Jun 2019

Back on Track

By Lori Powell
Photographs courtesy of Tech Lighting

In a monthly column, Lori Powell, of Fogg Lighting in Portland, offers her expert tips on illuminating your home.

Q: When does track lighting make sense — and can it be attractive?

Track lighting has come a long way since the giant can-like fixtures affixed to ceiling-mounted tracks that were popular in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Now we have fixtures with smaller, sleeker heads and more delicate, decorative styling. Today’s track lighting offers a versatile way to add task, ambient, or accent lighting to your home.

Tracks are ideal for spaces that are hard to wire, or where you need more light, but have only one electrical connection. Use them in lieu of recessed lighting when beams, ductwork, or concrete ceilings make rewiring or demo impossible. In a post-and-beam home, you can mount a track on a beam and position some heads downward and others upward to accentuate the architecture and add soft, ambient light to the room.

Another major benefit tracks offer is flexibility. A single light source can illuminate a kitchen sink, island, and stove, for example, or multiple pieces of art in a living room. When you renovate or redecorate, you can change the lighting scheme by simply adjusting the position and angle of the track heads. Avoid making tracks the only lighting in a room, however, as they can cause glare and discomfort.


Low-voltage track lighting systems can be mounted near the track, or remotely. 

There are two types of track systems. Line-voltage systems typically use 120-volt fixtures, which are the most common household current. They attach directly to the power source on a ceiling, wall, or beam. Low-voltage systems, which tend to be smaller, typically use 12-volt fixtures and require a transformer to work effectively. Transformers can be mounted near the track, or remotely — say, on top of a beam where they’re hidden from sight.
Tracks come in several different designs: Standard systems attach directly to walls and ceilings, whereas “monorails” consist of rails suspended from the ceiling or walls with rods. Cable systems — which have a delicate, floating look — are tracks that hangs from the ceiling by a cable and typically run the length of the ceiling.

A lighting designer can help you understand the dynamics of the space you want to light, how much and what type of light you need, the realities of installation, and which track system will best meet your needs.

Jun 2019

Earth-Friendly Lighting

                                            Photograph by Jeff Roberts; interior design by Leandra Fremont-Smith Interiors; architecture by William Hanley of WMH Architects
By Lori Powell

In a monthly column, Lori Powell, of Fogg Lighting in Portland, offers her expert tips on illuminating your home.

In an average household, lighting accounts for about 10 percent of energy costs. (Heating, cooling, and appliances like clothes dryers are the biggest consumers.) But as we brace ourselves for winter “nights” that begin in the late afternoon, requiring us to supplement with more artificial light, and spiking utility bills, every bit of energy savings counts. Here are some steps you can take to make achieving the cozy glow we all crave more affordable and efficient this season.



Switch to LEDs. These are the most versatile and efficient lighting technologies on the market. Light-emitting-diode bulbs, or LEDs, use up to 70 percent less energy than conventional incandescents, and can last 100 times longer. If you’re working with a standard on-off switch, swapping incandescents for LEDs is fairly straightforward. Just bring your old bulb to the store so you can compare bases and make sure the LED will fit in your fixture. If you have dimmers, more planning may be involved. Even if the label on the LED bulb says it should work with an incandescent dimmer, in many cases the LED cannot draw enough power to function properly and will require an LED-specific dimmer. Consult with a lighting professional, who can help you plan, and troubleshoot, your LED changeover.

Consider the alternatives. Warm-toned LEDs will suit most folks, but if you find them chilly, consider the new generation of “eco-halogen” or “eco-incandescent” bulbs. These are 30 percent more efficient than conventional incandescents, with a comparable (or even brighter) quality of light and lifespan — about 1,000 hours. Eco-halogens fit in any type of fixture and work with traditional incandescent dimmers. As for compact fluorescent bulbs, or CFLs — these are more efficient than incandescents, but most manufacturers are phasing them out because of the environmental impact of making them (they contain mercury) and difficulty of disposing of them.

earth-friendly lighting, LED
Photograph by Randolph Ashey; interior design by Jeanne Handy Designs; architecture by Kevin Moquin


Look at labels. Bulbs that carry Energy Star logos have been certified by the federal government to use at least 70 percent less energy and last 15 times longer than the incandescent bulbs they replace. But don’t discount logo-less bulbs. Some may actually be more efficient than those bearing the Energy Star name — the manufacturers simply have not applied for the rating (or are waiting for approval). Instead, check the Lighting Facts label on the packaging, which details the bulb’s estimated energy costs and expected life. For maximum efficiency, look for bulbs that offer the highest lumen output (or brightness) for the wattage — a 9-watt bulb that offers 800w lumens, for example, versus one that produces only 750w lumens.

Try dimmers and sensors. These can help save energy by allowing you to turn lights down to the level you need and by letting you off the hook for forgetting to switch them off when they’re not needed. Many people put dimmers on every fixture in the house. Outside, they’re helpful for illuminating spaces like patios. For entryways, consider occupancy sensors, which automatically flip on when you enter a room. Vacancy sensors, which turn off when they detect an empty space, are useful in areas where people are constantly forgetting to switch off the lights. For lampposts and path lighting, consider photo sensors, which operate by detecting ambient light. Some people also like motion sensors outside for an added measure of security — just be aware that passing cars and nocturnal creatures can set them off.

efficient lighting, LED lighting
Photograph by Randolph Ashey; interior design by Jeanne Handy Designs; architecture by Kevin Moquin


Turn off the lights. This may seem obvious, but people often ask whether they’re using more energy by keeping lights on all the time, or by constantly turning them on and off. Here’s the bottom line: If a bulb is lit, it’s burning energy — more than is consumed by flipping switches. So turn off lights when you’re not using them. If you want to leave a lamp on at night to prevent having to fumble around in the dark, make sure it’s fitted with an LED, or the lowest-wattage bulb you can find.

Jun 2019

Kitchen Wisdom

By Lori Powell

In a monthly column, Lori Powell of Fogg Lighting in Portland offers her expert tips on illuminating your home.

In most homes, the kitchen tends to be the center of gravity. And yet for all the time we spend there — chopping, cooking, noshing, cleaning, helping with homework, lingering over leftovers — kitchens are often drastically under-lit, with a single ceiling fixture in the center of the room that creates irritating shadows in the areas we most need to illuminate. Here are some steps you can take to brighten up your cookspace.

white and gray kitchen
Photography courtesy of LEDI Led Inspirations featuring Hubbarton Forge

First, get on task. Your time in the kitchen is task-oriented, so your lighting should be too. If you’re standing at a counter and the light is behind you, your body will cast a shadow over the surface, making it harder to see what you’re doing — not ideal, especially if you’re working with sharp utensils. To brighten up work areas, place recessed, track, and/or under-cabinet lighting over countertops, tables, islands, sinks, and other surfaces you use frequently.

cream colored kitchen


cream colored dining area

Then, think layers. Because of the wide variety of tasks you do in the kitchen, one light will never provide all the illumination you need. Layering the light — adding different sources around the room — will give you the flexibility to customize the lighting to suit your changing needs. If you’re hosting a dinner party, for example, you can dim the overhead lights to create ambiance, and keep under-cabinet lighting on to illuminate the areas where you’re serving and preparing food.

dark gray kitchen and island


kitchen sink with task lighting

Find the right fixtures. Adding fixtures on walls, in glass cabinets, and over sinks and islands will brighten and warm the room, while providing decorative accents that can enhance the look. Consider adding pendants over sinks and islands — allow 30 to 36 inches between the countertop and the bottom of the fixture for optimum illumination. Above sinks, pendants should be hung higher, so that people don’t bang their heads against them while doing dishes.

May 2019

Lighting Tips for Fall

Q. As darker days approach, how can we adjust our lighting to keep our home comfortable and well-lit?

Light fixtures and bulbs can have a huge impact on your mood, productivity, and the coziness of your living space. This is true all year long. But during the transition from summer to fall, lighting issues are particularly noticeable. Walkways and interiors can suddenly feel dramatically dimmer. And you may feel like you’re constantly chasing the illumination you need to cook, work, help with homework, or put on makeup. With some smart changes, however, you can brighten your home — and your outlook.


Start Outside. Adjust any timers on your exterior lights to accommodate the changes in daylight. If your walkways feel tough to navigate even when porch lights and lamp posts are on, consider incorporating path lighting — either 18-inch-tall posts or fixtures recessed into the pathway or its environs — to help you get safely in and out of the house. Remember that a little light goes a long way outdoors; 40-watt-equivalent bulbs typically work best. Anything brighter can actually make it harder to see.

Layer your light. A room needs a mix of light sources at different levels to create a warm glow and ensure you can see what you’re doing. These layers include ambient illumination from decorative fixtures such as a chandelier, pendants, or flush-mounts, as well as accent and task lighting — typically some combination of recessed or track fixtures, sconces, under-cabinet units, cove lights, and table or floor lamps. At this time of year, you may need to beef up your task lighting, bringing in an extra reading lamp or adding a fixture in a spot where you sew or do puzzles. When only one light source is used, as is sometimes the case with recessed fixtures, you get pockets of light and darkness that make the area difficult to navigate — and impossible to read in.

Assess lampshades. Consider swapping dark fabric shades, or older white ones that have yellowed, for crisp new ivory or white shades to bring more ambient illumination into your rooms. If you favor colored-glass shades, you may want to supplement with an extra fixture to brighten up your space. Clear-glass shades, meantime, can allow too much light to escape, causing glare and making a room feel shadowy, if not paired with proper bulbs — no more than 40-watt-equivalents on a dimmer are best.

Turn up the temp. Light bulb boxes indicate a color temperature, labeled K for Kelvin temperature. In general, but particularly at this time of year, opt for bulbs with a 2700K or 3,000K  rating, which provide a universally flattering, warm-white light. Anything higher is going to have a cooler, bluish-white cast that can make your home feel as chilly as a feebly lit landscape on a winter’s day.


Fogg Lighting, Hubbardton Forge New Town
Hubbardton Forge, New Town

May 2019

Light Imitating Art

Q: I’m looking for fixtures with a wow-factor to enliven my rooms. What do you suggest?

A: Many lights on the market today are, quite literally, works of art. Expertly designed and skillfully executed by metalsmiths and glassworkers, these fixtures read like sculptures in a room. Turning them on heightens the drama, as partially shielded, diffused, or angled beams create intriguing shadows in your space. When selecting a form-over-function fixture, just be sure to supplement with layers of task and accent lightingto produce even illumination in the room and ensure you can see what you’re doing. As for my favorite statement makers, I’ll let these images do (most) of the talking.

Crescent Pendant

Down-lit arcs of heat-textured steel studded with decorative cuffs crisscross in a Calderesque feat of asymmetry and balance. Choose from eight finishes for the canopy and cuffs.

Hubbardton Forge Crescent Pendent Fogg Lighting
Hubbardton Forge

Duet Pendant

Inspired by ikebana, a Japanese form of flower arranging that emphasizes minimalism and stems and leaves as much as blossoms, this fixture has interwoven steel strands emanating from bud vase-like domes. Choose from eight canopy finishes and platinum or gold for the ball accents.

Hubbardton Forge Duet Pendent Fogg Lighting
Hubbardton Forge

Icarus Pendant

The Greek myth of Icarus — the boy who flew too close to sun on wax-and-feather wings — sparked this fanciful avian design. Choose from eight canopy finishes and “spun frost” (shown) or “cork” for the shades.

Hubbardton Forge Icarus Pendant Fogg Lighting
Hubbardton Forge

Theta LED Pendant

A sculptural textured-steel and polished-aluminum ring, fairly levitating in its lighted base, effects an abstract sunrise. Choose from eight canopy finishes and platinum or gold for the textured accents.

Hubbardton Forge Theta LED Pendant Fogg Lighting
Hubbardton Forge

Celesse Sconces

These streamlined steel fixtures (literally) turn classic candle sconce forms on their heads. Rotate the bases and rings to alter the positioning and look. Choose from eight canopy finishes and platinum or gold for the rings.

Hubbardton Forge Celesse Sconces Fogg Lighting
Hubbardton Forge

Crystal Bakehouse Sconces

Handcrafted crystal “river stones” are baked and annealed in massive seeded-glass blocks that create a glowing gallery effect on your wall. Choose from interior and exterior fixtures in silver and bronze finishes.

Fine Art Lamps Crystal Bakehouse Sconces Fogg Lighting
Fine Art Lamps

Constellation Chandelier

Transform your room into a skyscape with a futuristic satin-nickel fixture available in “Aquila Major” (shown), “Aquila Minor,” “Ursa Major,” and “Ursa Minor” configurations. LEDs radiate through smooth white domes or sparkle through multi-faceted diffusers (your choice).

Sonneman Light Constellation Chandelier Fogg Lighting
Sonneman Light

Dickinson Floor Lamp

Comprised of a brass stem and filaments bejeweled with glass accents, this glam allium-like lamp blooms wherever its marble base is planted.

Visual Comfort Dickinson Floor Lamp Fogg Lighting
Visual Comfort & Co.

Sierra Buffet Lamp

Rustic meets refined in this organic lamp, composed of a polished metal base that resembles petrified wood crowned with a paper shade. Choose from “gild” (shown), “burnished silver-leaf” and “plaster-white” finishes.

Visual Comfort Sierra Buffet Lamp
Visual Comfort & Co.

Convector Table Lamp

Fringed edges give this classic silhouette, rendered in an antique zinc finish, a kinetic quality. A rectangular paper shade underscores the artful geometry.

Visual Comfort Convector Table Lamp Fogg Lighting
Visual Comfort & Co.

Triptic Pendant

Traditional lantern forms are reimagined in steel trapezoidal shapes with cutouts that conjure sections of stained glass. Downlights brighten the edges of the frames, bringing depth to the composition.

Hubbardton Forge Triptic Pendant Fogg Lighting
Hubbardton Forge

May 2019

Fogg Lighting Style Guide

“When I walk into a lighting store and look at fixtures online, I am literally dazzled by the options. How do I zero in on the best styles for my home?”

Lighting provides an obvious and important function in the home, and we spend a lot of time advising clients on the proper size and placement of fixturesthe best-performing bulbs, and how to combine different types of lights to create a flattering glow while ensuring you can see what you’re doing. But as anyone who has ever marveled at a chandelier like the one above knows, lighting can also be a heck of a lot of fun. Designers frequently refer to pendants, sconces, and lamps as the “jewelry” in a space. Like a statement necklace or pair of glittery earrings, an eye-catching fixture can transform your ensemble. As for which accessories your rooms should “wear,” we’ve pulled together looks to suit a range of tastes.


Bridging the gap between classic and contemporary, transitional fixtures match familiar materials and forms with a streamlined sensibility that works with any decor.

Modern Farmhouse

Simple shapes paired with a vintage and/or an industrial vibe — think hand-blown glass and matte metal — are the hallmarks of the popular modern farmhouse look.


Sleek and unexpected are the watchwords when it comes to this sky’s-the-limit style, which encompasses silhouettes ranging from organic to futuristic.


May 2019

Surface Lighting Strategies

Q: What’s the appropriate size and height for fixtures that will hang over tables and countertops?

A: The size of your room and your personal taste are the primary factors that determine fixture size. Some lights that are minimalist and small might look lost in a large, cathedral-ceilinged space, while those that have a strong presence may appear overbearing in a compact room with standard eight-foot-high (or lower) ceilings. Often your best strategy is to have a companion hold a fixture, or a cardboard mockup of one, over the surface, then stand back and see how the pairing looks to you. The following recommendations are to help you along the way.

Typically, kitchen and dining room fixtures should be adjusted so that their bottom edges hover 30 to 36 inches above the countertop or table. The taller the ceiling, the higher they can hang. Make sure the fixtures are high enough so that you can see under them and won’t bump your head on them. The size of your kitchen island will determine the number and size of pendants to use. Odd numbers look more balanced than even numbers, but a small island might only need two pendants. In a dining room, opt for a fixture that’s about one-half to three-quarters the width of the table.

The best lighting for a bathroom is a pair (or row) of sconces mounted at about head height beside the mirror(s) — generally 68 to 70 inches above the floor. The next best choice is a sconce above the mirror. Your goal is to illuminate the face and minimize shadows under the eyes and chin.

Keep in mind the result you want to achieve when selecting your lights. Minimal glare is always desirable. You can also supplement decorative fixtures with task or accent lighting. Layers of light produce even illumination in a space, while providing lighting for essential tasks.

Here’s a sampling of some of our favorite fixtures for lighting tables and counter tops:


Apr 2019

Light Pollution Solutions

Photo by Benjamin Williamson

Q: What are “dark sky friendly” exterior fixtures?

A: Sounds like an oxymoron, right? Outdoor lamps are there to illuminate the darkness, helping us move around safely. But in so doing, many also allow light to escape into the night sky, a phenomenon known as light pollution that masks our view of the stars. In fact, an international group of scientists recently determined that the Milky Way is invisible to more than one-third of the world’s population, including nearly 80 percent of North Americans. Light pollution also contributes to energy waste, disrupts many ecological processes, particularly for nocturnal animals, and can have a negative impact on human health, interrupting sleep and causing headaches, stress, and anxiety.

In 2008, Bar Harbor — home to Acadia National Park, one of the most blissfully dark places on the eastern seaboard — passed an ordinance regulating outdoor lighting on all new construction in town. To comply, fixtures over 1,800 lumens must be “dark sky friendly” — i.e., have casings or canopies that shield the bulbs, preventing them from being seen from above. Other cities and towns, including Portland, have their own ordinance requirements for lighting; check with your municipality to find out what the rules are.

No matter where you live, I recommend choosing warm (no more than 3,000 Kelvin), dimmable LED downlights, like those described above, to curb light pollution, reduce glare, and create a soothing — versus blinding — outdoor environment. Remember also that you don’t need many fixtures to make an impact outside; learn about my less-is-more approach to landscape lighting here.

As for dark sky-compliant fixtures, these picks will adequately illuminate your home and yard and facilitate stargazing.




Cover Photo: On Acadia National Park’s Schoodic Peninsula, Down East’s director of photography, Benjamin Williamson, captured the Milky Way and bioluminescence in the water.

Apr 2019

Lessons from the Louvre

Q: What’s the best way to illuminate artwork in my home?

A: If you’ve invested in a beautiful piece of art, you want to display it in the best possible light. One way of doing this is by directing ceiling-mounted spotlights or track fixtures at works exhibited on walls or shelves. This approach works well in a minimalist space and offers flexibility if you like to move things around. Picture or track lights installed on the wall or the frame of an individual work are another option that creates intimacy in a room by visually lowering the ceiling and drawing viewers in for a closer look. Here are examples from our store of Tech Lighting’s Georgi lamp mounted on track and “monopoint” canopies:

Tech Lighting Georgi lamp
John Orcutt, Crocker Cirque with Birch, fine art print, 14 ¾” x 19 ½”
Tech Lighting Georgi lamp
John Orcutt, Hulls on the Beach, fine art print, 13 ½” by 9″

Until recently, halogen bulbs were the lamps of choice for accenting artwork, but today’s LED equivalents have evolved to provide a strong alternative. The European Union has been phasing out the use of halogen spotlights since 2016 and will issue a wider ban of halogen bulbs in 2018. Accordingly, museums have been shifting to LEDs, which offer significant energy savings, lower costs, and better light distribution. Equally important: unlike halogens and other incandescent bulbs, LEDs do not emit the infrared and ultraviolet rays, and accompanying heat, that can damage artwork.

Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is illuminated with LED lamps in the Louvre? Specifically, the masterpiece is lit with a custom Toshiba fixture comprised of 34 LED bulbs with precise spectrum controls. Works in the museum’s famed Red Rooms are also enlivened with Toshiba LEDs.

While we can’t provide our clients with highly specialized lamps like the Louvre uses, we have discovered an excellent system for customizing any LED fixture. The SORAA Snap System, used with the lamps above, consists of magnetic disks that snap onto the face of a bulb, allowing you to change the size, shape, and color of the beam to suit your artwork.

We love to support the local art community and regularly invite artists to exhibit and sell their work in our showroom. As you may have guessed, we are currently showing images by nature photographer John Orcutt. Stop by for a tour and demonstration on how lighting can transform your artwork. Here’s a sampling of some of the diverse products you’ll find:


Apr 2019

Tips (and Task Lights) for Aging Eyes

Q: As I get older, I’m finding it harder to see when I read or do other simple tasks in my home, even with my glasses on. Can you suggest some lighting improvements that might help?

A: When I was a teenager, I used to kid my father because he could not read menus in dimly lit restaurants. Now that I’m in my 70s, I realize how insensitive that was! As we age, our pupils actually get smaller, so less light makes it to the back of the eye. Many people start noticing changes in their vision around age 50 and, by the time you’re my age, you need about three times as much light as a 25-year-old does to read and perform fine-motor tasks. In addition to more wattage, older adults need glare-free illumination that is consistent from room to room, since moving from a low-light space to a bright one can be disorienting.

At Fogg Lighting, one of the things we try to educate people about is the concept of layers of light. Basically, you need a mix of light sources at different levels to create a properly lit space. We generally establish a first layer of ambient illumination in a room using decorative fixtures such as a chandelier, pendants, or semi-flush or flush-mount units. Accent and task lighting — typically some combination of well-placed recessed or track fixtures, sconces, under-cabinet units, cove lights, and table and floor lamps — fills in the shadows and helps you see what you’re doing. Contrast this scenario with one in which recessed fixtures are the only light source, as is sometimes the case in hallways. Used on their own, these units create pockets of light and darkness that make the area difficult for seniors (and toddlers!) to navigate.

For reading and other activities, it’s important to have a dedicated fixture that can accommodate the equivalent of a 100-watt incandescent bulb. Choose an opaque shade to reduce glare and an articulated arm if you want the option of shining the light onto a book. Here are a few of my favorite products.

These dimmable lamps by Holtkotter have transitional shapes and efficient halogen bulbs. Adjust the height of the floor lamp and move the arm to direct light where you need it.

For a more modern look, I love these sleek LED fixtures by Koncept, which are dimmable, adjustable, and work well in tight spaces.

Want more information? We are trained to design lighting plans that will see you through the aging progress. Stop by our store for a free consultation tailored to your specific needs.