Lighting Design

The hurdles in modern lighting design are around two issues:

  • Variety: Homes used to be filled with incandescent bulbs, making the wiring and control of them relatively straight forward. Offices opted for fluorescent lights with similar simplicity. With a wide array of LED lighting, today’s architectural lighting design involves controlling multiple bulb types, all at different dimming percentages to create a desired effect.
  • Quantity: While running a single light or bank of recessed lights to a switch is relatively straight-forward, this scales poorly the more you add, leaving your walls cluttered with a confusing number of dimmers and switches. Modern smart lighting involves tying many loads into a single interface, and designing it as intuitively as possible.

Electricians used to wire a switch and connect it to a fixture. Now, the interrelationship between the fixture, the wiring, the dimming module and the control system all need to be taken into account.

If you’re looking for more of a 101 introduction to the smart lighting landscape, read our article here. If you have specific questions on a project, let us know here:

Best Practices

  1. Dim everything – There’s no reason to not use a dimmer at this point. The control of mood, even in the simplest of spaces, makes all the difference between good and mediocre lighting design.
  2. Layer the light – Our recommendation is a least 3 layers per area, and more in proud rooms.
  3. LED is the future – Its flexibility, performance and low energy consumption make LED unparalleled as a lighting technology. All hardware decisions should keep this in mind.
  4. Know your preferences – Lighting is very personal. Do you like warm light or cool light? Are you particularly susceptible to the side effects of glare? Does your home have specific features that should be highlighted or downplayed?

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LED Lighting

While LED technology has opened up a lot of flexibility (at a lower power consumption) for residential and commercial lighting projects, many people don’t realize the enormous gamut in quality in the LED market.

There is actually an objective way to measure this quality. It’s called CRI (Color Rendering Index) and it measures two important factors:

  1. How accurately the light illuminates objects in a room in comparison to natural (sun) light.
  2. How consistently each bulb performs.

Look across a white wall illuminated by several bulbs. When the CRI is low you’ll see the hue of the wall change as your eyes scan across. You’ll also often notice an overall unnatural hue (often the color temperature is too low with a bluish tinge to it.) The CRI scale is 1 – 100. Most off-the-shelf brands measure in the 60 – 80 range.

Proper LED architectural lighting is rated above 90. The other important factor to consider is how broad the brand can go. The last thing you want is a system that works but only for 70% of the home, requiring you to figure out another separately controlled system.

Considering these goals, there are a few brands we frequently choose on our projects:

Ketra

We have Ketra installed at our office, which we often demo for our customers (or we take them to the Ketra showroom across the park) in order to let them experience the most premium LED solution available. We delve into the technology behind Ketra’s high ratings in this article, and you can watch the video below to get a better sense of their approach.

USAI

We also like to demo USAI lighting at their Collaboratory in SoHo. Partnered with smarthome control leaders Savant, USAI offers a powerhouse solution similar to Ketra’s. 

Both brands offer a range of features and price that can be mixed and matched through the home: From static temperature white light used in a work space, to light that mimics the dimming curve of incandescent bulb for the living rooms and bedrooms, to infinite color solutions for any variety of applications.

Lutron

Lutron has been innovating and refining in the lighting control space far longer than any other brand, and it shows. They offer the widest array of solutions, and the most reliable performance backed by the strongest support team. (They’re even in the White House.)

A lot of our customers want an LED light, an Edison-style filament bulb, and their favorite fixture that only takes halogen, all controlled by the same switch or button. Those are wired differently and are dimmed differently. Thanks to Lutron’s panelized lighting solutions, we can run a line for power and a line for control back to a panel hidden out of sight. From there we can combine and tweak loads, setting every light in a room perfectly and assigning it to a singular ‘On’ button.

Lutron also offers industry-leading smart shading solutions that can be tied into same touch panel on the wall.

At the end of the day, you won’t know or think about what brand it is. When lighting design is done properly, the only thing you should know is that your space looks right, and is a joy to control.

Lighting Control

Great lighting design deserves great control, which happens via both touch panel and App control.

The material quality of a switch, button or keypad on the wall is often overlooked… Until you try one of high quality. Once you do, the cheapness in materials found on most walls becomes unignorable.

Basalte

Lutron

Forbes & Lomax

For App control, we like Savant for its speed, sleek design and its ability to tie in multiple systems (lighting, shading, audio, video, temperature) together.

Customization

We recommend a minimalist approach to in-wall keypads, leaving the deep customization to the App. Keypads with twelve buttons that behave differently when double- and triple-tapped tend to confuse and go underutilized.

The most intuitive approach we’ve found is a four-button keypad with On, Dim, Off and Shades. At the foyer and garage doors we’ll usually replace On and Off with Home and Away, which control the whole floor. In the master bedroom we’ll have a Good Night button that controls the whole home, except for perhaps a guest room.

We ask our clients to live with their system for a month and make note of any unique use cases that would cause us to deviate from this tried and true approach. There are always tweaks, and the idea is to set our customers up with the best defaults, while empowering them to make and save changes on their own going forward.