Choosing outdoor lighting fixtures can seem like a difficult task with so many finishes, sizes and styles to choose from. Knowing how to distinguish the different design elements of your home may help you choose exterior lights that accentuate your home’s characteristics. Outdoor lighting serves two purposes; they beautify your home and landscape and provide heightened security and safety.
Some are designed to be hidden from view and are meant to draw attention to the illuminated area and thus are very plain and functional in design. Others feature designer styling and are meant to provide illumination to an area but also beautify the home during the day and night. The decorative exterior lights are attention getters and bejewel the scenic view of your home. All types will raise the aesthetic appeal and financial value of a home.
A good exterior home and landscape lighting design will include both high and low areas of interest by having prominent and subtle light. Decorative outdoor light fixtures are by their very nature high focal points of interest when placed on your home or landscape because they are brighter and feature beautiful design elements. It may be best to choose and purchase these first to see the range of their illumination and then decide how to place your non-ornamental exterior lighting and how many you will need to complete your project. Non-ornamental exterior lights are normally designed to be your low focal points of interest because of their subtle illumination.
The size of lights is important to consider. It is commonly agreed upon that when selecting front lights that are decorative they should be 25% the height of your front doorway to achieve a proportional look so they don’t look dinky on your home.
Knowing your home’s style may help you enhance its best features. Identifying and knowing the design elements of your home will help you find related design elements in the outdoor lighting fixtures. However, many homes are a mesh of different styles and thus these guidelines are by no means set in stone. Exterior lights are usually versatile in design and can be matched with many different types of homes.
Mission / Craftsman – These lights often have simple, lighter shapes and are more rectangular with flatter styling. Mission is more square than the Craftsman design. They have a sturdy and rugged feel. Craftsman homes have extended rooftops that cover front porches, low-pitched roofs, massive columns, and usually built no more than one and a half stories high. Mission home designs evolved from the Craftsman style. They usually have characteristic plaster siding or stucco, square pillars, overhanging broad eaves, and restrained decoration. Some also have Spanish Mission design elements like red tile rooftops, arched entryways and round or quatrefoil windows. Sometimes this category is also referred to as Arts and Crafts.
Rustic – The finish on these outdoor lighting fixtures have a more natural appearance, not polished, which lends to a more organic and rough look. Sometimes they are detailed with branches or leaves. It is affiliated with a County or Lodge style. Built with logs and stones, Rustic homes are often hand crafted. Small paneled windows, battered walls and overhanging roofs are also characteristic of Rustic homes. Bent or twisted logs and branches occasionally decorate the interior décor.
Victorian – Exterior lights sometimes have intricate scrolls, lacy details and are fanciful in design. Victorian homes before the Civil War were relatively simple but afterwards became very ornamental with free-style decoration, Corinthian-columned porches, gabled rooftops, shingles and a more flamboyant or elaborate style are common in Victorian homes.
Mediterranean / Spanish – Islamic and Italian influences are included here. Exterior lights are composed of intricate detailing and elaborate shapes. Many are made of wrought iron. A tile roof, small balconies or porches, half round arched doors and windows, stucco and ornamental iron trim are characteristic of Spanish homes.
Classic / Traditional – These are decorative but not excessively ornamental. The outdoor lights often have gentle curves and elegant straight lines. Traditional homes are a broad category that simply means the majority of the design has elements from past styles that are not exotic. Sometimes people refer to traditional styles as having past European or Colonial design elements.
Transitional – This is a traditional style that has been designed to have a more casual warmer look. It’s a new type of styling without lots of ornamentation to create a more comfortable and less formal setting. Some look slightly contemporary. The exterior lights are often bronze or earth toned with warmer glass that is not clear.
Contemporary / Modern – These outdoor light fixtures do not have ornamentation, rather they feature an uncluttered and lighter design with a single tone finish. Contemporary or Modern homes also exhibit the same characteristics with no “unnecessary” detail and an emphasis on horizontal and vertical lines and simplistic shapes.
Soft Contemporary / Casual – A new style that is a softer contemporary for a more relaxed look. The fixtures are designed with very little ornamentation and the finish is a gentler brushed nickel or earth toned.
Oriental – This category of outdoor lighting fixtures includes Japanese and other Asian styles. They often have peaceful zen-like horizontal lines, and sometimes feature characteristics of oriental landscapes like the banzai tree. Some also emulate the architectural elements of oriental homes like the rectangular windows and flatter roofs.
Tropical – Design elements often have characteristics of fruit or the tropics, such as pineapples or palm leaves. This styling is generally regarded as a category that depends more on a homeowner’s personal taste, as homes are not formally regarded as having a tropical style. Certainly homes in a tropical region or with tropical landscapes may benefit from this design.
Nautical – If you have a love for the aquatic or maritime than these outdoor lighting fixtures may be perfect for you. Designs have characteristics that relate to ships, boats, piers, fishing, light houses and marine navigation. This category often works well with many types of homes, such as traditional, craftsman, mission and rustic, especially if you live near water.