LET THERE BE LIGHT: The Art and Impact of Lighting

If my clients find me uncompromisingly focused on the importance of lighting design, it is due to over 20 years of witnessing first hand the incredible transformative effect of good lighting. The corollary to this, of course, is to what great extent bad lighting can truly ruin the feeling of an entire room. In fact, I have lost count of how many times I have been shown rooms by clients who both wonder why they don’t use the room, and complain about the disuse. I would say that almost 9 times out of 10, I can point the accusatory finger at a colossal lack of good lighting!! Having designed, for example, many basement and underground level spaces, I have learned a few things about the tremendous impact of well-designed, transformative lighting.

Although this is a basement, a beautifully balanced array of both exceptional quality lighting fixtures (thank you Visual Comfort and Tech Lighting!) and a masterful lighting design plan has created an uplifting, bright, and visually impactful space. This family LOVES their basement, and spends TONS of happy time in this space.

favorite thing rugs

The feel of the lighting in this serene, but dramatic living room is very different. Small wall washers were installed above the fireplace to visually highlight and “wash” the fireplace wall. Throughout the rest of the space, well-placed downlights balance the quality and intensity of the ambient light in the room. (Everything, of course, on dimmers, so that the intensity of the light can be well controlled throughout different times of day.) Additionally, a beautiful decorative central fixture grounds the centralized seating plan, and adds a dramatic focal point. 

It is worth pointing out, too, the importance of the other INCREDIBLY important lighting source–daylight! People often forget that natural lighting coming into a room from the outdoors needs to be both incorporated and kept in mind as part of the overall lighting plan. Light coming in from the outdoors always elevates the mood, and creates the added impact and beauty of natural light–whether brilliant sunlight or moonlight, for example. Natural outside light can create a specific feeling or quality of light that is just as dramatic and impactful as using architectural/man made light sources.

In this same multi-purpose room, for example, you cannot underestimate the visual value of the large double window (designed to highlight the window seat, and balance the visual “weight” of the flanking book shelving and desks.) The double French doors, equally balance and add to the natural light coming into the room, while providing visual and physical access to the adjacent sunroom.

living area lighting

Gorgeous, well-designed light fixtures also create a sense of designated space and of “being.” In this kitchen I designed for a busy family (below), the eating area shown here is part of a much larger open kitchen/dining/entertaining space. By hanging this dramatic, visually stunning fixture from Visual Comfort over the banquette area dining table, the viewer knows they have “landed” at the dining table. The light becomes a sort of visual placeholder or beacon. It provides a “yes”–you are here, and ready to relax in this space–kind of feeling. You can also see the wall sconces that have also been added to the perimeter walls–adding yet another beautiful “layer” of light.

kitchens lighting

In the other kitchen we see in the image below, the fantastic orb fixture from Hubbardton Forge creates the same visual touch point. The fixture grounds and highlights the dining table, while also providing the right quality of light. The visual beauty of this light is an added bonus!


In the same home, in an adjacent space, the lighting has been designed and installed with equal care. A beautiful linear fixture draws the eye into the space between the pilasters at the bar area. It rests as an eye-catching, warm, visually interesting focal point amongst the perimeter recessed downlights. Lovely, well-balanced, and pleasing…The central fixture over the table also draws the eye to the two tall windows–adding to the visual impact of the space.

The choice of lighting is not only important for excellent light conditions and function, but for creating a sense of proper scale and proportion, or drawing the eye in a certain direction. The long lines of the Hubbardton Forge fixture below create a visual verticality that nicely balances the horizontal lines of the vanity cabinet. By bringing the eye upwards, it also creates a sense of a higher ceiling plane–visually increasing the sense of space. Clever lighting choice!

bathroom lighting

I also love to use lighting in bathroom spaces in a way that creates a particular mood and impact, while also being highly functional. In the glamorous bathroom shown below, my clients wanted an elegant space complete with dark custom cabinetry, and beautiful, classic marble tile and polished nickel fixtures. Here, I used a stunning, linear style visual comfort fixture with a hint of art deco styling. This fixture is reminiscent of the deco fixtures of old Hollywood films, but also lends itself to more contemporary interiors. It’s clean, architectural lines lend themselves to working well in many different spaces–from highly traditional and “old world” to quite fresh and modern.

bathroom lighting

I cannot resist including the exceptional lighting art of the artist, John Pomp. This California based artist takes his creative inspiration from the natural world–primarily the ocean and ocean creatures and forms. These undulating, curvaceous forms are both lovely and magical. The lighting forms below remind me of any number of fascinating marine plants or corals. I think they are the visual equivalent of poetry in the form of lighting fixtures!

lighting art

I could stare at these all day long! The fixture below, also by John Pomp, is intensely mesmerizing. To me, it looks like a collection of floating jellyfish, all lit by an underwater luminescence. Just amazing…What a conversation piece this gorgeous light fixture would be above your dining table!

lighting fixtures

And, let’s not forget the way lighting can be used to highlight architectural or different structural features. In the three images below, I designed lighting to highlight the interiors of cabinets, or cast light installed below cabinetry to add a visual glow to the woodwork and built-in cabinets. In each case, the visual “wow” factor is enhanced considerably by the use of well-placed, well-chosen lighting elements.

So, when you are ready to embark on your new building or renovation project, please don’t forget this POWERFUL design element. The art of beautiful lighting is within your reach!! LET THERE BE LIGHT!!

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