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Why Working With a Lighting Designer is a Truly Brilliant Idea!

April 2024
Brett Bjorkquist

Whether we’re discussing architectural design, artwork on the walls, or safety and security outside your home, lighting plays a crucial role in creating an atmosphere of comfort and richness, no matter the budget. Proper lighting is crucial to our daily lives, and yet is a topic that often doesn’t get more than a few minutes of discussion when planning a build, mainly because so many of us haven’t seen what’s possible with lighting today. That’s why bringing in a professional lighting designer can be a game-changer, ensuring your dream home is perfectly illuminated, easy to use, and a joy to come home to. 

A lighting designer possesses extensive knowledge and expertise in the art and science of lighting. The interplay between natural and artificial light, different lighting techniques, and the latest trends in lighting technology. By leveraging their expertise, you can create an exquisite lighting design that complements the architectural features and interior design of your home, enhancing its overall appeal. Today, we’re going to cover three reasons why proper lighting design is so important to your build, while the upcoming lighting design series on my FAQnatics YouTube page will walk you through the various options and my personal purchases, room by room. 

The difference expertise provides in this category is illuminating: A typical home building process looks at general lighting requirements for a room, which is usually based on two specific formulas. The first equation figures out the total wattage needed in a room, which is the square footage of the room, times 1.5. That means for a 15’x20’ room, you’d need around 450 watts of lighting. Really you need to be using Lumen and Lux, but we will talk about that in my upcoming terminology video. Next, you take the height of the room, and divide it by two to understand how far apart the lights should be for even lighting across the floor. The problem is one, that doesn’t take into account the light spread of a specific fixture. And two, we don’t live in the empty rooms represented by our floor plans, so equally distributed lighting doesn’t consider your desk, couch, or artwork on the walls. Chances are your electrician is not asking about those things, and they probably won’t be asking what Kelvin temperature you prefer either, meaning you end up with the same barely dimmable LED bulbs in each room of the house. At minimum, you should be using different color temperatures based on the room’s main use case, with bathrooms and kitchens getting a cooler/higher Kelvin temperature between 3,500 – 4,000, while bedrooms and family rooms are often better served by a warmer/lower Kelvin, closer to 2,700-3,000 depending on your preference. Of course, with proper lighting design you don’t have to choose anymore, since Tunable LED lets you adjust the Kelvin temperature of the bulb depending on the task, for example, from cooking, to eating, and then relaxing. But more on that in a minute. 

So why aren’t the architect and electrician typically asking these questions? They have a lot on their mind designing and engineering the house, and the electrician is focused on getting wire pulled to the proper locations, while making sure everything is built to code from a safety perspective. Building a custom home is really a team sport, so if they aren’t spending the hundreds of hours a year required to keep up on the latest lighting trends, products, technologies, and programming requirements, that’s understandable – as long as they’re partnering up with a lighting designer who does. 

If they don’t, you end up with my recent property purchase. A ten-year-old, completely custom multi-million-dollar build, where the four-cans and a fan approach was utilized everywhere. Plus, with more than 100+ switches in the house, only two of them have a dimmer, and with switches everywhere, it just doesn’t provide the elegant lighting control solution I’d expect in a home this size. Of course, I bought it knowing I’d be creating content based on the poor lighting design, but as a consumer, I’d hate to buy it knowing I would need to replace 150+ bulbs and switches to truly appreciate the home once the sun goes down. I know the building process can seem like everyone is reaching deeper into your pockets, but this is an area I guarantee will bring you more daily happiness than any countertop or floor upgrade you might be thinking about, and that investment will pay dividends, not only as you enjoy living there, but when you go to sell the house later on. 

Lighting solutions tailor-made to you: Every home has its own unique characteristics and requirements. Even if the build isn’t custom, your needs are, and a lighting designer works closely with you, taking into account your preferences, lifestyle, and the purpose of each space. They customize a lighting plan to suit your specific needs, whether it’s creating a cozy ambiance in the living room, setting up task lighting in the kitchen, or highlighting artwork throughout the home.  

The result is a personalized lighting plan that adds functionality, beauty, and a touch of luxury to every room – often with relatively little additional spend, and very much in-line with the importance of use, and cost of the home. 

You should expect an engaging conversation on how you plan to use the various rooms in the home, how and where you entertain, even specific walls that may contain artwork or have architecturally significant materials you want to highlight. Their job isn’t really to make sure you aren’t tripping over the kid’s legos, although proper lighting design helps with that too. It’s to make sure your home feels like a relaxing trip to the spa after a long day, and to frankly make sure others notice those big and little details you’ve added to your home without having to mentioning it to them. 

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Lighting designers help to set the mood: Proper lighting can transform an ordinary space into a stunning visual masterpiece. Lighting designers understand the nuances of color temperature, intensity, and direction, enabling them to create captivating effects. By utilizing a combination of overhead, task, accent, and decorative lighting, you can highlight architectural details, create focal points, and set the mood for different areas of your home, or even different moods in the same room depending on what you need to get done. The result is an aesthetically pleasing environment that reflects your style and elevates the overall appeal of your home. Ready to set the mood for date night? Nothing says romance like dim, warm, candlelight throughout the home, maybe even some whole-home audio to help enhance the evening, but that’s a future video. Time to end the party? A quick ramp from warmer or color-based lighting to a 100% bright, 5,000 Kelvin lighting scene signifies last-call in any language! 

Chances are that your home looks great during the day. Builds in the last few decades demonstrate a focus on architectural features, various materials, and landscaping that are begging to be highlighted in the evening. Yet, most only get a porch light, and maybe a few path lights around the stairs. Outdoor lighting is one of those things that makes a house standout. Go drive around a few neighborhoods, and while many look good during the day, it’s the few that are well lit that truly stand out from the rest.  

Going back to my new property, it looks amazing in the daytime, but the first time I saw the place at night was a different story. A porch light and some carriage lights were the only things around the house, it didn’t even have any lights for the two-dozen stairs leading up to the front door. The backyard was even worse, just a couple of wall sconces lighting about 20 feet into the almost ¼ acre backyard. Barely lit steps going up to the pool and yard behind it, almost fully engulfed in darkness. I have no idea how anyone could spend the time and money required to landscape the front and backyard, and not be able to enjoy it after dark. Again, I’ll be doing multiple videos and articles on outdoor lighting, so this property makes for a great before and after for me. But you don’t want to finish your build only to realize you can’t enjoy the area you just finished building after sunset or have to worry about someone tripping and getting hurt during a party. 

Whether it’s a brand-new build, or you’re looking to make some updates that are sure to make every day a bit better, homes today deserve premium lighting. Bringing in a lighting designer offers numerous benefits, including expertise in illumination, tailor-made lighting solutions, enhanced aesthetics, energy efficiency, plus it is amazing when you can walk into a room and hit one button to set a scene, rather than individually adjusting five light switches. By collaborating with a professional who understands the intricacies of lighting design, you can transform your home into a visually stunning, functional, and sustainable oasis that exudes elegance and charm, and you will absolutely enjoy that investment for years to come. 

To learn more about the benefits of proper lighting design and see firsthand the lighting updates I’m currently making to my demo property, check out my new YouTube channel, FAQnatics. I’ll be posting content on lighting control, electronics shades, whole-home audio, as well as theater and media room design. If you are looking for some help with your lighting design project, drop a comment below. I’ll be happy to answer some questions, and if you’d like I can help find a great lighting designer based on your project and budget. 

Brett Bjorkquist
Head FAQnatic and MRKTMKR 

 

With 24 years in the CEDIA industry, Brett Bjorkquist got his start at GoodGuys, a local AV business, and was running his first location by 25. He’s been recruited by a variety of manufacturers including Logitech, Bowers & Wilkins, and Kaleidescape, served as a volunteer Co-chair for CEDIA, and won multiple Quest for Quality awards for training/support. Recognizing the industry's need for better training programs, he founded MRKTMKR, offering manufacturers a more effective way to engage Integrators. In 2024, he launched FAQnatics, a consumer-focused YouTube channel educating on technology trends and connecting consumers to qualified products and Integrators.

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