Disclaimer: I am a lighting designer. I want you to hire me (or a lighting designer like me) because I need to eat. But I am not writing this article to get more work. I just want you to think about light and lighting differently.
There are two schools of thought on why you might hire a lighting designer: fear and hope. Fear can be a powerful motivator: will there be enough light? Will there be glare? Will I have the right color temperature? Will the LEDs look ugly? And fear can be a valid reason to seek lighting design help, but we do so much more than allay fears.
Hope is a better reason or, more accurately, anticipation of a better life. Lighting can be a commodity, an afterthought, expensive sparkling jewelry added to the home that does little for your life. Light, on the other hand, is a fundamental element of the universe and affects our every waking- and sleeping- moment.
Here are ten reasons to hire a lighting designer that focus on the hope and anticipation of something better. And don’t worry- we’ll take care of the fear side, too.
A good lighting designer will support- not supplant- your vision for how you want to live. They will support- not supplant- the creative vision of the architect and interior designer. A quality professional lighting designer’s goal is not to enforce or impress their own artistic vision onto your life but rather to enhance your life through careful illumination. Light can help you focus on what is important to you, and lighting designers know how.
Lighting is Electrical; Light is not
At some point many lighting decisions are unfairly placed on the shoulders of the electrician. A skilled electrician is worth their weight in gold. They know the codes, the techniques, and the tools to get a job done right. But asking them to understand the architecture of the space, your lifestyle and habits and the ever-expanding world of lighting technology is placing undue burden on their shoulders. Tasked with so much, they may walk through with you and say “I recommend about six cans here.” This is lighting as an electrical system, but electricity is just the utility that makes light possible. Light can do so much more than just fill a room with lumens and footcandles. Electricians install lighting fixtures. We illuminate.
It has never been easier to craft amazing spaces with light- and it has never been easier to fill our homes with glare and discomfort. Lighting technology has shifted completely in the last ten years, yet many homes are feature almost identical solutions from forty years ago. LEDs, dimming technologies, driver technologies and manufacturing technologies offer us a wider palette than ever for crafting beauty and function. Most homes today are filled with recessed can lights in the same patterns as decades past and with LED trims that may cause more harm than good. Lighting designers know how to sort through the technologies to find those that help you enjoy your home more.
In the past ten years science has revealed multiple physical connections to light and health, but lighting is making us sicker than ever. Light and the human eye are uniquely paired to deliver subliminal signals to our brain that affect our cognition, energy, hormones and sleep every day. A simple layout of recessed downlights will not reflect current understanding of the biological affects of light, but a lighting designer can help.
Longer Views & Longer Days
Light can close your iris and make it appear dark sooner…or keep you safe and comfortable and extend the evening. Lighting designers may also be called shadow designers, because we don’t just fill a space with light. Our eyes need darkness to perceive light and contrast and drama, and carefully manipulated light can help us see out our windows for more hours of the day. If you have a view, lighting can spoil it…or enhance it.
Candles are not the only light to make a space more romantic; sunlight is not the only light to invigorate. Lighting designers have a vast toolbag of techniques and technologies to make a home more relaxing or more energetic. Too many soaking tubs have lights that shine in your face while you relax, too many living rooms are lit from just the ceiling. Light, artfully designed, triggers neurological responses in your limbic brain. And that helps our moods.
We Grow Older
We double and then quadruple our need for light as we age, but often our lighting stays exactly the same. A good lighting designer will design for your eyes now and in the future and for the eyes of family and guests of every age. Light can even help us balance better at night and age in place with lower risk of falls and reduction in symptoms of dementia. That should be a part of every home.
The Sun Goes Down
Take a look at how lighting is sold and you may easily wonder if the sun ever sets. Nearly every photograph of lighting on retail websites is during the day or with large amounts of other light; many feature the fixture turned off. Showrooms have hundreds of fixtures glowing and specialty bulbs that make it nearly impossible to tell how a fixture will look above your dining room table. Lighting designers understand how light will affect you after the sun goes down, and that is critically important.
When you enter a room and flip a light switch, your perception of everything in it is affected by light. Lighting can help you see everything in the room, but lighting designers can help you see what you wantto see. The same living room may feel like a filling station canopy or a luxury hotel lobby just by changing the lighting. The same bedroom may feel like a prison cell or spa just by changing the lighting. Everything you see is a gift from light, and designers help.
Wellness. Sleep. Mood. Safety. Comfort. Focus. Lighting can make it worse; light can make it better. Dedicated full-time professional lighting designers spend their lives understanding the science and art of light so they can help you live a better life. If that isn’t a good enough reason to hire a lighting designer, then there may be no reason at all.