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Schoolhouse 101: Outdoor Lighting Guide

Schoolhouse 101: Outdoor Lighting Guide

With summer in full swing, many of us have been spending as much time as possible soaking up the sun in our backyards, balconies, and patios. Which is why we feel there is no better time than the present for an exterior lighting spruce-up. As firm believers that our homes are oh-so-deserving of some tender loving care, we thought we’d share a few helpful outdoor lighting tips for creating an extra ambient and efficiently lit exterior.

 table outside with a view of the backyard


To start, we wanted to cover one of the most frequently asked lighting questions we receive, which is — can I install my light fixture outside?

The short answer? It depends on where you are installing it. To understand a bit more about what you need for your space, it helps to know the difference between wet-rated and damp-rated light fixtures.


Wet-rated fixtures are designed to withstand direct exposure to outdoor elements like rain and snow. Some of our fixtures are specifically wet-rated and suitable for outdoor use.

Damp-rated fixtures on the other hand are built for use in outdoor locations protected from harsh weather. Many of our fixtures are damp-rated and can be used in a covered porch, balcony, or patio.

  plant next to a building with black window trimVia @abeautifulmess


To determine if a fixture is wet-rated or damp-rated, check out the “Product Details” tab on the product page. If you’re unsure of what type of light fixture you need for your exterior setup, we recommend you consult your electrician.


Outdoor Lighting Placement 

When it comes to perfect light placement, it’s best to start with what type of fixture you’re planning to install. Below we share our tried and true measurements for wall sconces, surface mounts, and pendants.


Wall Sconces

When working with wall sconces, we recommend installing the fixture so that it is centered at eye level, which is typically between 66”-72” from the finished floor. For horizontal spacing, we advise measuring a minimum of 6” between the door frame and the edge of the light fixture. This allows for optimal illumination for crucial tasks (like finding your keys, walking up steps, and welcoming guests). Based on experience, we’ve also found that it’s better to err on the bright side, so don’t be afraid to choose fixtures with higher light output or pair your sconces with brighter bulbs (see our light bulb guide for additional advice). 

diagram of sconce next to a door

door with a door and a potted plant on the porch

A red factory-style wall sconce installed on a porch.

Surface Mounts

As a general rule of thumb, when installing surface mounts, we recommend leaving at least 6” of clearance from the top of the door frame to the bottom of the light fixture. When it comes to surface mount size, we've found that outdoor fixtures often look the most visually balanced when they are at least 1/4 the height of the door.

diagram of ceiling light fixture above a door

white house and bushes

Pendants + Chandeliers

While there are no hard and fast rules, we’ve found that pendants + chandeliers work best if you have high ceilings. That said, when considering pendant height, we recommend leaving at least 6” of space from the bottom of the fixture to the top of the door frame. To help determine what length to order your pendant, try tying a balloon to a string to get a better sense of how the overall height and scale of the fixture work in your space.


diagram of a ceiling light fixture above a door

house with a roof and a doorVia @daviesdeldiablo


At the end of the day, your space is often an opportunity to own your style and flex your creative muscles (often your actual muscles too!). There are so many different ways to light your exterior, and it really comes down to your personal preference, so have fun with it! If anything, we hope this guide inspires you to explore outdoor lighting options and discover your own exterior aesthetic in the process. 


patio with a table and chairs and an American flag hangingVia @maxwhumphrey 

chair and a table in front of a blue house

patio with potted plants and blue walls

black house with a planter outside

white house with a wood door


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