Holiday Lights Planning Ideas For Festive Displays


Home for the holidays,

I believe I’ve missed each and every face,

Come on and play my music,

Let’s turn on every love light in the place. 


This verse from Celebrate Me Home, a song by contemporary musician Kenny Loggins, captures the feelings many of us have this time of the year. As you know, all it takes is planning and preparation to get with the holiday spirit to make this time as special as you’ve long remembered it.

You may wish to arrange elegant seasonal displays of fragrant boughs of green and color to enjoy on warm nights near a crackling fire. The extroverts among us will surely take to the outdoors with big ideas for brilliant holiday lighting displays that everyone slows down to notice.

It’s all good and we want to make it as stress-free as possible for you. So, let’s get started working out the details to achieve your holiday lighting goals, safely and festively, one twinkling light strand at a time.

Visualize the Design

One of the common landscaping themes for the past 18 months has been renovation. Many homeowners have spent months working with professionals to make their outdoor living space dreams a reality. Christmas may be the perfect time to show off what you built in style.

But be careful, because work and holiday shopping this time of year can be time-consuming. Here’s what works for most busy families. Simply follow the same process as you did last summer.

Pull together a few tools, such as colored pencils and drawing paper, and get your ideas down on paper. Think about your outdoor features: your porch and entryway; garden pathways; wooden trellises; retaining walls and stairs. What is the best way to spotlight them? From net lights to trunk wraps, icicle lights to rope lights, holiday lighting options are as numerous as they are festive.

You can also draw attention (quite literally, on your map!) to any container gardens you have on your property. Consider your window boxes, for instance. Imagine red pops of winterberry holly intermingled with cascading ivy or earthy pine cones and eucalyptus pocketed with colorful artificial fruit. These small holiday decor touches can make a big impact. All it takes is a little premeditation.

Just make sure you don’t wait too long to start this planning process. With the global shipping crisis complicating our lives, holiday materials may be in short supply this year. The sooner you can put down the colored pencils and smile at a finished design the better. Once complete, you will have a better idea of the needed supplies and can begin a whole new round of holiday shopping.

If you’ve visualized the design and are still a bit flummoxed about moving forward, consider reaching out to professionals who know how to help. You worked with them last year to help with your outdoor living space and the end product was truly magnificent. You can create that magic again.

Balance the Lights

When you map out your holiday lighting ideas, make sure you consider the impact of that extra lighting on your current landscape lighting. Landscape lights can overwhelm your holiday displays unless the overall composition is selectively balanced. 

For this reason, it may be necessary to disable portions of your landscape lights to allow your holiday lighting to shine. You can do so on your transformers or on your main service panel or sub-panel. Or you can simply set the timer for your landscape lighting to turn off once your Christmas lights go on.

In addition to balancing the number of outdoor lights, also consider balancing the reds, greens, whites, golds, the colors of Christmas spirit. Use them to highlight certain features of your home and property or to connect complementary spaces.

If you have a series of ornamental trees on your property, imagine the trunks and branches adorned with soft white lights, creating a dramatic impact for all guests and neighbors. Consider using LED mini lights for these larger displays for their durability and power conservation.

For smaller areas, consider lights on a rhythmic sequence, to draw attention to spaces that might otherwise be overlooked. Traditional Christmas colors of greens and reds or even color-changing LED lights are a perfect fit for those little nooks as well. Just make sure that the lightbulbs are appropriate for outdoor use and that you have sufficient length to cover the area you are lighting.

Prioritize Safety and Security

Outdoor holiday lighting presents several on and off site safety concerns.

  • Trip hazards – extension cords are largely invisible after dark
  • Distracted drivers – street parking and evening work or play are challenges
  • Overloaded circuits – hard-wired safety lights can be disconnected
  • Installation – damp, wintery conditions present challenges, especially with ladders
  • Hot spots – lighting that temporarily blinds people

In addition to mitigating the hazards listed above, you can make the decision to switch to LED holiday lights to eliminate a few others. In general, the standards for LED lighting are higher.

The most common problem with incandescent string lights it connecting so many together that it overloads and trip the circuit breaker. Traditional string lights may not get a hot as their incandescent ancestors, but that can create a false sense of security. 

Unlike incandescent lights that should usually be limited to a few connected strands, LED lights can be safely connected in a series of 20 or more. There is minimal heat buildup and virtually no voltage drop.

There are certainly many logistics to consider when you are balancing your light arrangements. If you can handle the heavy lifting, it still may be a good idea to get professionals to check your work for safety purposes. Nothing is more frustrating than discovering faulty displays when the holidays arrive and time is precious. 

Architectural Landscape Design: Helping Hands

Nothing gives us more pleasure than preparing a home for the holiday season. Our helping hands are experienced, professional, and dedicated to making your house stand out on the block. So, if you want to be happy in a million ways, contact Architectural Landscape Design today, because, for the holidays, you can’t beat home, sweet twinkling home.