I would like to start my second year providing insight into the design side of remodeling by talking about a design subject near and dear to my heart — lighting design.
As an architecture student, I had to take several classes on lighting, but they were all theoretical and never provided any practical knowledge. About 15 years ago, through my association with Cooper Lighting, I started taking classes and using their lighting showroom — called the Source — to expand my knowledge of lighting design. It was through these and other classes that I learned the intricacies of lighting design, and where my own style started to flourish.
To me, successful and innovative lighting design requires thinking out of the box, understanding your clients’ wants and needs, and being creative. Therefore, my style is to first understand the clients’ functional lighting needs and aesthetic lighting desires for a particular room, and then design a solution utilizing the most appropriate light source and lamp (bulb) type.
Our firm was able to put this style into practice recently during the design/build renovation of a 100+ year-old apartment that is attached to the Drake Hotel in downtown Chicago. I have included our lighting plans for the public portion of the apartment.
The existing areas were lit with ceiling fixtures, wall sconces, and a floor lamps controlled at the source.
To create lighting to suit our clients’ needs and desires, we first had to overcome a structural challenge. The floor structure is a flat, one-way clay tile arch that places major restrictions on what lighting can and cannot be installed into the floor or ceiling cavity.
Additionally, our clients had a few major requirements. First, they needed appropriate lighting for their extensive art collection.
Second, they wanted to maintain flexibility with the type of light sources, where they could place art, and where the lighting could be controlled.
Third, our clients did not want to have to stock too many different types of lamps (bulbs).
We specified different light sources based upon our clients’ functional and aesthetic requirements. In the kitchen, we dropped the ceiling height and installed a drywall ceiling, allowing us to install general lighting using low-voltage recessed cans. For task lighting we specified a low-voltage, under-cabinet fixture.
We also lowered the ceiling in the foyer, where the artwork will be the first thing you see when you walk into the apartment. Lowering the ceiling allowed us to install recessed can lights designed specifically for lighting artwork. This light also bounces off the artwork and walls and provides a gentle and even warm wash throughout the foyer.
The hardest areas to design were the living and dining rooms. These rooms featured windows with spectacular views of Lake Michigan, so the client understandably did not want to drop the ceiling. This limited the type and location of lighting we could use. Fortunately, the dining room had a center junction box in the ceiling. Instead of a traditional chandelier, we opted for a contemporary and linear dropped light fixture over the dining table. To light the perimeter of the room, where the majority of the artwork was to be hung, the design challenge was resolved by specifying a two-circuit track light with a very low-profile, contemporary head. The track affords flexibility in terms of head locations, aiming and style. In addition, we lit the sitting area in the living room with two floor lamps that will be controlled with remote switches.
We were able to install the light switches and the track lights by working with the building’s engineers and architect to determine where the arches could be penetrated to install the proper electrical. After installing these switches and lights, our clients only needs to maintain MR-16 lamps for 90 percent of the lighting fixtures.
The clients are extremely pleased with the lighting throughout the apartment. They particularly appreciate the use of different types of light fixtures, which provides the flexibility of different lighting scenarios in all of the rooms.
This proved to me again that successful lighting design requires thinking out of the box, understanding your clients’ wants and needs, and being creative. If you are not familiar with lighting design, hire (or work) with a professional. Better yet, do what I did and educate yourself on this most fascinating aspect of our trade.
I look forward to talking with you about other design issues in the upcoming months. If there is a topic you would like me to cover, please e-mail me.