Sunday, January 16, 2011

Let There Be Light(ing)!

Despite not even having the wallboard up yet, I have been thinking about, researching, agonizing over, and actually buying lighting like there is no tomorrow!

Although lighting isn't installed until nearly the end, the decisions need to be make earlier when the rough electrical work is being done. We thought we had a pretty hefty budget for lights, but now that we have walked through the house room by room, it appears that even more dollars will need to slide into this category.

Once again the internet is my friend. I don’t know how I ever would have designed this house without it. The amount of information online about lighting and the resources to buy it is amazing! We are basically paying retail, but that said, there are a lot of deals out there right now and it really pays to shop around.

I have had great success with mega retailer Lamps Plus, but also with 1stoplighting and Destination Lighting. I’m sure there are many other great lighting stores out there—online and storefront—but the range of products, competitive prices, fast and cheap shipping, and the search features of these three sites are tops in my book.

It is difficult to really appreciate lighting out of context with the rest of the design for each room. This is one of the reasons it has been challenging to choose the fixtures. Another reason of course is because I’m a novice at this. Practice makes perfect. If I could just build another 4 or 5 houses I might finally have it all down to a science! After reading a lot and consulting with some experts, I have come to believe that lighting truly does make the house so the stakes are pretty high.

My interior designer friend Kirsten Conner (see her blog too!) has given me the basic “rules” about lighting a room and I’m trying hard to implement them. It is apparently all about layering. There is:

1. ambient lighting for general illumination (think ceiling lights);
2. task lighting (for sewing, reading, writing, etc.);
3. mood lighting (sconces and the like); and
4. focused lighting (such as a spotlight for artwork).

While not every room will have all four kinds of lighting, most should have at least three of them. The ones I find easiest to choose are the task lights. Ceiling lights are tricky (for me) because I can’t help but think of the ugly ceiling lights I grew up with that nasty overhead glare. Mood lighting is fun but easy to overdo. (We may have gone a little too “sconce-crazy”…we’ll see.) And the focused lighting really seems to require a good knowledge of bulbs and their attributes. This is where a good lighting expert—designer or store consultant—can make the difference between a useless el-cheapo spot lamp with weak light and bad color, and a light that makes your furniture, objets d’arte, and flowers look like they should be in the movies.

Sigh. There is SO much to learn. Anyway, here are some of the fixtures I’ve chosen so far, aiming for a range of lights that are complementary but still imbuing each room with its own character. I won’t truly know whether they are a hit or a miss until they’re installed, so for now they sit in their boxes awaiting their moment—if you’ll pardon the pun—in the spotlight!

George Kovacs "Capuccino" sconce

Maxim "Rondo" sconce

Maxim "Rondo" chandelier

Murray Feiss "Astor" sconce
Maritime Collection outdoor light

Sage Ridge outdoor lantern

Brushed nickel bath sconce

Title photo: Besa Lighting, champagne glass pendant

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