Monday, January 11, 2010

Interior Design: Lighting

One of the experts we recommend to our clients who are building a new home and need help selecting appropriate light fixtures for their home is Ellen Winkler, CEO and principal of Ellen’s Interiors on Main Street in New London, New Hampshire. Her 3000 square foot showroom features a lighting display, fine furnishings, kitchen & bath fixtures, granite & tile displays, area rugs, carpet samples, decorative accessories, and wall art. I had the opportunity to talk to Ellen recently to find out what her potential clients are concerned about the most in regard to designing the interior of their home.

Not surprisingly, one of the top concerns folks have about interior design is lighting. When clients bring up the subject of lighting, Ellen says she puts her clients at ease, explaining that lighting style and efficiency, as well as basic lighting elements are more easily addressed after each room is evaluated for its purpose and use.

Addressing lighting efficiency, Ellen helps clients decide how much light they actually need, rather than how much they think they need. “I talk about lighting elements and their uses in the home,” Ellen explains, “and we discuss ambient lighting for general indoor and outdoor activities, task lighting for specific areas such as under-counter kitchen lights, table lamps, or bathroom mirror lights, and accent lighting to showcase aesthetics such as sculpture and art.”

Our visual performance depends on the location of the light as well as quality and quantity. “An example of this is a client who has a specific sculpture they would like to showcase,” Ellen says. “We discuss the angle of the light as well as the type. For instance, placing the lighting unit above the sculpture will produce a lot of angles and shadow. Lighting placed below the sculpture will highlight the texture of the piece. We talk about their specific goals in displaying the sculpture and the results they would like to achieve to determine the location of the lighting units.”

For kitchen lighting, Ellen likes to use a rack system for under and display cabinet lighting applications, such as this Xenon fixture. The photo here demonstrates the system nicely. (photo courtesy WAC Lighting)

Ellen explains, “We like this low voltage system for several reasons: 1) The Xenon bulb has a rated life of 8,000 to 20,000 hours making it a good financial and long term choice; 2) The Xenon bulb is dimmable and is available in a variety of sizes for a variety of lighting needs; 3) The Xenon bulb does not emit much heat, and can be specified for use in compact designs, such as cabinet, soffit and cove lighting applications without maintaining a huge distance from combustible surfaces; and 4) Xenon bulbs emit a warm light, which is nice aesthetically and does not present health problems for people who are sensitive to florescent lighting.” The photo below shows the Xenon rack system under the cabinets (photo courtesy Ellen’s Interiors).

More light is not necessarily better, as some may think. “After identifying the ambient, task, and accent lighting areas, I create a lighting plan identifying the number of footcandles (a unit which measures the intensity of illumination) in each room. Hallways and other areas that require only ambient lighting can require only about 4-5 footcandles. On the other hand, areas where specific tasks are performed, say an office or bathroom vanity, may require 45 or more footcandles, depending on the intensity of the task.”

Concerns about lighting are minimized when you work with an architect and experienced interior designer.

Ellen’s Interiors, Inc.
12 Lovering Lane
New London NH 03257