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  • Jenny Heinzen York

Designers discuss importance of lighting

The correct use of lighting in a room is one of the most important aspects in interior design, because not only do lamps and fixtures provide necessary illumination, but they also set the tone and overall mood of a space. For this edition of Illuminations, Home Accents Today interviewed two prominent interior designers - Julia Buckingham Edelmann of Buckingham Interiors + Design in Chicago, and Beth Webb of Beth Webb Interiors in Atlanta - about how they approach lighting as they design a room. - Jenny Heinzen York

Talk about the general importance of lighting fixtures and lamps as you design a room.

Julia Edelmann: I am of the belief that lighting is THE most important statement piece within each of my designed environments! It is the space where all furnishings meet the open world of the emptier space above. Whether the ceiling details are artistic and/or architectural the correct scale, proportion and overall mood of each room is felt most deeply with the lighting. I prefer oversized and unique.

This kitchen
Anthony Tahlier.
Julia Edelmann designs rooms with lighting as the key focal point. This kitchen she designed showcases a pair of dramatic fixtures. Photo by Anthony Tahlier.

Beth Webb: Extremely important! Lighting really defines the space - ambient lighting is everything in an interior.

How do you approach a room design as far as the lighting elements go? Do you consider the amount of wattage needed in a space?

JE: It is crucial that the mood is met with the correct amount of wattage and also the correct illumination. That is, that wattage plays an important role in how the space feels. If there is a need for more subdued lighting - the wattage, bulbs and the installation of an ever-important dimmer can perfect the overall "lighting effect." Again, overhead lighting is the butter to my bread. Lamp lighting is more subtle and because it is more commonly lighting at eye level, it is an artistic statement as well as an illuminating one.

BW: Layer, layer and layer! I always consider the amount of wattage in any space as it relates to the function of the room. If it's a kitchen, you must consider all the elements. I really am a fan of layering in this room. Task and decorative are equally as important here. In a bedroom, it must be soft but also functional. I wrote a whole blog on the necessity of correct lighting in the bathroom. Again, layers are pivotal, recessed plus incandescent is key!

In certain rooms (dining room, for example), the light fixture can be a real focal point. Do you use that as a starting point in the design of a room, or do you have a different strategy?

The combination
Beth Webb
Beth Webb said layering of light creates the correct ambience and wattage for a space. The combination of recessed, decorative fixtures and lamps is key.

JE: My strategy IS to very often begin with the lighting - this is my perfect scenario when furnishings, such as a dining table, have not already been purchased or inherited. The room really revolves around this integral design element, and it is never complete without the perfect piece.

BW: A fabulous chandelier or lantern can be the starting point, but sconces are important as well. I don't necessarily start with that always but it is a focal point.

Do your customers ask about the light bulb regulations, or do you make suggestions about which bulbs to choose?

JE: Great question! Again, each unique fixture speaks differently with the addition of a different bulb shape and/or size. We are currently inundated with new and vintage ideas for bulbs and this adds to the versatility and fun. A different bulb can change the fixture entirely.

BW: I tell them absolutely NO FLOURESCENTS. I can't abide it! I am also really opposed to incandescent bulbs in recessed lighting, it's ghoulish. The technology is changing daily, but until there is a better solution I'm sticking to my opinions.

How do you explain to your customers the dramatic price ranges for fixtures and encourage them to step up? How important is it to spend a little extra money on quality/good materials? Do your customers understand?

JE: I think that my clients connect with me initially because of their "love for lighting." It is so omnipresent within my portfolio that it attracts a certain sort of following - so, yes, they do understand the extra investment needed to achieve just the right look.

BW: I think you have to educate your client and the best way to do that is by actually seeing and touching the pieces you are interested in purchasing. Quality and luxury cost more, but you get what you pay for! Quality will stand the test of time. Craftsmanship and attention to detail should cost more! Mass production and a disposable mentality will eventually run its course, I hope. I do think people are beginning to understand that if you spend the money up front you get a product that will stand up to the ravages of time and use.

Are there any specific types or styles of fixtures that are selling well or are especially popular right now?

JE: The sky is the limit! I source for clients for hours and all across the world to find the perfect fixture for their homes. At this point, the more unusual or the fixture with a great story or tale on how I found it is what is going strong at my firm.

BW: On a daily basis we buy so many different styles and types of fixtures so I guess the only way for me to answer that question is to say we are doing our part to keep the economy going. There are so many beautiful products out there to choose from.

Any thoughts on finishes, colors - in terms of trend?

JE: The idea of painting fixtures any color intrigues me greatly right now. Also, fixtures made from unique materials are a home run.

BW: I love the new trend toward lacquered metals and antiqued bronze and silver are making a comeback after the nickel craze.

What advice do you have to others to sell more lamps and lighting?

JE: Sit with your clients and show them images from favorite projects or favorite design magazines. Watch them closely to see what speaks to them. More often than not, there will be a theme that emerges that highlights a lighting love. Then you can leap from there to show them the perfect pieces for their own home.

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