Choosing Timeless Exterior Lighting (A Designer Guide)

I hope you had a great weekend! The weather here was so amazing, and I’ve been in outdoor project mode… power washing, pulling out our patio furniture, readying the garden, and getting our exterior and outdoor living to-do list in order. One priority I have for this season is to clean and update some of our exterior lighting. Click through for my top timeless exterior light fixture picks (sconces, lanterns, pendants, and landscaping lighting)– as well as for my best selection tips! Click through for my designer guide…

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If you’re interested in touring all of my outdoor living spaces, be sure to click the link for the complete tour. We’re still pulling things out for the season ahead, but they’ll look the same as last year once I’m all finished. Ready to chat outdoor lighting?

Exterior Lighting Selection Tips

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I felt like a check list or comprehensive questions to ponder was the best way to convey which light fixtures will work best for your exterior space…

  • First, is the fixture wet or damp rated? Wet means it can be exposed to any element (rain, snow, etc). Damp rated means it can exist outside in a protected area (like a covered porch). Dry rated fixtures are not a suitable choice for outdoor spaces.
  • Is the light fixture decorative, functional, or both? In other words, how bright do you need the light to be? Is it simply to add a warm glow, or does it need to illuminate a walkway?
  • Are there are other light fixtures within the vignette? For example, perhaps a covered porch contains sconces on each side of the entry door, as well as a pendant hanging from the portico… while different types of fixtures, they should feel cohesive or complementary.
  • Does your exterior lighting plan feel layered? Just like an interior lighting plan, the objective is to mix & match different fixture types (sconces, pendants, lanterns, post lights, landscaping lights, etc) for a well-rounded and well-designed exterior. Check out this post on tips for layering lighting like a designer!
  • Is the finish or color suitable for your home? Not only should the fixture finish be durable, but it should have enough contrast with your home exterior. I prefer black or bronze exterior lights because they look good against my brick home, as well as against my white painted brick, and white storage shed. Contrast is key!
  • Is the fixture scale appropriate? Just like accounting for furniture size when creating a floor plan, the light fixture should be sized for the vignette in which it exists. Here’s an example: if your front door is oversized (like my double french doors), the vignette will require sconces or porch lights that are larger or oversized to feel balanced. Check out this post on tips for getting scale right!

My Top Picks

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The following options vary in size, price, and aesthetic… but all are classic picks that won’t go out of style. Black and bronze look best with my home and aesthetic, so for the sake of simplicity- that’s what I selected for these collages… but the majority of these fixtures come in multiple finishes, so be sure to click through to find the finish most appropriate for your own home!

Click directly on each light fixture below to be redirected.

Exterior Sconces

These are ideal for porch lights, flanking garage doors, alongside entry doors, on exterior buildings- like a shed or pool house, and are optimal for patios.

Exterior Lanterns

Lanterns are charming for any aesthetic! You could also install these as porch lights, flanking garage doors, alongside an entry door, on any exterior billing, shed, or pool house.

Exterior Pendants

Where might you install a pendant outside? Beneath a covered porch, patio, portico, balcony, pergola, or any type of exterior structural overhang. Does anyone remember my carport makeover?

Landscape Lighting

Landscape lighting is something we’ve yet to tackle at our house, but it’s high on our priority list this spring & summer. These intentionally placed lights are perfect for illuminating walkways, highlighting architectural elements, and light washing general outdoor areas.

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Would you mind sharing the link for your front porch lanterns?

Of course! You can find my front porch lanterns here. They’re an amazing budget-friendly option with a great sense of scale. Highly recommend!

Can you install any light fixture outside?

No- they need to be specific to exterior installation, or wet-rated. Outdoor lights are weather resistant and more durable than interior fixtures. Sometimes you can get away with certain indoor rated fixtures in a very protected area, but it’s always best to search for exterior rated (damp and wet) fixtures for that specific application.

Can you link the solar sconces from your shed? And do you still like them?

They’re still working perfectly, and I love them! We don’t even have the solar panels attached to the roof of the shed… they’re simply sitting inside the window and they illuminate as soon as it darkens. These solar sconces are under $100 and are another great budget find!

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Looking for more exterior, curb appeal, or lighting related posts? I’ll link some helpful ones for you below…

Timeless Exterior Lighting Picks -

I hope you liked this one! Feel free to leave any lighting (interior or exterior) questions you may have for me below. I’m always happy to help! Lighting is one of those things that drastically improves the look of a vignette. It’s an easy way to make a statement, change the overall aesthetic, or improve functionality. What’s on your outdoor project list this spring and summer? Be sure to check back on Wednesday for my big Basement Media Room reveal!

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  1. Good morning! Oh, lighting. Except for my orphan lamp collection, illumination is definitely my weakest design area, and our exterior is especially…dark. As in, we have a single pendant near our back entry and a single sconce at our front door. Are you aghast? Will I be banished? In my defense, we have three neighbors whose exterior lights shine constantly. Despite our 6-foot fence, I often feel like a SWAT team is descending on our backyard.🙄 That being said, our patio, garden, and front yard could certainly benefit from some *pleasant* lighting. I like the idea of strategically placed landscape lights, so maybe I’ll ponder those for this season. If I can keep myself from spending all of my budget on plants. Ha. Also, the squirrel mafia has been ruthless this spring; they’re shredding the gasket on our garage door and eating all my seeds before they sprout. 😭 Currently seeking solutions for a convivial coexistence. Regardless of assaults luminary and rodentia, we’re soaking up all the glorious spring weather! Cheers to a beautiful week, Sarah!💜

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      I have a feeling you’re very good at lighting, Peggi! I know all about your lamp collection and have seen your photos :) ha! You could never be banished, lol. Exterior lighting can be tricky though (at least I think so). We definitely need to continue updating ours and I really want to add some solar power landscape lights this spring. Unlike your neighbor’s super bright lights that shine into your space (oof), I always prefer the dimmer, soft options. Being just outside the city, we get a lot of light pollution. I always appreciate seeing the stars when we travel. I’m cracking up at your squirrel mafia! I hope they stop causing a ruckus. Our neighbors sprinkle coffee grounds around their garden to ward off deer & squirrels, but I’m not convinced it works. Cheers to spring, indeed! xo

  2. Good morning Sarah! Your lighting choices are sleek, and well rounded! One stop shop here, lol. I’ve always loved your exterior light fixtures. I’m happy to report that your previous tips helped us update all of our exterior lights during lockdowns. The lights that previously existed on our exterior were surprisingly great scale and style for our home. The problem was the finish. I never figured out what the metal was- but they were in rough shape. After several rounds of trying to polish them back to beauty we gave up- but we loved the profile, size, and style. We ended up finding the exact same fixtures in an updated flat black finish at Lowe’s. There were only two lights that weren’t to scale; after remedying that, we couldn’t be happier! We’ve yet to tackle landscape lighting. Our large project this spring is the garden, which takes up a significant portion of a large bed on the side of the house. Once that’s done, we’ll be moving to the opposite side; tearing out shrubs that have hit the end of their life span, mapping things out for a new shed, and installing fresh landscape. We have big plans, but as you know, it’s all time and money. Ha! We are having fun with it though. Do you have any tips for cleaning exterior lights? That’s one of the projects on my to-do list- we haven’t cleaned ours since installation. I’d love to know if there’s any specific products that do a fantastic job, any gadgets that help, etc. Thank you for the recommendations. I’m going to browse all the landscape lighting you linked and see if there’s any that strike a chord. Cheers to a fantastic week ahead! We are mired in spring showers and clouds, but hopefully you’re having more sunshine and spring beginnings! Xoxo

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Thank you, Lauren! I love to hear that… lighting is my favorite (alongside vintage rugs, ha). You lucked out with your existing lights- it sounds like you were able to polish them back to being beautiful! That’s amazing. Landscape lighting is also on our to-do list this spring. I can totally relate on having big plans, but not enough time or money. Ha! It will happen eventually, and it really is a fun process. For cleaning exterior lights, if there are glass pieces that can be removed, I’ll run them through our dishwasher. For anything else- I actually use the pressure washer with soap… just be careful to avoid the bulb because the pressure will cause it to burst and break (been there, done that).

  3. Good Morning!
    Lots of great recommendations on exterior lighting Sarah! There are so many beautiful fixtures and selections. You have exquisite taste and appreciate this post. Our cottage is probably the biggest priority regarding exterior lighting, well actually in general overall but it’s definitely our focus this year.
    We finalized the well install last summer after a 2 year wait with the well company. What an ordeal my gosh but it’s complete now and we can move on with other projects.
    We plan to a spend chunk of time there this summer so hopefully we can accomplish some projects that have been put on the back burner.
    It’s been a beautiful winter here in Florida and will head out in less than a week. We need to start gardening projects in Burlington and getting patio party ready for summer fun!
    I’m excited to see your basement reveal family room area on Wednesday. I know it’s going to be amazing! Happy Monday and hope your week is off to a wonderful start 😎

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Hi Colleen! Thank you- I appreciate that. So exciting about your cottage! I love that you two are choosing to focus on it this year, and things have finally wrapped up with the well company. Those sort of things always move so slow. What a wonderful summer you’re going to have! I also love to hear that FL has been treating you nicely this winter. I’m actually headed to FL in a few weeks, so I’ll just miss you. Hope you’re having a good week!

  4. Some great suggestions here, thank you. I’m looking for gas lanterns for my front porch. Do you have any ideas?