You may find it difficult to believe that the days will start getting longer in the Northern Hemisphere in just four short weeks. You can find yourself this time of year coming home on dreary days, or welcoming evening visitors in the dark. It’s neither safe nor inviting. But good lighting at your front entrance gives a warm and secure welcome to any who enter.
Mention outdoor lighting at this time of year and many people think of strings of lights. But why not go for a more elegant look that will continue to be appealing throughout the winter ahead?
First, decide what areas it is important for you to light. For your own late arrivals, that may be the front steps and the lock. You’ll want to be sure visitors can see the house number, which door they should approach, and perhaps the pathway leading to the steps.
The biggest outdoor lighting mistake is to use a bulb with a wattage that is too high. Bright lights actually create glare, making the surrounding area look darker. Remember, house surfaces reflect back light and so does the snow. Light ‘layering’ — soft lighting from several sources — results in a subtle and inviting overall effect.
Install low wattage lights under the gables and eaves of your porch or overhang and direct the lights down, softly illuminating the general area. Let your architecture guide you. If you’re using extension cords, rather than hard-wired fixtures, be sure to hide the cords.
Your second layer of light can be used to highlight such features as your house number, the steps or an interesting architectural feature, such as a piece of gingerbread gable. Again, use low wattage bulbs and aim the fixture directly onto these areas. Don’t overdo accent lighting. If you install a timer on these first two layers of light, you can welcome yourself home at the end of a hard day.
The last layer of light you’ll want to use is the one that will actually attract the eye of your visitors – because it will be directly seen and will appear to be the brightest source. This can be an electric fixture with a soft yellow bulb or candles in hurricane lamp globes on sconces on either side of your door. For extra allure, install small mirrors on the wall behind the sconces and spread the warmth! If you would rather keep your lighting all overhead, try wrapping a grapevine chandelier with tiny white lights on a battery operated pack and hanging this from a hook in your porch ceiling.
For special occasions, you may want to light up the walkway. Winter is a great time to use candles outside because the snow is a built-in fire extinguisher. If you have concrete or brick steps, arrange some candles on the stairs too. To protect the candle flames from the wind, use purchased luminaries or shiny metal buckets. If the snow is deep enough, simply scoop out holes slightly deeper than the height of the candle and insert it in the snow. The flame will glow through the snow, providing a subtle and beautiful effect.
So, think subtle but warm. The best winter lighting scheme is neither too elaborate nor too skimpy. Well-designed exterior lighting effects speak glowingly of those who live there. Make a grand entrance at your house this winter!