Exterior Lighting

07.30.2020

One of the most positive ways to enhance the character and warmth of a home is with carefully orchestrated exterior lighting.  This addition of luminosity in the dark is a way to celebrate a home’s architecture in the night as well as the day.  Equally important in the front and the rear of a house, proper exterior lighting has the power to set mood and tone in the evening hours.  Below are some of our team’s tried and true ways to highlight your property’s unique features and make your home incredibly inviting at night. 

Coach lights, landscaping lighting, spot lighting, and a lit pool provide a warm, inviting glow at Atlantic Drive Double Gable.

Lighting your entry

Timeless architecture calls for classic lighting, and from the street we immediately consider lamp post lights, coach lights, and pendants as ideal lighting options.

Popular from the early 1800s with gas flames used for illumination, lamp post lights endure today in a variety of styles and beckon guests to approach the front door.  While gas lanterns on posts are occasionally still used for historical character, electric lights are far more popular, and efficient vintage-style LED bulbs can cast a similar glow.  In selecting an LED bulb, be sure to look for one that shines a warm light on your pathway as opposed to the too-bright cold light emitted from the first LEDs on the market.

A lamp post marks the fenced entrance to 31 South Water Street in Edgartown on Marthas Vineyard.

One of our favorite ways to introduce a timeless theme at the point of entry is through the use of copper coach lighting. Set astride a front door, coach lights give a warm halo to the front of the house. We find traditional handmade coach lights on Martha’s Vineyard, but other options can be found wherever copper artisans may be working. With copper coach lighting, size is critical – consider that the fixtures are a feature, and should be prominently visible from the street.

Two handmade copper coach lights accentuate the main entrace of Chatham Cottage Revival.
At the rear of Royal Barry Wills Reconsidered, coach lights mark the multiple entrances to the home and guest house.

Under a portico or at times within a vestibule, we look to hanging pendant lights to set character and theme. Carefully using a pendant light, an entryway can be lit with a romantic luminescence. The scale of these pendants is particularly important – be sure to consider the height of your portico as you select a pendant.

Hanging pendant lights are just visible underneath the portico and both corner porches.
At Vineyard Escape, subtle lighting provides a warm glow to the main and side entrances.
Hanging pendant lights can also be used to light porches similar to the rear central porch of Concord New Farmhouse. Meanwhile, coach lights flank the reamining entry points to the home.

Beyond lampposts, coach lights, and hanging pendants, we sometimes find historically significant light fixtures present when renovating older structures. Restoring these fixtures and allowing them a place in a renovation can provide unique character to an exceptional property.

When restoring homes, we aim to preserve the existing character including historically significant light fixtures similar to these of Allen Road. The existing lanterns can then be replicated by local artisans if we add a carriage house or addition to the home.

Spotlighting

Perhaps one of the best ways to accentuate a home’s architectural splendor is low voltage spotlighting.  Tucked away in the landscape, viewers should be unaware of precisely where the light is coming from.  Instead of emphasizing the fixture itself, light is shone upon any number of dominant architectural elements present in the property.  We often seek to wash the entry with a warm glow, or highlight features like gables or peaks with soft spotlighting.  In other instances, a spotlight to dramatize the edge of a dominant chimney can add just the right amount of evening romanticism.

Spotlighting empahsizes the front door, library wing, and a landscaped centerpiece in the motorcourt of Cliff Side in Wellesley, MA.

Lighting your landscape

Specifically related to landscape lighting, our team is always Dark Sky (IDA) compliant.  In order to see the natural beauty of twinkling nighttime stars, lower lit landscape lighting must be used, and sets a luxurious tone.  We work with these concerns in mind as we think about lighting along a driveway arrival sequence, in between shrubs, and along footpaths in the dark.

Low, subtle lighting set within the plantings along the bluestone path to the front door creates a magical, story book effect.
We also like to highlight outdoor steps with subtle, low lighting so the family and guests and easily navigate the property without a bright light source at night.

Uplighting

It is still possible and worthwhile to do some carefully selected tree uplighting while respecting the work and goals of the International Dark Sky Association.  Depending on the size and scale of the property, too much uplighting can be overkill.  Articulating one or two trees can be a great solution to draw the eye to the outside at night and express the full scale of a property.

Uplighting highlights the red brick front facade of Carisbrooke Georgian Revival located in Wellesey, MA.
A wall of arborvitaes is uplit at night by low-lighting behind a New England Fieldstone wall at Edge Hill Residence in Wellesley, MA.
Newly planted trees are uplit on the property of Chatham Harbor Overlook.

Considering new architectural features to emphasize on your own property?  Contact us to learn what we might accentuate throughout the day.  In the interim, we invite you to find meaningful inspiration in our portfolio.