Let There Be Light

Lighting a room is easy to get wrong. Our experts weigh in on how to set the mood with updated lighting.

Whether traditional or contemporary, mountain homes usually have an abundance of wood, stone and glass—both outside and inside. Tall ceilings, grand fireplaces and view-encompassing windows are also hallmarks of many homes being built in the mountains. When it comes to lighting, each of these elements brings its own challenges. Involving a lighting expert at the very beginning—when you are just starting to discuss floor plans with your architect—could prevent headaches and save money.

“Light is one of the first things people notice when they enter a room,” says Jeanne-Marie Gand, vice president of marketing at 40-year-old, Vermont-based lighting company Hubbardton Forge (which originally was, quite literally, a forge), “and yet it is often one of the last decisions homeowners make when designing their homes.” Each piece at Hubbardton is made to order—taking into consideration the size of the room and the height of the ceiling. Gand suggests sculptural and sumptuous for a traditional look; clean lines and, maybe, a pop of color for a contemporary home. She goes on to say, “A bulb is a bulb …  is a bulb. It is what surrounds that bulb that creates warmth and a mood and an inviting place.”

Hammerton creates modern pieces by referencing mountain elements in a new way. 

Levi Wilson grew up in his father’s ornamental-iron fabrication business and, in 1995, founded Utah-based Hammerton. The company, now operating out of a 50,000-square-foot facility in Salt Lake City, specializes in custom designs but also has an extensive catalog of handmade lighting. Wilson emphasizes the necessity of dimmers. “Something as simple as having separate in-wall dimmers for task lighting  and for decorative lighting will make all the difference,” he says. He also cautions to specify dimmers that are adequate for LEDs.

If your home is already built but the lighting is not adequate, a certified lighting specialist can offer solutions. “People tend to under-light their mountain homes,” says Jennifer Dokken, owner of Inside Source in Frisco, Colorado (she also emphasizes the importance of working with a lighting designer during construction). “Everyone sees sunlight streaming through those big, lovely windows and thinks it will provide enough light and forgets that, especially in the winter, those windows become black by 4 p.m.” She recommends track-and-rail systems, monorail lighting and cable lighting.

A custom billiard light by Elume Distinctive Lighting in an “Autumn Harvest” finish. The outer lens is clear seeded glass; the inner lens is light acrylic. 

ALA-certified lighting specialists Jerrica Jordan and Cora Bicknell of Park City, Utah-based Elume Distinctive Lighting agree that working with a lighting designer early in the project’s life is best but offer these suggestions for already completed projects: “Use layered lighting and diffuse, diffuse, diffuse . . . by adding invisible layers like wall washers and LED tape to uplight beams and spotlight special elements.”

Mountain homes are different from city homes—in style and scale. Understanding that they need special lighting will help you make wise choices up front.

Room-by-room lighting tips from the experts:

Create a warm gathering place by layering the lighting—below-counter task lights, in-ceiling lighting and over-counter lighting. Pendants can provide a decorative element over a kitchen island. Use separate in-wall dimmers for task and decorative lights. Use LEDs. Today’s LEDs are both flattering and practical. You can get 50,000 hours of light out of a LED, and they produce little or no heat.

Install sconces on each side of the mirror to eliminate shadows and provide a more flattering light. Use dimmers so you can have enough light for shaving or applying makeup but can dim when you don’t need full power. If your bath has high ceilings, consider a decorative chandelier, but, for safety, make sure it is installed at least 8 feet (from the bottom of the chandelier) above the floor.

A well-proportioned and properly mounted chandelier centers a room. Highlight art with specialty art lights. Wall washers add dimension and drama to stone walls and fireplaces. Make sure there are enough table and floor lamps at “people height.” Low-wattage bulbs provide a welcoming and serene feeling.

Keep scale and proportion in mind when choosing outdoor fixtures. Lighting stairs and pathways is essential, especially in Dark Sky Communities, but before designing outdoor lighting, check your community’s building codes and Dark Sky regulations.

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Categories: Fixtures & Finishes