It’s that time of year when driving around the neighborhood at night can seem almost magical. How do some homes manage to look so inviting inside and out during the holidays, while others seem to be suffering from the winter blahs? Believe it or not, lighting can make all the difference – and it doesn’t have to break the budget. Try some of these techniques from the lighting pros to take your home’s ambiance from flat to fabulous.
Make a grand entrance
Curb appeal doesn’t only matter when selling a home, it sets the mood for visiting guests before they cross the threshold. “We recommend updatingexterior lights with new technology that will enhance the home facade using the proper light levels and color temperatures,” says Richard Lentz, owner of Dallas-based Lentz Landscape Lighting and its interiors division Lentz Services. “Many homes have floodlights mounted directly to the face, shining up. These could be changed to fixtures using LEDs that would provide excellent lamp-life and low energy consumption.”
Look for a focal point on the property that can be accented with lighting to provide a nice contrast of color. “Tree lighting uses the heights of the trees to spread the light out in a soft and subtle way to bathe the area in light,” says Lentz.
“Properties that do not have large trees can still be illuminated by uplighting ornamental trees or washing the house itself with light,” says Lentz. “Decorative pole lights, garden path lights and step lights have all shown great advances in the past few years regarding style options, bulb types and energy efficiency.”
If you wish to hold your holiday party outside, Jeffrey Dross, senior product manager of Kichler Lighting, has some suggestions. “A well-designed landscape lighting system is custom-made for entertaining. The light is low, indirect and perfect for conversation,” he says, adding, “Be certain that stairs and steps are well lit. Guests may not be as familiar with the landscape as the owner.”
For specific holiday-themed drama, explore the latest seasonal decorations powered by LED lighting. “New color-changing technology now allows lighting designers to have the ability to specify custom color scenes or shows to set a particular mood for festivities,” says David Wilkins, president and CEO of American Lighting in Colorado. “Whether you desire a red roofline or one that fades from red to green and back to red, color-changing LED technology offers creativity like never before. You can produce the exact ambiance you like at any moment during your party or gathering this season.”
Continuing the festive mood indoors
You’ve set the scene outside your home, now it’s time to create a warm and cozy atmosphere inside.
Colleen Visage, senior product manager for Progress Lighting in South Carolina, shares several easy ideas for increasing the elegance of living and dining spaces without inflating the budget. “Decorate your existing lighting with festive accents. Replace a chandelier’s crystal teardrops with gold, silver or red glass balls or use berries or ivy to wrap around sconces, chandeliers and pendants,” she says.
Many homes already have track lighting, which can be adjusted to suit your decorating needs. “Position the track heads and mini-pendants so that they showcase the holiday items on display. Track heads and mini-pendants are available in a wide variety of colors to coordinate with the color theme in your decor,” says Visage. “In the dining room, add more light to the centerpiece or a holiday meal by aiming adjustable halogen track or recessed fixtures so that the light shines directly on the tabletop.”
A certified lighting consultant from an ALA-member lighting showroom can aid you in selecting the right fixtures to achieve this effect.
“One of the easiest ways to add festive ambiance during the holidays is to simply use the lights everyone thinks of as exterior, but do so in creative interior applications,” says Edward Cook, president of National Specialty Lighting in Colorado. He also suggests trying some themed novelty lights for a bit of fun. “For example, our Chili Pepper Cactus string lights might make an interesting entry to a Southwest Christmas dinner with lots of poinsettias, and our LED Crystal lights could always accompany a festive mantle.”
Both exterior and interior lighting advancements have changed significantly in the past few years. Today, there are more sophisticated lighting choices than the consumer would have ever thought possible in the past.
“The common mistakes homeowners make in lighting improvements are either using do-it-yourself stores for their lighting solutions (which either fail after a short time or do not achieve the look they were hoping for) or secondly, using an electrician for design expertise and possibly not receiving the most up-to-date fixture and lamp selections that a lighting designer can provide,” says Lentz. “A designer will usually think outside the box for lighting options that a client may not even be aware of and that could possibly make a significant impact on the overall lighting plan.”