There's something comforting about seeing quiet neighborhoods alive with Christmas lights on frosty December evenings, but careful planning is necessary to create a safe and attractive lighting arrangement. For advice on smart and beautiful ways to illuminate the outside of her house during the holiday season, Martha calls upon Stephen Stefanou of Design Solutions in Dallas. Stephen and his colleagues are renowned for design projects, which include the grand holiday decorations at New York City's Rockefeller Center and those at Union Station in Washington, D.C.

Rather than winding a string of Christmas lights around the thatched columns on Martha's front porch, Stephen opts for light netting. These nets eliminate the need to individually place every light, and are available in various sizes. Stephen uses a net made up of 150 lights, wraps it around the column, and hides its wires in nearby greenery. Plastic cable ties are used to secure the net in place. Light netting is effective for hedges, trees, or other large areas since multiple nets can be connected to each other. Stephen recommends arranging the lights while they are lit so that you can see exactly where you are placing them.

Stephen then illuminates the front door wreath with two spotlights, set atop each column. He uses light sockets and bulbs that are weatherproof and waterproof, made specifically for outdoor use. Each of the spotlights holds a 40-watt bulb, clips easily into place, and their wires can be hidden in nearby greenery.

Safety note: Use lights that are made for outdoor use and that are approved by the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL). All light strands should have fuses, so if one strand overloads, the fuse will blow and the lights will go out. If an overload occurs on an unfused strand, there is a chance of overloading circuits in your house. Never leave a bulb socket empty; if you want to black out a particular light, cover it with electrical tape. Also, always use heavy-duty, UL-listed exterior extension cords to power your outdoor lighting displays, and try to use an outlet with its own circuit, such as a little-used garage outlet, to avoid overloading the circuitry in the house.



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