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How to Light Your House with Panache

By: Lee Meyer
Kichler Wall Lights

Wall lightsCourtesy Illuminations NY

Whether you’re just purchased your dream home or a fixer-upper, chances are you’re going to need to update the lights — whether that’s buying new lamps, replacing old bulbs or installing entirely new high hats. With so many options for lighting your home, it can be daunting if you don’t know where to start. Illuminations NY owner Philip Finkelstein talks about what new homeowners should consider when lighting their homes.

Consider the type of lighting you want. “The first thing they have to do is decide what type of lighting they want. Do they want recessed lighting? Do they want table and floor lamps? Do they want wall lamps? Each room would be a different consideration.”

High hats vs. lamps? It all depends. “The two places that I personally hate high hats are dining room tables and kitchen tables. I think you need something that gives the room some warmth, a hominess, but for most rooms, I prefer the high hats. They’re innocuous, you don’t see them, the rooms are very well lit, they’re energy-efficient now, so I like high hats in hallways, dens, living rooms…. pretty much anywhere except dining rooms and dinettes or kitchens and kitchen tables.”

Color temperature makes a difference. “The nice thing about LEDs is they come in different color temperatures. Let’s say I’m doing a kitchen and it’s white, or any room that’s bright, I use 30-Kelvin lighting, that’s the color temperature, and that mimics the old halogen high hat bulbs that we used to use. Let’s say you have a kitchen that has oak or walnut cabinets, I’ll use a warmer bulb, like a 27-Kelvin bulb that mimics the incandescent lights. Before there were LEDs, most showrooms would sell you a halogen for your high hat as opposed to an incandescent because the coloring was much better, and you also got more lumens or more brightness out of it.”

Fans have changed a lot in the last few years. “There’s a much wider selection, and a much better selection, and not like the old five-bladed traditional fans that you saw back then. Basically, if they’re doing a bedroom, my first question is, what size bed is in the room? I don’t ask how big the room is. If they tell me they have a queen or king-size bed, I know what sized fan they need. If they tell me, ‘It’s my kid’s room or a home office, and it couldn’t hold that sized bed,’ then we go to a smaller fan. The thing with the bedroom is you want to make sure that the air is going to reach the headboard, not just cool right below the fan, so size is important. In a dining area, you want to cool the people, not the food, so if you go too small, it doesn’t spread the air out wide enough.”

Outdoor lighting can be both practical and decorative. “There’s two types of outdoor lighting. There’s decorative lighting that lights up the front of the house, your walkway, around your patio. Again, on all of those, the good thing about the LED light bulbs is, back in the day, when did a regular light bulb burn out? When it’s snowing out, when it’s cold out. That’s not a consideration anymore. As far as security lighting, they’re now available in LED, so they’re smaller. You can put them up under the eave and feel safe when you come home at night, the light can go on as you approach your door.”