Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Power of Lighting!

A very important client, who will remain nameless, but is now serving a lengthy sentence in a cushy jail in Minnesota once told me, “When you control the lighting, you control the room”.  Don’t you love when I just entice and spark your interest with scandal, but don’t reveal anything more… 

Anyway, what he said was true.  He was a lawyer, and knew the power and importance of controlling you lighting.  When you go to the theatre, and the lights flicker indicating you to take your seats, it’s the power of lighting.  When the show begins, and the entire audience is dark and a single spot light shines on that actor belting out a song, all eyes are focuses and room is being controlled by that single beam.

Many high end electronics companies like Lutron have all created systems to control the lighting in spaces; to set moods.  “Everyday” lighting when the family is home just going about their daily routine, “Party” lighting when guests are mingling, enjoying your festivities, “Security” lighting when you’re away from home, but don’t need the prying eyes of a burglar to know…  They can go so far as to also setting the lights depending on the time of day, or gauge what the natural light outside is doing, and self adjust accordingly. They can be made to work off of keypads throughout your home, even to run off your iPad, thousands of miles away from your home.

Setting a lighting scene
Home Security by remote
Now these systems will also run you in the thousands of dollars but there are simple ways to make your home just as sophisticated and savvy.  Start by installing dimmers everywhere you can.  The simple fact of being able to adjust the light to more than just on and off is essential.  Why is a McDonald’s not as romantic as The Four Seasons?  The light at The Four Seasons is dimmed to a level that is comfortable on the eyes, but bright enough to see the rack of lamb in front of you, where at Mickey D’s it’s bright so you can see that burger and fries that won’t disintegrate even 6 months later, eat it and go. 

Slight difference between the lighting ambiance at McDonald's and The Four Seasons
A great little gadget, I guess you could call it, I found a few years back is a device that you can literally transform any lamp into a dimmable fixture is less than a minute without having to actually change out your existing wall switch for a dimmer. It's called the Attache Lamp Dimmer.

Bottom line is when you have the option to change the lightness and darkness of space it can make or break a rooms feel or intention.  I use a lot of low voltage recessed lighting in my designs, but this also makes for very crisp white light, which is great for lighting art, and general utility lighting, but at night  when you’re trying to wind down with your glass of merlot, the last thing you need is a crisp white light. Dimmers…

Also, I know everyone, including myself is trying to go green, help the planet, save on electricity and usage, but there are times for fluorescents and there are times for incandescent.  I know that you can get dimmable fluorescents, and yes they have come light years in their colorations, but there’s still a warmth to an incandescent that can’t be replicated.  I’m also not a huge fan of the pink/purple bulbs, the color spectrum or whatever they’re called, because when they’re off.  You’ve got a pink/purple bulb.  Weird looking.  Also, I tend to always go for the Soft White lights that are frosted.  The clear bulbs are a little harsh, unless it’s an intended look to see the filament.  I do love the look of the old Edison Bulbs with the exposed gold filament showing.  That’s a chic look, but the right fixture is needed to pull that off.

So in the end, just try to make you lighting levels ones that you can control.  Utilize wall switches with dimming capabilities where ever possible, if not try making that inexpensive lamp from Target or West Elm into a much more expensive lamp by hardwiring a DIY dimmer to it.  It’s all about control.  Remember, “When you control the lighting, you control the room”.

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