Glowing ideas for outdoor lighting

  • Lindsey M. Roberts Special To The Washington Post
  • Friday, July 18, 2014 11:48am
  • Life

Outdoor lighting is often an afterthought in exterior facelifts and landscape designs, something not remembered until the plants are dug, the deck is built and the house is repainted. If you find yourself in this kind of dark spot, don’t despair: We talked to professionals for simple ideas that will make a big, bright impact.

First, a few basic rules:

Take your home’s architectural style into account. If you have a formal brick Colonial, for example, says David Benton, an architect at Maryland’s Rill Architects, stick with traditional porch pendants and wall sconces. “I think it’s always key to keep things simple,” he says. “They look more elegant that way.” If you have a house that’s a bit more modern, you can play with something contemporary, or even funky or farmhouse style.

Don’t undersize your lights. Do you have a large front yard? Make sure your light fixtures are large enough that they can be seen from the street. Benton says he tends to go “just a little bit larger” than he thinks he’ll need to.

Think about the big picture. Once you’ve got the front lighting set, think about how much total lighting you want to do. “You want to err on the side of subtle,” says Mark Oxley, president of Outdoor Illumination in Bethesda, Maryland. “It’s better to start with less. Then you add to it if you think it’s not enough.”

Here are some suggested lights:

Plow &Hearth’s Old Brooke light: Karen Olson Weaver, who specializes in exterior and landscape lighting as principal lighting designer of Olson Weaver Lighting in Alexandria, Virginia, uses gas lamps in her projects in older neighborhoods. Plow &Hearth’s Old Brooke light, in three colors and sizes, is inspired by early gaslight design but uses a bulb. For sizing, Benton says a good rule of thumb for lights flanking a front door is that they should each be a quarter of the size of the door. If you only have one, it should be a third of the size of the door. ($44.95-$84.95, www. plowhearth.com)

Terrain’s copper Mansard lantern: Put candles in Terrain’s copper Mansard lantern and you’ll get the comfort of flickering light. If you prefer to avoid the mess of fire and wax, try battery-operated LED candles, Olson Weaver suggests. “At some point, things have to be practical,” she says ($68-$98, www.shopterrain.com).

NotNeutral’s Season metal lantern: “When you bring lighting outside, people are drawn to that,” Olson Weaver says. “It’s an inexpensive way to create another space in your house. You could have no chairs on your terrace, and you could put a little lantern out there, and the whole party will move out there.” She likes NotNeutral’s Season metal lantern (in four colors and three sizes) and says it would be a good lantern to hang on shepherd’s crooks around the garden or next to a grill ($54-$162, www. allmodern.com).

Kichler’s cast-brass deck light: Mark Oxley, president of Bethesda outdoor-lighting firm Outdoor Illumination, seconds Olson Weaver’s recommendation to see and touch fixtures in showrooms before ordering. He also recommends buying a brand known for quality and dependability, such as Hadco or Kichler. Kichler’s cast-brass deck light would add sophisticated safety lighting to stairs and decks ($76, www.kichlersuperstore.com).

Kichler’s copper path lights: Path lights are a pragmatic way to create ambiance outdoors. “There are a lot of different styles that can be really functional but also be fun,” Oxley says. “But if you’re doing something fun, you want to be careful because that cute little acorn light can look great one or three times, but if you put 12 of them along a walkway, it can get out of hand.” Kichler’s copper path lights make for a subtle style statement ($184).

Talk to us

More in Life

The “Fluffy” arborvitae has the ability to light up a Northwest landscape with its golden needles. (Proven Winners)
Gold tones of ‘Fluffy’ conifers make the landscape sparkle

It’s a new variety of Thuja plicata, native to the Pacific coast, known as western arborvitae.

Blue leadwort is a low-growing perennial that acts as a colorful groundcover for the garden. (Getty Images)
A few perennial gems to help brighten up the fall garden

He can’t help but find new treasures to plant each time he visits the nursery. Here are four he added recently.

Leo Kenney’s “Seed Crystal” in gouche from 1966 is on display at the Edmonds museum through Jan. 10.
Cascadia reopens with works by 3 Northwest master artists

Cascadia Art Museum in Edmonds is celebrating its fifth anniversary with several new exhibitions.

Kenny Chesney’s summer tour is scheduled to come to CenturyLink Field in Seattle on July 17, 2021. (Associated Press)
Take heart, music fans: The shows will return, virus permitting

Here are the major shows scheduled — or, in most cases, rescheduled — over the next 365 days in the Seattle-Everett-Tacoma metro area.

The wages of sin are bloody in this Southern Gothic yarn

“The Devil All the Time” follows venal, murderous characters in the hollers of southern Ohio.

The double-flowered autumn crocus has large lavender-pink blooms that resemble waterlilies. (Richie Steffen)
Great Plant Pick: Colchicum ‘Waterlily,’ double-flowered autumn crocus

This bulb features large double lavender-pink blooms that resemble waterlilies in the fall.

This French window bench was in style the last half of the 18th century. Although it was made to use by a window, it is popular with decorators today as a hall bench or a seat at the end of a bed. This bench sold for about $1,600 at an auction. (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)
French window bench in style the last half of the 18th century

This Provincial Louis XVI fruitwood window seat was sold at a New Orleans auction for $1,625.

vov]p-elov-]o=ove
Pioneering Whidbey Island distillery marks 10th year in business

Whidbey Island Distillery has grown from 12 barrels to 35, and built an innovative computer-controlled still.

Amy Alvarez-Wampfler, co-winemaker at Abeja in Walla Walla, Wash., was in charge of 10,000 barrels of Chardonnay during her time at Columbia Crest. (Photo courtesy of Abeja)
This month, raise a toast to region’s Hispanic winemakers

From fields to tasting rooms, they play a vitally important role in the Northwest wine industry.

Most Read