Sunday, October 14, 2012

How to create a lighting plan for your renovation or new home build

I was recently contacted by a sweet couple who are building a new home - I love a new build and so enjoy poring through fixtures and materials to help homeowners achieve their dream!

One major area that is important to put a lot of thought into in the earlier stage of your renovation or new home design is lighting – because once everything has been wired and the new/repaired drywall is in place, it’s an expensive proposition to make changes!

Some homeowners make the mistake of ‘leaving it up to the architect or builder’ they are working with.  I remember meeting a trade once in my own new build who asked me what I was doing there (at the placement consult with our contractor) ... he said that his process was to go through the house and place lighting where he would want it, as if it were his house.  I replied, “but it’s not your house!”

And of course, if you are renovating or building on a tight budget, it can be very tempting to let the builder / contractor implement very cost effective fixtures they can recommend.  But they often don’t give adequate illumination for the space and look dated as soon as they’re installed (ie. there are ‘builder grade’ flush-mounts that have been in stores now for over 20 yr’s!).

NOT adequate lighting

NOT adequate lighting

I can’t stress enough how important lighting is, not just to achieve adequate illumination and wonderfully help to pull the look and feel of your space together, but also for its future value – a well-lit home will sell faster than a poorly-lit one.

There are varying levels of lighting as well as a variety in lighting aesthetic in this gorgeously designed space by Frank Roop.

So – where and how to begin with the creation of your lighting plan for your renovation or new home?

I’m not going to get into the technical details of creating a drawing for your lighting plan – you can find videos on the net for that; I’m going to focus on the thought process you should go through before settling on the technical lighting plan you communicate to your builder/contractor.

Step 1:  Think about the placement of main furniture groupings / specific furniture

It may be reasonable to think that you don’t need to think about where you may want a floor lamp, for example, until well after move-in/ your reno is finished, but thinking about where and how you’re going to place furniture in your main living spaces will give you the best result with your lighting plan.

Peggy Dupuis

While it’s true that if you design in a hanging pendant over a small table in a conversation grouping of furniture* in your space that you may be restricted going forward if you’re a serial room-rearranger, but having an electrical outlet installed in the floor for a floor lamp you may wish to implement amongst furniture is smart – you would avoid unsightly wiring and it’s something that can be easily hidden if it’s not needed.

*A very well designed room does take those types of customizations into consideration – in fact, if you want to implement sconces above a dining sideboard, for example, you need to know the size and placement of the sideboard in the space, as well as any artwork or mirror you wish to have in between.

GRADE Architecture and Interior Design

It’s even helpful to think of where you may place task lighting or ambient lighting, such as a table lamp, as in some instances it can be overkill to have too many layers of lighting in one space (eg. sconces and a table lamp in the immediate area).

Step 2:  Think about placement of lights – for all ‘levels of lighting’

I will say it again – when it comes to your general lighting, don’t make the mistake of thinking that putting in some recessed lighting (ie. pot lights) and/or track lighting where you can ‘aim the light’ will be “enough”.  {This post does not address accent lighting - ie. uplighting, downlighting behind bulk-heads, accenting a piece of art, etc.}

As evidenced in the 2nd picture above, not having enough “layers of lighting” can leave a space with poor light levels (creating shadows and a drab feeling to the space), and also does not do anything to help you achieve the look and feel you’re after in your space.

Sarah Richardson

Especially in bathrooms where men need to not miss those stubbles when shaving and women need to get their eyeliner straight, the importance of adequate lighting cannot be overstated.

In the above (gorgeous) bathroom by Sarah Richardson, you can tell she’s implemented recessed lighting in the ceilings, and hung a pendant in front of the mirror in addition to wall sconces flanking the mirror.

So - stand in your spaces and think about how you will use them:  where will you sit, stand, cook, work, eat, read, watch TV, play games etc., and think about all the different levels of light that could be employed:  pendant lights, chandeliers, wall sconces, under and in-cabinet lighting.

Then make a list, room by room, indicating what type of lighting you want and where you want it placed.  Getting a technical plan in place for the electrician after that will be the easy part.

Don’t forget your outdoor space(s)!

SAOTA (Stefan Antoni Olmesdahl Truen Architects)

Step 3:  Find lighting that illuminates sufficiently and supports your aesthetic

As with all elements in a renovation or new build, I encourage homeowners to define ‘mantra words’ that their vision embibes.  These succinct ‘descriptor’ words can aid greatly in ensuring you pull a look together that flows throughout your home and achieves your vision [it’s too easy otherwise to get derailed during the process as you see items you like that support a different aesthetic ...].

My new clients have a vision that’s eclectic – combining traditional, contemporary and rustic.  With that definition firmly in place, we can now look for fixtures that will support this aesthetic – in a successful way.  Which can be a challenge - because the best design does not employ "matching" sets of anything, really - and that applies also to lighting fixtures.

It wouldn’t be successful, for example, to select industrial-looking pendants for over the island and then a more traditional pendant/chandelier over my client's mission-style dark wood dining table they wish to purchase.  That would be an unsuccessful blending of two different styles.

Example of UNSUCCESSFUL blending of two lights in an open plan space

1) Parker Place Pendant, Murray Feiss Lighting ; 2) Alexis Three Light Pendant by Elk Lighting

So – how best to go about the not insignificant task of finding just the right lighting fixtures?  This is where the computer is your friend!  Do yourselves a huge favour and save yourselves heaps of time and gas and at least do your looking/planning online.

There are a plethora of online lighting stores – if you’re in Canada and you think you may want to order online (lighting is the one type of fixture I do find a lot of success with ordering online – the selection and prices are great), first look at Canadian online stores to avoid either extra $ for shipping and brokerage fees or to save yourselves a trip across the border to pick up your (US) goods.

Then with your list in hand of, room by room, what type of lighting you seek, spend hours poring over lighting sites and when you see items you like – don’t just bookmark them as it can get overwhelming and you can’t readily see ‘the whole picture’ of all the lights you will need to purchase.

Example of SUCCESSFUL blending of two different lights in an open plan space

1) Essex by Progress Lighting ; 2) Peyton by Murray Feiss Lighting

Instead I suggest that you print-screen the item, making sure you capture the manufacturer item name and price, and then paste these into a Word document (also paste the website url where you found the light).

First paste the print-screen into Paint (a MicroSoft accessory) - then use the Select tool in Paint to select just the part of the image most important [the light image, manufacturer/item name, price). Then right click inside that 'selection', and Copy and Paste it into Word. You will keep your Word document cleaner this way, and have an easier time seeing how well lights work together.

Organize your Word document by room / area name and label them as option 1, 2 etc., if you are finding more than one possibility for each area (likely!).  It’s a great way to really see them, side by side, and see if the different fixtures will work together successfully or not.

See the above example of the successful blending of two different lights in a common area – I could recommend use of 2 lights similar to the Essex lights (would just need a smaller size) for over my client’s kitchen island and then use of the Peyton chandelier for over their mission-style dining table. 

With their planned white and dark kitchen cabinetry, light and dark countertops, white backsplash with black grout, farmhouse style kitchen sink and stainless appliances – the above lighting recommendations would very successfully support their traditional, contemporary and rustic vision.


Ashley Goforth

Important:  do read the technical specifications on the light before pasting it into your Word doc as a possible option. ie. make sure it will give adequate illumination and also make sure the size is suitable [remember the general rule for a space is to add the width x length (in feet) and that, in inches, is the size to target if you’re using one light fixture in the space – which needs to be adjusted if you’re implementing more than 1, of course].

Eg. for an 11’ x 7’ dining space, 11” + 7” = 18” ß you would target finding an 18” diameter light

Composition is important, so size is important in all cases, but especially when you're implementing more than one light fixture (eg. 2 or 3 or 5 pendants over a kitchen island).

When you've finally decided on all your lighting choices, you can take your document [preferaby on your laptop to avoid printing :) ] into your local lighting store and see if they can bring the lights in and at what price (most of them can source most manufacturers' items).  Your local retailer's pricing however, is unfortunately likely to be higher than ordering online.

If you simply can’t decide or aren’t sure if all your lighting choices work well together – contact a designer that will help ensure you get it right!

It's Your Space, Your Place, Your Life -- want a great-looking space that embibes the feel you'll love living in? Contact Liz to help make it happen!




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