A graphic illustration of the Fallingwater house by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Vinyl SLighting

The locally quarried stone and stained concrete shapes that make up Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Fallingwater are key ingredients of its success, but the maintenance is expensive.  Natural stone needs care and mortar; concrete cracks and spalls.  So last year the Foundation that oversees Fallingwater made the sensible choice to reduce maintenance costs.

They covered the house in low-cost low-maintenance white vinyl siding.

It does not take much skill to install, and you can run down to the neighborhood big box store and get some more if you run out.  You don’t have to plan ahead and order expensive custom stuff.

And, hey, maybe you might even like the way the house looks better now:

A graphic illustration of the Fallingwater house by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this time with vinyl siding.

I never met Frank, but I know enough never to ask him to use vinyl siding.  He would have directed his minions to forcefully remove me from his studio, said very unkind things about me in the newspaper, and declared that vinyl siding was suitable only for garbage dumps.

In other words, he would not mix good design and bad products together.

This happens every day in otherwise quality homes.  You might call it Vinyl SLighting.

I see a lot of very nice homes in my line of work.  The team often consists of a good architect, a quality builder and a talented interior designer.  There may be beautiful materials used like stone, brick, marble and designer tiles.  Large custom windows abound.  Roofing might be standing seam steel, clay tile or slate.

And lighting…well.   There will be a very expensive chandelier over the dining room table and lots and lots of recessed downlights, but hire a professional to help?  Spend serious money on fixtures that mostly disappear into the ceiling?  That seems to be a tough sell.

So we build beautiful home after beautiful home with great architectural design and poor lighting.  It’s cheap and easy to install but it doesn’t last, it doesn’t work very well and it doesn’t look very good.

Sadly, cheap lighting is way, way worse than vinyl siding on a luxury home.

You cannot see the work of the architect without light.  You cannot see the quality of the build without light.  You cannot see the skill of the interior design without light.

You cannot experience the richness of the stone without light.  You cannot enjoy the calming color tones without light.  You cannot admire the vaulted ceiling without light.

And like the off-gassing of vinyl siding, Vinyl SLighting may negatively affect your health every single day of your life.  So why skimp?  Why use $30 recessed cans above a $100,000 kitchen?

I’m sad that good lighting costs real money.  I wish it was a cheap as the low-end fixtures that go into most of our homes.

The good news is that there are less expensive quality fixtures.  Chances are you won’t find them on your own, so please seek professional help.

And stop the spread of Vinyl SLighting.


Author’s Note: Several readers shared their dismay at Fallingwater being covered by white vinyl siding.  Clearly, I was too convincing and needed the sarcasm font.  I made that part up!  The analogy, however, is true…I see poor lighting on otherwise fine homes daily.

Light Can Help You