How to Choose Lighting for the Exterior of Your Home: The Entry, Porch, and Front Door

Outdoor lighting can be extremely tricky; of course, you want to create a welcoming entrance to your home, but you also want to be able to safely up the steps and from the inside clearly identify who’s coming to visit. Curb appeal is important, and your front porch sets the tone for how your guests view your house; and that includes your lighting. Lighting is one very important way to create a great first impression. 
A pair of wall sconces or lanterns alongside the entryway can complete the look you want.

Safety is of course also an issue and the right lighting is key to reducing trip hazards around your home. Wall lanterns create a warm welcome and are very important for that exact reason. Aside from that they are decorative, and add appeal. You should consider combining them with landscape, step and path lights for ideal illumination. 

Another benefit from outdoor lighting is the illumination it creates outside the windows. Keep the windows from becoming “black holes” when viewed from inside. Instead it visually extends the living areas to the outside. Lighting the secondary entrances to your home, like patio and kitchen doors, follow the same requirements as the front door, but there the focus might be primarily on safety paired with a comfortable patio light for outdoor entertaining.

Choose lights that fit the atmosphere and fit the style of your home. You’ll find thousands of styles, so be warned, it will be difficult to choose, but not impossible. Depending on the architecture of your home it might be possible to use wall sconces, lanterns, or lights mounted to or recessed into the ceiling; of course, you could also do a combination of both. 

With some minimal, clean, contemporary home designs it might be tempting to choose only recessed overhead lights. This can be a bad idea, for many reasons. However, if this is still the lighting of choice, consider combining it with indirect illumination of landscape features or architectural details nearby. One of the most important considerations when choosing wall sconces is size and proportions. 

Size matters. Most home owners tend to choose entry lights that are too small for the scale of the door and the wall they are attached to. With larger homes and taller ceilings, be bold. No matter how much you like a certain light, you need to choose one that would be suited for your house.

If you are using two sizes of sconces for your front door as well as your garage you’ll want to use the larger sconces at the front door, since this is where you want to create the focal point. The smaller sconces that flank the garage door shouldn’t draw too much attention to this less attractive area of your home. Patio lighting is also important, as they are extensions of homes. They don’t have to be grand to be effective.

Try a combination of wall sconces next to the entryway, some lights for areas that need special attention like changes in terrain and compliment these with twinkling strands of lights in nearby trees or indirect light sources that add atmosphere by accenting architectural features or parts of the surrounding landscape.



  1. I love a good pair of sconces outside the home. Sconces to me, are better than a huge overhead light right above the front door. When I go to someone’s home at night, and they only have that overhead light, it makes me feel uncomfortable, like I’m standing underneath a spotlight. However, for safety reasons, you definitely should have one available. But, if you’re having a party or something like that, leave on the sconces, or gas lanterns, for sure.

  2. Agreed, I love exterior sconces. Another lighting option I really like are the recessed lights. However, I like them DIM, not like tiny spotlights (as you were saying).

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