Holiday lights undoubtedly keep the season (and spirits) merry and bright through the beginning of the new year—it’s extra cheer we can all use right about now. But there’s a difference between a tasteful presentation and being the only home on the block that stands out like a disco ball gone awry.
To outfit your home in the sparkle of the season to its best advantage, follow these tips from the design pros so it’s dressed to impress in the chicest, brightest version of itself.
Make a singular statement
“Stick with a consistent methodology for installing the lights by following the branches on the trees with lights or by wrapping only the perimeter of the trees. Try to keep the method consistent for all the trees or bushes.
“I love white lights; they are perfect and simple. However, there are choices when it comes to white lights because string lights are now made in LED form. I always recommend using warm whites as they are closest to old-school string lights. Cool white often reads really blue and super bright. Colored lights are beautiful as well, but just keep the look consistent and follow one path rather than mixing them all together.
“If you have one show-stopper tree on your property, I always like going for it by hanging all the lights on that one tree. Pick the biggest and nicest shaped branches evenly around the tree and wrap those branches generously. You always wind up needing more lights than you think, so stock up.
“Everyone expresses their joy differently. I love a tastefully done white light display, but I also love big colorful bulbs, too. I usually change up our display from year to year and sometimes I hang colorful Moroccan lanterns in our trees and use string lights with retro large color bulbs. The key, I have found, is to pick a central pair of trees or a hedge and do a big moment there rather than scattering the lights and the applications around every hedge and tree in your yard.
— Chicago and San Francisco-based interior designer Alison Pickart
Keep things consistent
“Lights are all about scale and proportion. Don’t hang them at random or it will look unintentional; finish whatever scale you start. If you only want to do your entryway; do just that. Next step would be another complete thought, like all your rooflines or soffits. It’s all about not leaving something halfway done. I like to hang Christmas lights on roof ridges, hips, valleys and soffits. A tasteful display around your driveway and sidewalk is always a winner if you have the entire house lit up as well.
“I prefer the classy nature of all-white lights and mixing different sizes of bulbs. I like bigger bulbs on the roof lines and smaller lights everywhere else. I like static lights for sure, but if you do use blinking, don’t put them everywhere; space them out in an even distribution.
“Lighting control is one of the easiest ways to ensure your holiday lights stay looking the way you want them to without having to plug them in every day. I use the Legrand Smart Outdoor Switch with GFCI. This Wi-Fi-connected device is perfect for managing your holiday light displays. You can control your lights with an app and set up certain schedules to your desired on and off times.”
— Chip Wade, HGTV star, interior designer and contractor based in Atlanta
Think about scale
“Stick with a theme; make sure all the lights you use are the same type. Mostly it’s about making the display look tidy and not like a mess.
“Use the scale of your home as a guide and if you can’t afford to light the whole thing, think about special points of interest like a lit wreath or lit garland around the front door. Better to go bold in one or two places than to have tiny strings of lights on your eaves that don’t work there. And think about proportion—if you have a large house, for example, go big.”
— Jessica Davis of Atelier Davis in Atlanta
Strike the right balance
“Holiday lights are like frosting. If you use too few, you’re left wishing there were more, or it looks like you never finished. Use too many lights and it is overwhelming. If you can strike just the right balance, they will highlight the beauty of your home and its exterior.
“I love lights intertwined with garland on the front door or draped across the front porch. This way you are using the lights to illuminate the decorations you see during the day and bringing them to life at night.”
— Marika Meyer of Marika Meyer Interiors in Washington, D.C.