Many ways to light up the season |

Many ways to light up the season

Sean and Aimee McDonald
Holiday lighting, whether simple as seen here or more ornate, provides an inviting first impression for home shoppers.
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

With the passing of Thanksgiving, it’s time to infuse some illumination into the holidays!

There’s no better way to intensify the festive curb appeal of a home than through Christmas lights. For many, Thanksgiving serves as the demarcation of the holiday season. There are those who are motivated to brighten the exterior spaces of their homes in anticipation of what is soon to come.

In connecting with the spirit of the season, there is a feeling of warmth and personal satisfaction that’s achieved from having decorated. Yet those efforts also provide a chance for social engagement and opportunities to dazzle family, friends and neighbors. It’s not uncommon for people to venture out for an evening walk or take a leisurely drive to capture the many sights. No other outdoor decorative elements have more prominence than well-planned lighting displays.

Today’s exterior holiday lighting efforts are a natural evolution of traditional Christmas décor. Once relegated to trees brought indoors and accentuated by candles, the use of electric lighting for Christmas garnered national attention in 1895. It was then that electric lighting first appeared on the White House Christmas tree. Throughout the early 1900s, electric lighting became increasingly popular, and, admittedly, a less flammable means of holiday illumination.

By the mid-twentieth century, Christmas lighting had expanded away from purposes solely oriented around the indoors to decorative applications outside the home. In the years since, a diverse and technically advanced selection of outdoor lighting options have been realized. Modern Christmas lighting now affords a diverse array of configurations and colors.

Until recently, incandescent lighting applications were the go-to when decorating the exterior spaces of a home. However, light emitting-diodes (LED) have become popular alternatives to classic filament-based lighting.

LEDs generally last longer and are more durable than their incandescent counterparts. But LEDs cost more, and some say they lack the “warm twinkle” many have grown accustomed to from incandescent lighting. Still, the options afforded from either are plentiful, allowing for customization relative to bulb size, style and strand length.

In recent years, decorators seeking to avoid the inherent frustrations associated in hanging lights have sought laser projection systems. A popular alternative to traditional string lighting, laser projectors are installed on a stake mounted in front of the house. These systems project colored images and patterns onto the face of the home and are oftentimes animated. Their installation and removal are performed quickly and with ease.

When decorating, exterior lighting efforts should highlight the home’s architectural features while remaining complementary to other styling cues found within the community.

Establishing a unified theme is often key to creating a display that will be the envy of the neighborhood. To achieve a classic look, decorators are encouraged to focus on their home’s eves, gutters and windows using one or two complementary colors that accentuate one another.

For those wishing to convey a more festive and prominent holiday message, the integration of diverse colors, layers and animated effects quickly become focal considerations.

Lighting a home’s surrounding landscape and walkways presents additional opportunities to heighten seasonal curb appeal. The intertwining of lighted strands placed within the branches of trees, the draping of netted-lighting over bushes, the cascade of icicle lights suspended from the home’s roof line, the illumination of wreathes and sculptures and the weaving of stranded lights across railings, fences and lamp posts are just some of the many ways a home’s exterior holiday aesthetics may be further accentuated.

But before undertaking the challenges of outdoor Christmas lighting, the creation of a detailed plan usually proves advantageous. While determining the location of each exterior power source and the types of lighting that will be used is important, there are other factors that mustn’t be overlooked.

Measuring the exterior dimensions of the home and notating where each strand will be placed and derive its power is crucial. Determining the quantity of sets necessary, confirming each is in working order, and having the appropriate tools, hardware and ladders on hand are also of great importance. Far too often, holiday decorators find themselves short on supplies, working with defective lighting and equipment. It’s important to make a list and check it twice!

When hanging lights, decorators are encouraged to begin at the power source, ensuring each of their lighted strands remains taut. They should follow each fastener to the end of the project, hanging one strand at a time, progressively adding additional strings in an end-to-end series.

However, decorators are cautioned not to overburden the series, as adding too many strands together and connecting incompatible sets greatly increase the potential for fire. Ensuring outdoor lighting and extension cords are in good repair is vital; decorators are encouraged to read all labels while heeding warnings to prevent unintentional mishaps. When in doubt, seeking the consultation of a licensed electrician is advised.

Those who love decorating for Christmas should expand their passions to the outdoors if they haven’t already done so. Outdoor seasonal décor has become a must have for avid holiday enthusiasts.

Exterior lighting has the power to transform the look and feel of a home and its surrounding landscape while instilling a touch of holiday magic. When searching for ideas, would-be decorators are encouraged to look at other homes in the area, perform online searches and visit local retailers for the latest ideas. Doing so will help light up the season!

Serving Northern Nevada, Sean and Aimee McDonald, Realtors with RE/MAX North Lake Tahoe, can be reached at 775-250-8335 or They’re online at