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How to Choose Lighting For Your Garage

Henriette Rieu  |  August 22, 2014  |  3 Min. Read

Lighting  |  Outdoor Lighting

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Recently, Nick showed us how to use landscape lighting to create ambiance in the yard and also how to use path lighting to keep your walkways clear as well as lights on the house to keep your house secure.

To start, consider the architecture of your house. What is its style? Is it traditional? Modern? Does it have a lot of clean lines or is it more ornate? Does it have a lot of angular, square-type shapes or is it more circular, curved, and flowy?

The key is to have your lights relate to your house in some way and thus create cohesion, whether it is through similar lines or colors. You wouldn’t use the same lights to light a very modern house and a traditional Cape. The lines from the house can help to determine the style what style you should look for in regards to the lighting.


Modern Exterior by Menlo Park Architects & Building Designers Ana Williamson Architect

The lights on this modern house are simple and clean-lined, just like the architecture. I like that the one light over the numbers has the same finish as the decorative framing and is long and cylindrical. I also like how the globe light to the left pops out, much like the pops of green and red.


Traditional Exterior by Minneapolis Kitchen & Bath Remodelers Sicora Design/Build

The lights on this house are very traditionally styled. Here, you can see that there is a larger fixture used over the front door than by the garage, but that they are from the same family. The lights have a lot of different angles to them, much like the house does. There is a good balance between curves and angles especially in the archway over the door, and in the molding over the garage door. Also, the dark finish is a nice contrast against the sage green and works with the dark patio furniture.

Secondly, concentrate on your front door. When picking lights for your garage, you should have already picked lights for your front door and the lights for your garage should complement (if not be smaller versions of) those lights.

Next, consider sizing when selecting your garage door lights. Often fixtures on the front of the house can be too small. Lights also look smaller in the showroom than they will in person. Consider that most people who see your outdoor lights will do so from the street so they do need to be sizeable.

Front door lights should be 1/3 the height of the door if using 1 or ¼ the height of the door if using 2. Garage lights should be slightly smaller than the front door lights. For traditional-styled homes, I suggest looking for a family of lights that will offer multiple sizes to keep the look cohesive. So if you use lights for your front door that ¼ of the size of the door, I would suggest looking for the next smaller size for the garage if mounting on both sides.

Here are some examples of lights in our showroom that come in multiple sizes (or “families”):

Quoizel’s Newbury Family:


Hinkley’s Edgewater Family:


Hinkley’s Freeport Family:


Northeast Lantern’s Onion Family:


Another feature to consider when selecting outdoor lighting is the finish. The finish should complement the colors that are already on the house. Where gold brass was once the leader of the pack, black is probably the most popular finish selection for outdoor lighting, followed by bronze.

When considering a finish, I ask clients to think about the accents on their house. What color are your shutters? How about a railing, if you have stairs? What color is your mailbox? These are all different accents which can be used to highlight the house, and should you pick a finish that complements those existing colors to look more cohesive.

Bronze is becoming more and more popular. Bronze is great because it comes in lots of different variations of brown and can highlight and complement most earth tones. Although less commonly used, lighter colors can be visually striking on dark colored houses with light trim. Another option to consider is using a light colored lantern if your house is dark colored. White, pewter, and copper will all pop more against a house that is darker in color than a lighter house.

Key Takeaways:

  • Consider your home’s architecture. Use this as inspiration to find a style that works!
  • Use your front door as a guide, both for sizing and style. The garage lights should match the style of the light used by the front door and should be1/3 the height of the door if using 1 or ¼ the height of the door if using 2.
  • Make sure you pick a finish that will help your accent pieces pop and work with the theme you have already set in place.

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Henriette Rieu

Henriette Rieu has been a lighting designer and home builder for over 25 years and has been with Yale for almost 15. Henriette enjoys the creative aspect of lighting design and help clients with remarkable projects.

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