Ways to Light Your Outdoor Entryway

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

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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.

Upgrade With Lanterns

Hand Forged Lantern Enlarge Photo Photo Courtesy: Dan Piassick © 2013 Gibbs Smith, Allure of French & Italian Decor, Betty Lou Phillips

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.

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."


More Outdoor Lighting Design Ideas


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