A photographer’s subject could be a grand landscape, gorgeous model or colorful event, but one element will make or break the image: lighting.
The same goes for a home’s interior. Walls, floorings, countertops, furnishings, artwork and floor coverings can be impeccably stylish, but without the right light, it underachieves.
With the change of lighting technology, namely super energy-efficient LED lights, and the growing array of designs and options of lighting fixtures, people who care about the way their homes look need to brush up on the subject.
Earlier this week, most of the staff with Circa Lighting, located at 426 King St. since 2002, sat down with The Post and Courier and chatted about the elements that make for excellent lighting in a home.
“Lighting changes everything, but sometimes I think you have to experience it to know it,” says sales associate Anna Bett Moore.
“Lighting is as technical as it is decorative. It’s as much science as it is design. These day, there is a lot more that goes into selecting the best light (and) people can get overwhelmed.”
The Circa staff, most of whom have interior design backgrounds, offer the following tips about effective lighting.
“You want to make sure the light fits the space,” says Acacia Lohman, who works with designers and contractors for Circa.
“Consider whether a light is too big or too small. For example, people forget about considering overall heights of ceilings. Recently, I walked into a house that had a 38-inch (hanging) fixture on a 9-foot ceiling, so it was 6 feet off the floor. For a hanging fixture, you want to make sure you have a clearance of at least 7 feet.”
Sales associate Rene Barnes says people should think about the different functions of lighting, basically overhead, ambient and focused lights for special tasks.
“It’s really important that you not just have good overhead lighting (such a recessed cans or hanging fixtures), but some task lighting for reading, doing crossword puzzles or needlepoint. You need some bright, focused light, especially as you get older.”
Similarly, Barnes says ambient light from table or floor lamp adds dimension to a room.
LED & recessed fixtures
Lohman described the recessed lighting of the past as “a downward glare,” but that with improvements in LED lighting technology, it’s changed the approach to illuminating an overall space or item in a room.
“When we work with a designer, we’re making sure those elements that are picked out are focused on.”
Emulate warm daylight
Most people who go to "big box" stores will notice how lighting is described as warm or more blue. Forget the latter, says the Circa crew.
“The trend going forward is to try and get everything (the lights) as close to daylight as possible,” says Lohman. “The blue light (think fluorescent) is something we try to avoid at all costs. That’s indicative of a less expensive LED light where the diode is effectively cheaper.”
For those in the lighting know, Lohman says the color “temperature” they aim for is between 2,700 and 3,000 on the Kelvin scale, which goes from 1,500 (very warm) to 7,500 (severe blue).
In the bathroom
Good lighting is certainly important in the bathroom, but it’s not synonymous with brightness.
Lohman says a common consideration is a light over the mirror or sconces on either side of it. “Those (sconces) will wash light over the face, whereas a light over the mirror will cast a down shadow.”
“For master bathrooms or for bathrooms for people who are older, we tend to specify a light on either side of a mirror.”
In the kitchen
“We quite frequently have people who think the more light means better quality light,” says Lohman, noting the “common misconceptions that having more than a dozen recessed cans in a kitchen equals the best light.
Once again, LED technology offers a quality-over-quantity preference.
“Today, we can put out the same amount of lumen quality light with four or five cans in a space,” she says.
History with function
In Charleston and Savannah, Circa staffs also face challenges of providing lighting advice for people with homes that were originally built when lighting was primarily by candles.
Moore says, “We have customers who have a home from the 1800s that they want to respect and keep the way it is. It’s historic. But they also have young kids and want to have the home also be functional and playful. How do we marry that?”
“Lighting is perfect because you still have the architecture, but we can play off of history by layering more modern or folksy pieces.”
Brass is back but ...
If someone still thinks of brass fixtures as those shiny, almost gawdy fixtures from the 1980s, it’s time to get out.
“Brass is back in a really big way,” says Lohman, of the "unlacquered" brass that patinas over time. “It’s our No. 1 color right now.”
And as for metal fixtures, Lohman says it doesn’t have to be “match-y match-y.”
“You can do bronze and brass. It just depends on the room.”