Door Entrance Lighting: Ideas and Tips to Create a Warm and Safe Welcome

Ideas to Create a Warm and Safe Home

Your main entrance plays an important role in your home's curb appeal, both during the day and at night. It also provides a warm 'Welcome' to family and friends, and ensures safe passage to your door. Read on to learn how to select and position outdoor entrance lighting that catches the eye, adds a layer of security, and accentuates your home's architectural design.

How to Light Your Front Entrance (and Side and Back Doors)

The first step is to appraise your entryway to determine how much space you have and where you may need to add wiring. Start with your highest-use entrance, whether that's the front, side, or back door of your house. Keep in mind that you aren't limited to the choices made by previous owners or the builder when considering new lighting options.

Here are the main entrance lighting fixtures to consider:

Outdoor Wall Lights and Patio Sconces

Commonly referred to as 'porch lights,' outdoor wall light fixtures mount on one or both sides of your door, or the wall directly above the door. These fixtures serve to illuminate visitors' faces and help you find the doorknob and keyhole at night. Striking modern designs complement contemporary architecture, while traditional lanterns add classic elegance to older homes.

Try Wall Lights and Patio Sconces

Overhead Outdoor Lighting Fixtures

You likely have an architectural feature over your door to protect you from rain and snow, whether it's a covered porch, an overhang, or a portico. For grand front entrances, this is the perfect location for overhead lights, such as outdoor pendants, outdoor chandeliers, or outdoor flush and semi-flush mount fixtures. It can stand alone, or you can coordinate the style and materials with wall lights.

For small entryways, such as mini-porches, breezeways, and townhomes where the door abuts the garage on one side, using an overhead light alone may be your only option. Steer clear of hanging lights if you live in a location prone to strong winds, and opt for flush mount fixtures instead.

Outdoor Spot and Step Lights

Get creative with uplighting from ground-based spotlights aimed towards your entryway to create an attractive, welcoming effect. Placement matters here so you aren't shining lights directly in guests' eyes as they leave your house. Play with the angle so it's not intrusive.

Step lights and recessed floor lights cast a warm glow to help visitors ascend your front steps safely, while also showcasing beautiful brickwork or entryway tiling.

Outdoor Lighting Combinations

For most homes, a combination of light fixtures provides the mix of targeted and broader lighting you need for a warm welcome and safety. For example, hang an elegant glass pendant with brushed metallic trim from your patio or portico ceiling, and boost ambient light with coordinated wall lanterns beside the door. Finish the look with understated step light fixtures.

Keep other Exterior Lighting in Focus

When Designing Your Entrance Lighting, Keep Other Exterior Lighting In Focus

Think of your main entrance lighting as the north star of your exterior lighting. Arriving guests should know exactly where to head when you're entertaining. But other nearby lighting (both outdoor and indoor) add layers and interest to your front entrance lighting. Here's how to ensure all the lights balance:

Illuminate your porch and patio. Include outdoor living areas near your main entrance in your exterior lighting design. For a porch, this could mean an outdoor lighted ceiling fan that makes a seating area comfortable on hot summer nights. If there is a corner porch seating area, consider a bold outdoor chandelier or pendant overhead, or outdoor table lamps on a patio side table. Side-mount downlights on the porch railing or support columns and wall sconces provide beautiful accents for these gathering spots.

Lead the way with front path and stair lighting. Glass-paneled, solid brass pole lanterns light the way to your front door in classic style. Low-profile, half-dome path lights and dramatic metal and glass pathway bollards serve the same function, but with a modern turn. Make sure your steps are bright from the bottom to the top. Recessed stair lights or strategically placed spotlights ensure you, your family, and friends are safe coming and going.

Light your driveway and garage. These areas take up a lot of real estate in the front of your home, so use them wisely as hosts for lighting fixtures. Hang a floodlight above the garage, along with some wall sconces on either side of the garage door. A sunken driveway calls for semi-flush downlights on retaining walls, while a slab driveway has space for post and bollard lights at the end and along the sides. You may even want to consider ground-level spotlights shining on landscaping and architectural features, or downlights in trees lighting the driveway from above.

Remember interior lights, too. The glow of foyer and entry lighting can wash through windows beside your front door or a transom above. Your living room lighting may spill onto your front porch as well, especially if your shades or curtains are sheer. Turn on the lights you typically use at night near your main entrance to see how they impact illumination levels, and keep that in mind as you design your entrance lighting.

Keep Other Exterior Lighting in Focus

Light Your Door Entrance for Safety and Security

All of your entrances should have light fixtures that provide enough brightness for visitors and safety. First-time guests may approach the side door instead of your front door, and you don't want to leave any entrance to tempt unwanted visitors. You also want to see who is arriving at your door.

Make sure your entrance lighting provides adequate ambient light around your doors. You can achieve this with outdoor flush or semi-flush fixtures, pendants, chandeliers, or wall lights—or a combination of two types of entrance lighting. You may also want to consider a lighted doorbell so guests and delivery people can find it with ease.

As for bulb brightness, a little goes a long way. If you are lighting a doorway with one fixture, shoot for bulbs of 200 to 500 lumens. If you're using multiple light fixtures, they should each emit about 200 lumens.

Light Your Doors in Style

Light Your Doors In Style

Your entryway lighting should enhance your home's aesthetic appeal during the day, as well as at night. You can match the lighting to your home's style. For example, choose elegant Craftsman-style fixtures for a Craftsman-style house. Alternatively, you can use your entrance lighting to showcase your unique design style. There's no rule against adding contemporary light fixtures to a Cape Cod or Tudor-style home.

Style flourishes in outdoor lighting come from the materials, finish, and accents. Here, we've dreamed up a few style ideas for entrance lighting to inspire your own:

  • Add hip, modern style with a black ceiling fan with streamlined blades and an orb light.
  • Connect your entrance style across elements with bronze entrance light fixtures that match a bronze doorknob, mail slot, and house number.
  • Use your entrance lighting to enhance existing outdoor décor. Rustic wall lights complete a farmhouse-style porch replete with rocking chairs and hanging baskets.
  • Select minimalist fixtures to complement a mid-century modern exterior.

Fine-Tune Your Entrance Lighting With Technology

Timers and motion detectors ensure your entrances are well lit when needed. When using motion detectors (which are ideal for low-use doors), be sure the sensor is not aimed too far out from your entrance to avoid triggers by animals, cars, or sidewalk foot traffic. Timers reduce lighting costs and tell would-be intruders your home is occupied—even when it's not—as do fixtures with photocells that switch on when things get dark, and then off again at first light.

Now you're ready to design entrance lighting that makes a welcome first impression, lights the way, and reflects your style.