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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Comprised of a brass stem and filaments bejeweled with glass accents, this glam allium-like lamp blooms wherever its marble base is planted.
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.
Fringed edges give this classic silhouette, rendered in an antique zinc finish, a kinetic quality. A rectangular paper shade underscores the artful geometry.
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.
“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 fixtures, the 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.
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:
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:
Q: What’s a good strategy for lighting a yard?
A: I suggest following a less is more approach. You don’t want your yard to be lit up like a theme park, and I promise your neighbors don’t either. Too much exterior light can be blinding, uses unnecessary electricity, and contributes to the brightening of the night sky, making it difficult to see stars and disrupting animal habitats. Instead, focus on installing fixtures where you need them — near a patio or path, for example — and accentuating a few special features in the landscape. In addition to making your yard feel inviting when you’re outdoors, these pockets of illumination give you something to gaze out at (other than a black window) when you’re inside your home at night.
I recommend down lighting, also known as moonlighting, as an environmentally friendly means of landscape lighting. You can place downlights, which have a cylindrical casing around the bulb to eliminate glare, high up on tree trunks and aim them at a walkway, seating area, or the tree’s own foliage for a moonlit effect. Path lights — typically 18- to 24-inch posts topped with canopies that direct light downward — are a good choice for highlighting plantings in a garden. Modern versions, such as those shown above, are also available. Place path fixtures about 20 feet apart to create glowing areas that draw the eye from one plant to the next versus a single blast of illumination. Avoid stationing these lights at regular intervals along a path, which conjures a landing strip, and using them on lawns, where they are vulnerable to lawnmowers and weed wackers.
Opt for solid brass or copper fixtures, which hold up well in Maine weather and can withstand the occasional ding from a power tool, and use 20-watt equivalent LED bulbs. These last up to 20 years in a landscape setting (compared with six months to a year for halogen bulbs), a lifespan you’ll be especially thankful for if your fixtures are in a tree.
By Sanford Fogg
Photo Courtesy of Hubbardton Forge
Q: What should I consider when selecting fixtures for the exterior of my house?
A: The first step is determining the type of fixture, or fixtures, that best suit your house. This is, of course, a matter of personal taste. A flush-mount fixture works well on porches with low ceilings, while a pendant can be a good match for higher ceilings, depending on wind. Sconces on one or both sides of the door are a classic choice and can be combined with a ceiling fixture if you have a portico. If you have a tight space with no covering overhead, mount a single sconce near the door on the handle side. Whatever style you choose, invest in a quality material, such as copper, brass, or powder-coated forged steel. These metals come in multiple finishes and hold up well in Maine weather.
Choosing exterior fixtures that are too small is a common mistake people make. Lanterns that look large in a crowded showroom often get lost on the broad façade of a house. And when you stand back 50 feet, they appear about half their size. As a general rule, select models that are roughly ¼ to ⅓ the overall height of the door. Before making a purchase, cut cardboard to the size and shape of the light and affix it to your house, then stand on the street and see how it looks. Lamppost fixtures should match those in the entry and be approximately the same size. Garage fixtures are usually a little smaller and can be a different style if they are not visible from the front of the house.
Glare is another issue with a lot of exterior lights. A prime example is the motion-sensor flood lighting many people have on their garages. Instead of helping you see, these fixtures actually blind you! When it’s dark out, a little light goes a long way. One frosted, 40-watt-equivalent LED bulb per fixture is usually just right. To truly minimize glare, and light pollution in your community, opt for a “dark sky” fixture, which has a shade that shields the bulb and directs the beam downward — your neighbors will thank you!
What could be cooler? The Koncept mr. GO comes in five fun colors, 5-50 hours of illumination depending on level setting AND has a USB output to charge your other devices on the GO!
That is a question I am asked frequently. I think art looks good when it is lighted, but it is a personal decision. Art in galleries and museums is always lit. Galleries are trying to sell it and museums are showing it to a large public audience.
|Great Use of Accent Light|
I have been in houses where every picture in the house is lit. I think that is way too much lighted art, even if it is good art. I would rather see a few of the best pieces lighted because they then stand out from the crowd. I have also been in houses full of beautiful art where none of it is lighted. The owner contends that the artist painted the picture in natural light so it should be viewed in natural light. To light or not to light is a personal decision. The short answer is there is no right or wrong.
However lighting art is a way to add a layer of accent light to a room as well as to highlight a painting. In this regard I am in favor of accent lighting. People who have dark rooms would benefit from adding accent lighting here and there.