The first sign of the coming holidays—aside from retailers putting out their Christmas stuff way too soon—are the exterior lights on homes, trees, fences, porches, and any outdoor spaces that can support them. From the simplicity of white lights to the colorful, twinkling light shows, there are many ways to make your home merry and bright. Here are some holiday lighting ideas and tips to get you started.
- Pick a color scheme. Look at your exterior holiday lights like you would your landscaping. Consider what you want to highlight and decide on a color scheme. Do you want multi-colored lighting, white lights, or maybe one or two colors (like blue and white or red and green)? Where do you want your colors to accent your home and yard?
- Choose a theme. To make your holiday lights an attractive accent to your home—and not a Clark Griswold “lightmare”—decide on a theme that will pull it all together. You could do Santa’s Workshop, a gingerbread house, Victorian, a nativity scene, Rudolph and the eight other reindeers, winter wonderland of snowflakes and icicle lights, or whatever sparks your excitement.
- Make a lighting blueprint. Stand at the front of your property and look at your holiday lighting opportunities: roof line, doors, windows, walkways, posts, fences, trees, shrubs, and walls. Decide where you are going to just string lights and where you want to wind them onto other items, like wreaths and garlands. Take a photo of your house and yard, and then draw over it to show where your lights will go. This step will help you visualize the look, and decide whether you need fewer or more lights.
- Get creative. When you’re thinking about lighting outside your house, think outside the box. Look at decorative pieces like container gardens, birdbaths, and hanging plants or baskets. Fill glass containers with battery-operated lights to highlight those places away from your house or trees, like a centerpiece in your yard. Fill birdfeeders with lights (but leave some with birdseed for the winter feathered flocks). Line your walk with luminarias for softer light.
- Explore your choice of lights. It can be overwhelming when you walk into a store to look for holiday lights. You have more choices than ever for size and shape, flickering or not, electric or battery-operated, and incandescent or LED. The candle-shaped lights you see in the older movies are C7 and C9, and the large size means brighter dots of color. The miniature light strands come in a broad range of lengths and color choices. Icicle lights are available in traditional or short drop, depending on how far you want those lighted icicles to hang. Combining the lights can give you a more interesting look. And remember that LED lights use less energy than the incandescent version, so if you’re using a lot of holiday lights, make sure you’ve calculated your energy use.
- Use a timer. A timer takes the worry out of ensuring you’ve turned out all the lights when you’re out or go to bed. It also allows you to control the energy consumption.
May your days and your home be merry and bright this holiday season!