Ways to Light Your Outdoor Entryway

Lanterns, sidelights and transom windows are a few choices to illuminate your exterior.


Photo by: Chipper Hatter

Chipper Hatter

You want your entry to feel warm and inviting and be a safe environment for nighttime visitors. Upgrade your entry and increase curb appeal by adding new lanterns or updating your front door with sidelights or transom windows that allow natural light inside your home.

Hand Forged Lantern

Hand Forged Lantern

The french inspired hand forged lantern is mounted on the exterior of this southern California home. Photo By: Dan Piassick

Photo by: Photo Courtesy: Dan Piassick

Photo Courtesy: Dan Piassick

The french inspired hand forged lantern is mounted on the exterior of this southern California home. Photo By: Dan Piassick

Upgrade With Lanterns

If you currently have only one ceiling light in the center of your entry or front porch, consider upgrading your lighting by adding surface-mounted lanterns. Avoid shadows and unpleasant glare and make sure steps and landings are properly illuminated by using a comprehensive lighting scheme that combines accent, ambient and task lighting.

"A better lighting approach for your entry helps invite guests into your home," says Jeff Dross, Kichler Lighting's corporate director of education and industry trends. "If done in tandem with good landscape lighting, it can also call attention to the architecture of your house."

Dross says to look for lanterns UL-listed for wet locations. When choosing the right lantern, take into account the architectural style of your home (is it traditional, modern or transitional?); the colors featured on the exterior of your home (for example, do you have lots of red brick with gold tones?); the energy-efficiency of the fixture; and your budget. Prices for surface-mounted entry lanterns range from less than $100 to well over $1,000 for custom fixtures.

"If you're not sure about the style of your home, take a photo of your house and go visit your local lighting store," suggests Dross. "There are salespeople who can help you find the right lantern if you tell them your budget. There's a wide variety of styles on the market now, so regardless of the architecture of your home you can find the right fixture."

Exterior Sidelights

If you're upgrading your front door, consider the addition of sidelights, vertical windows that flank your front door. Single or double sidelights can enhance your entry and give you additional light or more visibility. Most commonly, sidelights are available in 10- or 12-inch widths. There are lots of glass options today, including clear glass, obscured glass, impact-resistant laminated glass (great for those concerned about security), and frosted glass with etched designs.

There are also options for how much glass you want to show. You can get sidelights that are half glass with a lower flat panel painted to match door or trim color, and sidelights where one-quarter of the sidelight is glass on top if you want light but also prefer some privacy.

"I always like to say the entry door is the bow tie of the house," says Rob Garofalo, product marketing manager for Andersen Windows & Doors. "It can change the whole look of your house and be a signature. With sidelights, you really want to think about the style you're trying to convey from the curb. That dictates how much glass or the panel you want."

Grille options also allow you to create a custom look. Generally a new single-door unit with two sidelights can cost about $2,000 to $3,000. Keep in mind if you're upgrading from a standard-width door, some siding will need to be removed and the opening reframed, which adds cost to the project.



Photo courtesy of Anderson Windows and Doors

Photo courtesy of Anderson Windows and Doors

Transom Windows

If upgrading your single or double front door, consider adding a transom window. A transom is a window found directly over the top of a door that can make an exterior feel taller and grander. Transom windows allow light into the entry inside and make your interior feel airy.

Transoms cost $500 to $2,000 and are available in many different shapes, including a fanlight half circle, a rectangular transom and an ellipse transom (a rounded window with a subtle arch). But remember to take into account the height of your entry.

"You need that headroom above the door," says Garofalo. "Not every home has that luxury."

Outdoor Lighting Designs

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Plan in Threes

Planning several layers of outdoor lighting creates visual interest in a landscape. Here, designer Ilija Karlusic achieved this effect by lighting the entryway, the tree in the middle of the yard and the mailbox in front of the property.

Photo By: Rhiannon Slatter

Even Light Distribution

Installing extremely bright lights in an outdoor space often creates unsafe dark areas. Instead, install low levels of lighting all around, as seen in this patio designed by Robert Hursthouse.

Entry Lighting

Two wall-mounted light fixtures flank the entryway of this contemporary home, playing up the double door and providing a safe entrance at night. Design by Amy Bubier

Inexpensive Party Lights

Decorative string lighting fastened inside an umbrella provides inexpensive illumination for outdoor entertaining. Design by Robert Hursthouse

Accent Lighting

Exterior accent lighting can be used to draw attention to your home's unique features, such as architectural details, sculptures or plants. In this outdoor space designed by Jamie Durie, lighting adds another dimension to the sculpture at night, changing highlights and casting shadows.

Path Lighting

Landscape lighting is an important safety element for any outdoor space. In this garden, a series of path lights illuminates the meandering walkway that leads to the destination terrace. Design by Robert Hursthouse

Step Lighting

An alternative to path lights, step lights can be integrated into outdoor stairs to enhance safety. In this space, designer Paul Wrona also incorporated lights in the water feature for added interest at night.

Upgraded Lighting

This outdoor space features multiple lighting fixtures that enhance its functionality and safety, including path lights along walkways and spotlights in the pergola and bar area. Design by Paul Wrona

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