Lookin’ At Lights

Our exterior light situation is a little ho-hum, as evidenced by this tiny fixture outside the back door on our garage (don’t mind the grimy green brick that’s screaming out for some scrubbing).

And yes, I realize the door itself is looking a little rough. It originally sported a rusty, loudly-banging storm door (not just a medium bang, this was SCARE-YOUR-NEIGHBORS LOUD) that we removed. So we’re getting ready to repair some of the trim and prime/paint it white to match the door in the sunroom veranda that we already updated.

But let’s turn our attention back to the light. It was too small and very weather-worn, so we decided it was time to make an upgrade. Choosing the fixture to upgrade it with proved a bit more challenging than we expected. Maybe because we’re not really used to shopping for them. I think we might have bought three exterior lights in the course of seven years. So after hitting up a local outlet and some big box stores without anything screaming “I’m perfect!” at us, Sherry took the hunt to a few online sites to see what she could come up with. After about an hour of clicking around (and waaaay too many windows being open at the same time which led to not one, but two browser crashes) there were eight contenders:

  1. Black lantern $69 here (inspired by the ones here)
  2. Seeded glass lantern $75 here
  3. Outdoor wall lantern $87 here
  4. X-Lantern $37 here
  5. Bronze cross-cross sconce $35 here
  6. Bronze lantern $79 here
  7. Antique copper wall light $219 here (purely just for eye candy, since it’s way above our budget)
  8. Bronze lantern $117 here

Making that mood board didn’t give us a eureka moment either. But what did was strolling through the lighting aisle at Home Depot and Lowe’s again, and discovering that Option #1 had gone on sale (down to $59). It had been my favorite all along anyways (Sherry was really into #6, but it was significantly smaller) and my argument for #1 was that we were looking for something large and in charge, and it was the second biggest of the bunch while also being among the three most affordable ones in the roundup. Sherry gave me one of those “hold on I’m thinking” faces and then said “ok, let’s do it.” And into our cart it went.

Installation was just like installing any other fixture:

  • Step 1: Turn off the power
  • Step 2: Remove the old one after staring at the wires to see how they’re connected (or even grabbing a photo of them with your phone if it’s your first light-switching job)
  • Step 3: Connect the new one to the same wires the old one had been connected to
  • Step 4: Tuck all of the wires into the backplate and use the provided screws to adhere the light to the house
  • Step 5: Turn the power back on and make sure the light is connected well and working correctly

So installation went nice and smoothly, and you can see from this photo that it’s a big improvement. Well, not the door. Or that green wall. But at least the light is no longer rusty and small.

You think I’m joking about the size difference, don’t you? Here’s a side-by-side with the old fixture so you can see just how much more substantial the new fixture is compared to the old one.

We personally like an outdoor fixture that has lots of visual presence, so this guy is doing the trick for us. Just imagine this with a freshly painted door and non-green bricks and a nice welcome mat and some plants on either side. I know… that’s a lot of imagining. We have a long way to go back here.

I like this shot the most, since it helps to show the size of the light, along with the traditional shape, which we think is pretty fitting with the exterior of our house (we’ve admired it on a lot of our neighbor’s homes, and also were inspired by this photo of an outdoor space with similar ones). At one point I suggested that we put them in The Artist Formerly Known As Prince The Veranda Formerly Known As The Sunroom (we’re looking for four sconces to go on the posts in there to provide some eye-level light) but after holding them up they didn’t look right – so we’re still on the hunt for what might work in there.

I’ll share just one more “after” photo of this guy because when I came out to take this picture I opened the door to find a herd of deer standing right outside. Of course they ran away at the sight of me.

But they didn’t go far and still make an appearance in the background of this picture.

Here they are, just giving me the ol’ deer staredown, when I stepped a little closer. If you’re on the edge of your seat for more of my stellar wildlife photography (or are just a fan of Where’s Waldo: Deer Edition) we’ve got this post on Young House Life for your deer-loving pleasure.

Sorry I keep getting sidetracked. Lights. We’re talking about lights. And obviously that back door isn’t our only outdoor fixture. We’ve got one more wall-mounted one above our garage. It was also looking a bit worse-for-wear and was also on the diminutive side.

So we purchased a second one to match the one we added to our backdoor.  And… the results were a little less impressive.

Even though it felt nice to have a sparkly new light up there – and the ORB finish commanded a bit more attention than the rusty gold – the size wasn’t reading as much of an improvement between those two giant garage doors (we’ll be painting those black or charcoal if that helps you visualize where things are going). And yes, we have more green stuff to attend to on that concrete driveway pad. Yeehaw, I smell some power-washing in my future…

But back to the light.

It’s not terrible, but it’s not exactly what we were hoping for. It just looks kinda lost on that big brick wall with those big garage doors. And I’ll admit we’re feeling a little defeated because of all of the lights that Sherry mood-boarded, it was among the largest of them all (it’s about 19″ high, and the biggest – and most expensive – was only 20″). Update: We also have a pergola planned for over the double garage and we want to add shutters to all of the windows on the side and back of our house eventually (as seen on Listy McListerson) so those are things to consider for this side of the house too.

Part of us feels like we should just stick with this one for the time being and withhold judgement until we can do some other things to the garage side of the house (like the paint the doors). And the other half of us feels like we should just return it if we don’t love it there, and not settle for something that we might later end up regretting.

What do you guys think? Would you keep it or return it in the hopes of finding something better? Any tips for where else to look besides local lighting shops, Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Overstock?


As a little Friday bonus, here are four fun projects, chats, or questions going on over on the Forums. We also announced this week’s giveaway winner, so you can click here (and scroll down to the Rafflecopter box) to see if it’s you.

by crabandfishblog by blucas by Gnomelover by rentalrevival


  1. says

    I think the new one is definitely better than the old and would keep it if you think it can be the final light. However, there’s always the option to be a little more spendy and do a nice electric copper lantern. It would work wonderfully with the style and aesthetic of your house and it would patina wonderfully over time. We’re looking to change out our front light with a gas copper one from a company in NOLA. http://www.oldtownhome.com/2013/1/16/Gassing-Up-Our-Curb-Appeal-with-a-Copper-Gas-Lantern/

    You could get in touch with them and see if they have anything that can work for your place. They’re all beautiful and classic designs.

    • says

      The other thing I noticed is that of the 8 options you have listed, the one you chose (#1) and the copper (#7) work best with the style of your house. I think most of the others would look out of place on your house. But the style you chose is (IMHO) the correct choice. From the link I included you could consider something like a taller/rectangular light that surface mounts right on the brick, rather than extending away from the house. Though I like the ones that hang a bit better.

      I know others have mentioned it, but I do think the one above the garage could move down a bit, and then you could place two more on either side of the doors. It’s much more involved and expensive than switching out a fixture (more lights, new wiring, drilling in the brick, patching old holes in the brick, etc), but it may well give you the look you’re after.

    • Madeleine says

      I agree with your suggestion Alex! Copper lanterns are beautiful and I think they would compliment John & Sherry’s house perfectly! :) x

  2. says

    I like the one by the door but I think something that actually hangs down instead of up would look better between the garage doors. It’s a personal preference thing though so go with your guts.

    Now I’m off to read about the deer because I lurve me some deer. When we see them at the side of the road, I roll down the window and talk to them because I think it’s hilarious to watch them follow us like “that woman is crazy…does she know we’re DEER!?!”

  3. Anna says

    I’ve been debating on updating our exterior lights as well. I have big ugly floods in the back and they really aren’t neccessary to light our tiny back yard. I like your options so thanks for doing some research for me.

    Isn’t it ‘Veranda’ though?

  4. says

    I’d return it. You’re right that the scale isn’t quite right. Since it wasn’t right before either, you’ve spent money with little benefit (unlike the back door fixture, where it looks much much better).

    We need a new front door fixture. Love #6 you posted, and I’m thrilled it’s not the most expensive option, which is usually the case.

  5. Kathy says

    I don’t think it’s the size of the light that looks not quite right, I think it’s the shape. Because it narrows toward the bottom, it actually seems to look smaller than the original (from far away, in pictures…). So, maybe your answer isn’t a bigger-than-the-new-one light. It could be a light similar in size, but just the shape of #3.

  6. Clodia says

    I think you should go ahead and return it. I think that part of the reason the light looks lost is that it juts up from where it is connected to the wall, instead of hanging down. That makes it out if line with the garage doors and incongruous. I think you can find something better.

  7. Jennifer I. says

    I say return it and wait for the right light to come along! I need to do my outdoor lights as well so can’t wait to see where you end up :)

  8. says

    I wanted my next project to be new outdoor garage lights (and #8 on your mood board makes my heart skip a beat) until I realized how awful the wiring in the garage is and I need an electrician to get in there asap to bring it back from the brink.

    I’ll quote from my favorite DIY-ers and say “the middle makes no sense.” Give it a little more time to evolve out there, and if you’re still not feeling it, make a swap.

    Instead of my lighting project, I painted a basket this week. Not quite as high impact, but fun nonetheless!


  9. Lindsay says

    I think the issue with the garage light isn’t so much the light itself but the fact that there is only one rather than two on opposite sides of the garage doors to balance things out and more visual interest. But of course with a brick wall that isn’t so easy to change! Good luck!

    • Brittnia says

      I agree. Two lights, one on each side of the garage doors, might be more visually appealing! The light looks great by the backdoor!

    • Eri says

      Agreed, that’s exactly my first thought. John and Sher, I think you need two, regardless of the design/size thingy. Not all two-car garages need two lights, but I think in your case the entire shape of the garage (taller with steep roof as you have the second story up there) demands two lights for a better balance. As for a brick wall — not so tough, ours is a brick house and we had our electrician add one light and one exterior outlet :) Good luck with your decision!

    • Janette says

      I was thinking three all hung lower than the one that is up at the moment, but two might be good. I realized drilling through brink might be terrible but you could mock it up on photoshop and see if you don’t love two or three lights better!

  10. kristen says

    Won’t you eventually need a light for the French doors off the kitchen?

    I say keep it for now, and then use it for those doors later so it will match the light at the back door.

  11. Iz says

    It depends what the alternative would be, if you haven’t seen anything significantly bigger already. Two lamps, perhaps? (or even 3??)I think you should keep it for now – it looks better and is good to have those two match.

    p.s. I think it’s veranda, not varanda :)

  12. Mary says

    Outside light are so difficult because of the scale but I really like the ones that you chose. Did you consider turning them upside down? The bulbs would have to be different since flames don’t go upside down but it’s a thought.

    • says

      I don’t think these would work upside down (they’d just look upside down) but I’ve always loved the idea of the hanging ones, so we might have to explore those options!


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