From elegant and traditional to fun and festive, there are endless outdoor lighting solutions to add holiday warmth and character to your home this season. Despite these many options, the key to a successful holiday lighting installation is to pick a theme before you begin.

The most memorable holiday lighting designs are usually well thought out. Someone who understands balance, scale, color, texture, and materials likely had a vision when planning and installing that theme. High-impact displays are rarely an accident, and understanding these foundational components is essential when planning a project.

Lighting style is a crucial consideration, and it is important to understand how the lights you choose will play into your theme. Traditional incandescent lights are less expensive to purchase but have a higher operating cost and shorter lifespan, while LEDs have a higher purchase cost but lower operating costs long term. But beware of mixing LED and incandescent lights! Each has a unique feel and looks best with its own kind. If you have both incandescent and LED lights, consider installing one type at the front of your home and the other in the rear.

Garland, wreaths, staked trees, potted greenery, and porch pots can be a great addition to a seasonal display, primarily because they add daytime interest to a home. White lights with greens create an elegant, timeless appearance. Both natural and artificial greens have benefits and drawbacks. Natural greens provide the most character and can bring the aroma of fresh-cut evergreens to your home. They often cost less than their artificial counterparts and do not need to be stored between holidays. Artificial garland and wreaths typically carry a higher purchase price but last for many years. No matter the decorating style or theme you select, be conscious of the significant space needed to store lawn decorations and artificial greenery when not in use.

Hedges can easily be wrapped in net lights to save on installation time. Just be sure to measure your hedges to ensure you purchase the correct size nets, and unless you’re aiming for a precise grid pattern, stretch and vary the light positions a bit for a more casual, natural look. Fairy lights and Edison bulbs are great ways to incorporate creative lighting styles with a traditional theme.

Multicolored lights create a sense of “fun” more readily than traditional white lights do. Children, especially, love them, and they add splendid holiday cheer to a home. These days, it’s easy to notch it up with an ever-expanding selection of lighted lawn characters and music. Laser light projectors can be a great option also, covering a large area while saving installation time and conserving energy. Replacing landscape lighting bulbs with colored bulbs can also provide a dramatic effect with minimal effort when combined tastefully with other elements.

Whatever your style, you’ll want your efforts to have impact. Quickly running sparse strands of light here and there lacks punch and looks unfinished. If time or supplies are limited this year, try highlighting just a single feature of your home such as the front entry, a particular architectural feature, or a landscape specimen tree. Devote your time and materials to this smaller area to make a big impact by properly showcasing it.

If you’re feeling limited by what’s available in the stores, Pinterest or your favorite online search engine are overflowing with creative DIY ideas, and local craft stores offer materials to help bring your vision to life. Don’t be afraid to be unique and show your personality!

Combining traditional and holiday-specific elements allows for maximum flexibility. Once the holidays are past, leaving traditional white lights and greens up through February brings life to the outside of your home during the cold, dark months of January and February. A single “candle” burning in each window is very traditional and incredibly cheering and welcoming to come home to all winter.

These days, power supply and lighting control can be extremely sophisticated. Timers and photocell power supplies allow lights to turn on and off automatically. WiFi-capable power supplies are now available and enable you to turn the lights on and off from your phone. The technically savvy can even add music to accompany their lights.

As always, safety should be a top priority when installing holiday lights. Being conscious of ladder safety, not overloading an outlet or circuit, and using outdoor-rated lights are all integral parts of ensuring a positive experience. It is often beneficial to set up holiday lights during October or November to capitalize on warmer weather and avoid both the discomfort and dangers associated with blowing snow and ice.

While many homeowners install holiday lights themselves, some landscape, tree, and window companies will install holiday lights for you. These providers are often well versed in design ideas, available products, and installation methods to guarantee your home a warm and festive look throughout the cold winter months ahead.