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They say you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. When it comes to your home making a good first impression, the place to start is your front door. Your front door is where visitors first get up close to your property, so it can make all the difference between them being quietly impressed, or distinctly underwhelmed.
There are several relatively painless ways to give your front door a facelift. You can give it a lick of new paint. You can install a smarter letterbox, door knocker or door bell. And, if you have an outside light by your front door – and a lot of us do – you can treat it to a more handsome fitting.
When shopping for a new light to lift your front door from bland anonymity to local celebrity, the first thing to consider is the style of your property. If you live in a contemporary building, is a faux-Georgian lantern really the way to go? If you live in a period house, will some cheap and cheerful repro light from the DIY sheds really do it justice?
One possible solution for all types of property is to use wall-mounted spotlights placed on one or both sides of your doorway, or even above it. As you would expect, the clean, contemporary style of spotlights sits very comfortably with contemporary architecture, especially when they are in a hard-edged material like stainless steel, or a suitable powdercoat paint colour.
However, the form-is-function design aesthetic of spotlights can also be an unobtrusive and minimal complement to period properties, particularly if you choose a fitting in solid copper which, as well as being a pleasingly traditional material, quickly dulls down to blend with its surrounding materials, especially brick and timber.
The second issue to bear in mind when shopping for front door lighting is the kind of light effect it creates. Traditional lighting typically produces a pool of ambient light. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it is rather indiscriminate – do you really want to light those dustbins, or that oil stain on your drive? And if you’re considering security lighting, do you really want to feel like you’ve walked into a high security militarised zone every time you arrive home at night (not to mention the light pollution it creates which could lead to tensions with your neighbours)?
Spotlights, by contrast, shine a beam of light that you can point exactly where you want it. For example, installing a downlighter over your front door will create a tent of light around the doorway, while also producing enough reflected light to gently light the approach to the door. Alternatively, if you have planters either side of your front door, a spotlight for each will transform them into an eye-catching night-time highlight that frames your doorway in light. There are even wall-mounted spotlights that shine a beam from the top and bottom of the fitting for a dramatic and different light effect.
Most of the best spotlights on the market use dichroic halogen lamps which require a 12-volt electricity supply – and that means they need a transformer. However, if that’s beginning to sound too technical for your tastes, or you’re wondering where you’re meant to locate the transformer, there’s no need to worry. Many 12-volt halogen exterior spotlights incorporate an integral transformer, so they connect directly to the mains electricity supply without fuss. Alternatively, there are outdoor spotlights that use the 240 volt GU10 dichroic halogen lamp which, again, connects directly to the mains power. Or if you like the idea of being at the cutting edge of lighting technology, there are now compact wall mounted outdoor spotlights that use the new 240-volt MR16 metal halide lamp which combines very high light output with exceptional energy efficiency.
Whichever lighting technology you choose, your spotlights will look good during the day and your front door will look like a star at night.