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Residential lighting design: 5 things to know

Cabinets, countertops, floors and more: for people building a new home, the sheer quantity of design studio selections can sometimes be overwhelming, pushing things like lighting near the bottom of the list. How can builders help their homebuyers make smart lighting choices that also work for their budget and personal style? The Eaton’s lighting division team talked with Heather Martin, design studio manager for Fielding Homes, to learn how she approaches residential lighting design with her customers. 

1. Why does residential lighting design require a unique approach? How is it different from commercial lighting? 

HM: First and foremost, residential lighting tends to have a warmer feel than lighting designed for commercial spaces, which usually feature brighter, cooler light.

We don’t want to spotlight every object or surface in a home; instead, we want lighting that creates a nice glow or lighting that allows us to perform a task in a specific area. No one wants harsh light shining onto them when they’re at the bathroom sink in the morning.

All lighting should aim for the perfect balance of style and finish, size, weight and color temperature. Sconces, lamps and puck lights are all great ways to highlight certain areas and create a particular ambiance in the various rooms of a home.  

2. What are some lighting design trends popular in single-family homes today? 

HM: The lighting industry tends to stay on top of color trends and finish trends, and it often sets the standard for other industries. In general, home lighting design is moving more toward lighter, cleaner styles. 

I’m also seeing the disappearance of a lot of the curves of more traditional styles as well as dangly jewel pieces and heavy lighting fixtures. These days, people who love a vintage look tend to gravitate toward Edison style bulbs. 

Two-tone rubbed bronze and antique brass are extremely popular lighting fixture finishes today. Silver-gold and blush gold are trendy for lighting but also plumbing and hardware for doors and cabinets. People are moving away from heavy finishes in favor of finishes that help make spaces feel light and airy.

Lighting manufacturers are also replacing some metals with wood or wood-like materials to warm up their lighting fixtures and create a more comforting space. The wood really complements and softens all of the metallic and silver finishes. 

3. What are some ways to make an impact with home lighting design? 

HM: Lighting is a great way to define a space or how a space will be used. In fact, we did this in one of our model homes, replacing recessed lights in an area with something a little more striking. Lighting also sets the mood; it’s possible to entirely recreate a space just by changing the lighting fixtures. 

Pendant lights are a great example. At Fielding Homes, we prewire every home for pendant lights, and during our design studio appointments with customers, pendant lights often turn into a 30-minute conversation. They’re that wow factor people want when they walk into their kitchen. Even if pendants are not included at first, homeowners can easily change a recessed light into a pendant. For example, they may want to create a more social atmosphere in a game room, and they can encourage conversation by adding pendant lighting over a game table.

A lot of our homebuyers also add under cabinet lights or cabinet top lights in the kitchen. Interior cabinet lighting turns nice dishes, fine china, glassware and stemware into a focal point. Many Fielding Homes customers select soffit cabinets — the ones that go to the ceiling — and they will often add glass faces and puck lights to show off everything inside the cabinets, from glassware to artwork.  

4. Homebuyers have so much to consider when they’re selecting options for a new home. What should they know about lighting? 

HM: Lighting is an excellent way for homeowners to showcase their personality and individual style. 

In the world of new construction, lighting fixtures are generally easier to change than cabinets, countertops and floors, so a lot of our customers choose not to roll lighting upgrades into their mortgage, instead spending their design budget on those things that are more permanent. We also realize that while we offer eight really nice lighting packages, we don’t hold the whole world of lighting in the palm of our hand.

But it’s important for homebuyers to know that certain lighting is much easier to incorporate or at least plan for during the building process. At a minimum, we should work together to make sure compatible wiring is available. Nobody wants to tear up a ceiling to add wiring for a light fixture after they close. I recently talked with a customer who wanted to make sure we included the right support and boxing for her 30-pound chandelier.

We do a lot of pre-wiring for sconce lighting, even if they don’t buy the lights from us. We can also add dimmer switches to help our buyers adjust the mood of a room.

5. What are some common homebuyer questions related to lighting? 

HM: In general, most of the lighting questions we receive are related to energy efficiency rather than style. These days, almost everyone asks if we offer LED lighting, and we do. In fact, most of our lights are LEDs, including flush mount LEDs in the porch and outdoor living spaces, hallways and kitchen pantry. 

A lot of people also ask if we have Edison style bulbs, because they love the vintage look. We have a few Edison bulb options.