Interiors: Kathy Pryzgoda

“When it comes to exteriors, the mistake most people make is not considering lighting at all,” says Kathy Pryzgoda, principal designer at Light Studio LA. Her expertise is one of the reasons why DWR Studios look the way they do, as she’s our go-to for help with designing in-store lighting. Some of her techniques for DWR include using lighting layers to add contrast, as well as combining soft and hard light to help guide a customer through the space. Kathy really shines when it comes to exterior lighting, and we’re pleased to bring you a few of her tips.

Q. What should a homeowner consider when planning to add exterior lighting?

A. Start with where you’ll need task lighting. Do you have an outdoor eating area? Is there a barbecue grill? What’s your furniture layout, and how do you see it being used at night? Then look at lighting needs for trees, plants and shrubs. If you have a water or fire feature, do you need lighting for it? Remember to also consider the view to the exterior from the interior. It’s also crucial to consider your existing power conditions. Where can you plug something in or hardwire a fixture, and where will you need to use a battery-powered source? Lastly, check with your electrician or city to see if there are any “dark sky” requirements or code restrictions to exterior lighting in your area.

Q. Do you often use portable lighting solutions in your designs?

A. All the time. Because the exterior is often forgotten, exterior power outlets are often forgotten. Today’s portable options are some of the greatest innovations because they save me from having to dig up walkways or put holes in walls just to get power to a fixture. If you share a wall with a neighbor, like at a condominium, a portable option is sometimes the only option.

Q. Why should a homeowner use LEDs outside?

A. The advent of the LED has been monumental to the exterior lighting industry. Its power consumption is less than 25% of halogen landscape bulbs, which allows us to run many more lights on a circuit. With LEDs, we can put lights outside that won’t need to be changed for ten years. And because the LED is tiny, the fixture can be tiny. Todays’ exterior light fixtures can take on almost any shape.

Q. How much is too much when it comes to exterior lighting?

A: One of the biggest mistakes I see is choosing lighting that is too bright or has a color temperature that is too cool. Color temperature, or Kelvin temperature, describes the warmth or coolness of white light. Don’t put a “daylight” bulb into your garden at night. I recommend low-intensity, warm white LEDs to best enhance your outdoor environment. Less is more in outdoor areas. Exteriors require half the brightness since we have a dark sky as our ceiling.


Kathy Pryzgoda has been a lighting designer for 30 years. Armed with a degree in theater from UCLA, she’s designed lighting for the Long Beach Opera, Los Angeles Classical Ballet, and the Hollywood Bowl. In 1992, Ms. Pryzgoda expanded her skills to television lighting where she received three broadcast design international awards for lighting design. A notable TV project includes lighting design for World News Tonight with Peter Jennings on ABC. In 2007, Kathy established Light Studio LA, an architectural lighting practice. In addition to her design work, Kathy lectures nationally and teaches locally at UCLAex (Architecture and Interior Design Program) and Otis College of Art and Design.

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