front doorway.
Different finishes of outdoor lighting fixtures harmonize more with different types of architecture. The brushed metals work well with contemporary or modern homes. Wrought iron and brass are generally regarded as more traditional and classic.
In matching outdoor lighting fixtures you may look for the common design characteristics of your home to help you match them. However, these are by no means guidelines set in stone as many homes are a mesh of different styles. Choose outdoor lighting fixtures that are most appealing to you and that you think would enhance and beautify your home’s architecture. For instance, if your home is very plain you may want to choose more ornamental fixtures that have decorative detailed styling. Or maybe you would like to make an older home a little more modern by choosing transitional fixtures that has some classically styled elements but also lends to a more contemporary look. Most outdoor light fixtures have very versatile styling and are designed as so. The styles defined below are only to help you identify individual features of your home that you may want to accentuate.
Mission / Craftsman – These consists of lighter, simplistic shapes. Has a Japanese influence, but the design is American. These exterior lighting fixtures have more rectangular shaping and flat design elements. Craftsman is usually less square in design than Mission. Craftsman designs have a rugged and sturdy feel. A Craftsman home usually has a characteristically low-pitched roof, deep eaves with exposed rafters, large front porches covered by an extension of the roof, massive battered columns, a large fireplace, and were usually one to one and a half stories. The windows were usually double-hung upper window and single pane lower windows. They sometimes included fine detailing like copper and bronze hammered metal and artistic tiles. They were built with exemplary workmanship and fine detailing. A Mission style home has smooth stucco or plaster siding, exposed rafters, broad overhanging eaves, large square pillars, and restrained decorative elements. The Mission style evolved from the Craftsman. Some Craftsman homes have Spanish Mission characteristics like twisted columns, quatrefoil or round windows, red tile roofs, arched entryway but still without much embellishment. Sometimes these are referred to as Arts & Crafts.
Rustic – Outdoor lighting fixtures have a more natural finish that is not polished. This design feels rougher and more organic and some light fixtures feature outdoorsy detailing with leaves and branches. It is sometimes associated with a Lodge or Country style. Rustic homes are built with logs and stones and emphasize hand craftsmanship. These types of houses have small paneled windows, overhanging roofs, battered walls, and the exterior or interior ornamentation consists of twisted and bent branches and logs.
Mediterranean / Spanish – This style includes Italian and Islamic influences as well. These outdoor light fixtures consist of intricate details and sometimes include elaborately shaped wrought iron. Many Spanish homes have a tile roof, small porches or balconies, half round arched windows or doors, stucco over adobe brick, tall double-hung windows, and decorative iron trim and often combine many different styles.
Victorian – Very fanciful and ornamental in design, outdoor lighting often features intricate scrolls. This style also includes Gothic design elements like arches, and lacy detailing. If you home features Corinthian-columned porches, free-style decorations, gabled roof, shingles, angled bay windows and a more elaborate or flamboyant style; your home may be Victorian. Though some early Victorian homes where relatively simple in style; those built before the Civil War.
Traditional / Classic – These lighting fixtures are refined but decorative without excessive design elements; rather features a restrained type of ornamentation. Outdoor lights feature elegant straight lines and gentle curves. Sometimes traditional homes are referred to as having characteristics of historical European or Colonial styling, but is usually a very broad category that simply refers to having the majority of the design elements from the past that are not exotic in nature.
Transitional – This style is not as formal as traditional but rather has a more casual feel. It’s a new style that softens and warms up the Traditional look and doesn’t have heavy ornamentation. It is intended to create a more comfortable and inviting setting and some have a slight contemporary look. The finish of these outdoor light fixtures usually features earth tone or bronze and sometimes has warm glass accents.
Contemporary / Modern - Usually is completely void of ornamentation. This style of outdoor light fixture has uncluttered clean lines, a lighter design and a non-textured single tone finish. There is an emphasis on vertical and horizontal lines in Modern homes and are usually void of ornamentation or “unnecessary” detail. Very simplistic; form follows function.
Soft Contemporary / Casual – This is a new style that is meant to soften the rigid contemporary style. Intended to be more relaxed and unstructured, this style of outdoor light fixture is simple and uses sparse ornamentation. The finish of these exterior lights is sometimes a softer brushed nickel, bronze or earth toned but still has a contemporary or modern feel.
Oriental – Japanese and other Asian styles are included here. These outdoor light fixture designs sometimes feature characteristics of oriental landscapes and shrubbery, such as the banzai tree and zen-like horizontal lines. Some also feature architectural elements of oriental homes, like the flatter roof tops and rectangular windows.
Nautical – Outdoor lighting fixtures have characteristics relating to shipping, ships, boats, fishing, piers, light houses or navigation in a body of water. Older homes are not usually designed with nautical features. Nautical lights work well with many traditional, rustic, craftsman and mission style homes. They also naturally work well with homes that are near water. Nautical light fixtures are perfect for those that have a love for the aquatic or maritime.
Tropical – These exterior lighting fixtures feature design elements characteristic of fruit or the tropics. Many design elements have shapes similar to pineapples or palm leaves. This is also a broader category that can be applied to many styles of home depending on your personal tastes, as a tropical style of architecture is not formally defined because the term is too general. This design may work well with homes that feature tropical landscaping or that exist in a tropical region.
Read more about outdoor lighting fixtures and how to place and use them.