Avoid the 7 Biggest Lighting Mistakes

November 18, 2014 | Melinda Miles

Lighting mistakes












#1 – Too many fixtures in one view

With the popularity of open floor plans, room views can extend from one area to the next. If more than one fixture will be visible, both need to be related in style, color, and size and not too close together, so they don’t compete or look too busy. For example, in a kitchen there needs to be adequate space between the island and the nook to have two separate fixtures hanging in the same sight line, and they need to coordinate with one another.

#2 – Visible light bulbs

Always check the view of a fixture from the height at which it will be installed in your home. Visible light bulbs are not attractive and cause uncomfortable glare. Bowl lights, for example, hung low over a dining table or in a two-story foyer allow you to see over the top down into the fixture, and view the bare light bulbs. This style of light fixture needs to be used in areas where it can be placed up high, close to the ceiling, and viewed only from underneath.

For globe fixtures like the ones used for vanity lights or ceiling fan light kits, clear fan light bulbs will look best. These bulbs are shorter and don’t extend past the outer edge of the globe. The clear glass gives a much more attractive appearance than a frosted bulb.

#3 – Fixtures too small for the space

Two-story foyers require an over-sized, dramatic fixture large enough to fill that aerial space. A chandelier-style foyer fixture would need to be at least two-tier and possibly three-tier to fill the two-story space—approximately 30” – 45” high. A dining room chandelier should be only 6” – 12” smaller than the narrowest width of the dining table, or measure three-quarters the width of your table.

#4 – Fixtures too big for the space

Island lights should not extend the entire length of the island, but instead be about 2/3 – 3/4 the length. General guidelines for ceiling fans are:  bath and utility rooms – 42″ fans, secondary bedrooms and studys – 48″ fans, family rooms and master bedrooms – 54″ fans.

#5 – Fixtures hung too high

Chandeliers over dining tables should be hung so that the bottom of the fixture is approximately 30” from the top of the table in a room with 8’ ceilings, 3” higher for each additional foot of ceiling height.

Bathroom vanity lights hung too high above the mirror don’t give quality light for grooming. The ideal height for bath bar lights is 78” above the finished floor. If the globes cast the light in only one direction, the globes need to be aimed down, not up at the ceiling.

#6 – Fixtures hung too low

Pendants lights can hang too low if they are suspended from rods that cannot be shortened. Product descriptions often don’t include the chain and canopy required for mounting. This can add up to an additional 5″ to the height of the fixture. Pendant lighting in kitchens should hang above standing eye level, about 32″ – 36″ above the counter and bar tops, to avoid blocking sight lines.

Ceiling fans hung too high or too low don’t give the desired air circulation. Fan manufacturers recommend hanging fans with the blades 8’ – 9’ above the finished floor for best results. If there is a light kit on the fan, the bottom of the lights should not hang below 7′ from the floor.

#7 – Fixtures without dimmers

Controlling the amount of light increases comfort, sets the mood, and creates drama. Plan dimmers on recessed cans and decorative fixtures so you can control the amount of light in a particular area, depending on your needs. Choose fixtures and light bulbs that will accommodate dimmers for areas where you want lighting control. Dimmers cannot be used with some CFL, LED, and other light bulbs. If used improperly, they can affect the performance, shorten the life span, or void the warranty of these bulbs. Check the details on the product you are using.

Get out there and shop!

November 16, 2014 | Melinda Miles

Upscale bath

Shopping is the key to creating great interiors. You need to see everything there is available in order to be inspired, informed, and prepared to make good decisions. There are five key shopping strategies that will make your decision-making process easier and get you the home of your dreams.

Strategy #1

Shop at high-end showrooms for inspiration. No matter how limited your budget, do not shop low-end stores for ideas. Go to high-end, high-quality showrooms first. At high-end showrooms you will find the newest market trends, latest product innovations, and the best design advice. You may be pleasantly surprised at the selection of beautiful upgrade items you can afford. Any ideas that are totally outside your budget can be translated into more affordable interpretations without losing the impact of the original design. After you have seen the best ideas, you can take what you have learned and adapt it to what you can afford by shopping at more budget-friendly resources, if necessary.

Strategy #2

Shop before your architectural plans are finalized. Finish selections influence the design, and certain selections require changes to the blueprints.  Take into account every piece of equipment and furnishing that you expect to have, and go check it out. Even if it is too early to purchase these items, know what you want and plan to use before construction begins. Waiting  until the contractor actually requires  your final selection information for appliances, plumbing fixtures, lighting, etc. will be too late.

Shop to avoid expensive changes like these:

Changing from an electric cook-top to a slide-in gas range impacts the gas lines, venting, and cabinetry.

Going from a double oven to a single convection oven with a warming drawer can change the electrical locations and the cabinet design.

Sink, faucet, and tub selections can change the location of the plumbing.

Media equipment can affect the electrical plan and built-in cabinetry.

Strategy #3

Shop for every selection before you make the first decision. Shop for tile before you commit to the plumbing fixtures. Shop for granite or other countertop materials before you pick your tile for backsplashes. Shop for light fixtures before you commit to a plumbing fixtures or hardware finishes. Each finish impacts the next, and you might find something down the road that you want to use, that will not work with finishes that were previously selected.

Strategy #4

Shop like a pro. Take photos of every item, layout, and idea you plan to use.  Create visual references so you don’t have to rely on your perception and memory. There are too many details to assimilate.  Get specification sheets, samples, and swatches from every resource, for every product you consider. Carry a measuring tape and sketchpad with you as you shop. Verify sizes, sketch up ideas, and confirm layouts and details.

Create and share your visual aids with the builder, architect, and sub-contractors, to help them better understand the look you have chosen. It is amazing how a verbal description, no matter how accurate, can be interpreted in a dozen different ways. A photo, sketch, or mock-up can quickly convey a concept and eliminate mistakes.

Strategy #5

Shop at local showrooms. Making selections from photos, catalogs, and internet graphics can lead to unhappy surprises and costly mistakes. It is too hard to know the actual color, texture, finish, or subtle details that can make all the difference. Whenever possible, see and touch the real thing.

Beware of color names. They are often misleading. Granite colors vary dramatically from slab to slab, even though the color name is the same. It is important to see and touch the actual slab in natural light. Creative color names like “Mystic Silver” or “Austrian Gold” used for finishes on light fixtures or hardware may not be what you were expecting. Choosing these items based on color names can lead to incompatible finishes and disappointing results.