Let There Be Light – But Use It Right, Home Designers Advise

“If you can change the mood, it changes how you perceive a room,” said designer Brian G. Thornton.

He’s not talking about buying that new couch or piece of art. His work can be summed up in four words: Let there be light. At Brian G. Thornton Designs, he is revamping home and residential spaces via cutting-edge illumination. “Lighting is one of the easiest ways to transform a house,” said the man who has brought the glow to both high-end residential spots and Las Vegas landmarks such as the Stratosphere and City Center.

Trends in home lighting go well beyond canned lights and garish rays from ceiling fan fixtures, according to three local designers. Room-specific lighting, dimmers, angles and adjustability, dramatic or creative illumination, and technology-controlled lighting are some of the bright ideas offered. Changing your lighting scheme doesn’t have to be expensive, Thornton said. A new look can be as easy as changing a bulb.

“If you want an intimate, warm feeling in your home then you’ll want to use an LED bulb,” he said. “It used to be very blue or white which rendered skin tones in a harsh way.”

Now, however, Thornton said LED bulbs are designed to lend a warmer look, which may be why they now are more popular. “For $200, I changed all the bulbs in my own house, and will get between 50,000 to 90,000 hours of light from those bulbs. They’re also easy to put on a dimmer, which is important to set a mood.”

Sarah Snodgrass, lighting designer at Nevada Lighting Representatives is also a fan of LED lights. “You can pick a range of color temperatures, which are measured in Kelvins,” Snodgrass said. “I prefer something cooler and crisper at 3500 Kelvins. It’s helpful to your circadian rhythm, too. I might start with a warm white light and have it dim or get cooler toward the end of the evening.” she advised.

Thornton said 2700 Kelvins are his favorite because they “render skin tones in a more natural way, like sunlight.”

“The higher the Kelvins, the whiter the lights. For homes, you don’t want to go too white,” cautioned Thornton, “which is like the lighting in a lab.”

His advice is to avoid 3000 Kelvins or above, which is too harsh for much of the house, except in bathrooms, kitchens and garages.
Brad Nelson, director of lighting design at Light Theory Studios, said wellness and lighting go hand-in-hand.

“It’s bright white light in the morning, but sunsets are naturally more orange, which triggers melatonin,” a hormone that helps you sleep, he said. “You can do the same with home lighting by changing colors and tones depending on the time of the day — which is the next step in lighting.”

Another trend is room-specific lighting. “Two areas of concentration are the kitchen and the bathroom,” Thornton said. For instance, overhead lighting illuminates the kitchen but task lighting is also necessary. “I like to use the space under the kitchen cabinets to light the surface of the counter.”

For bathrooms, “those Hollywood lights are cute, but not effective,” Thornton said.

He advises adding side lighting for shaving and makeup application because only using overhead lights can create shadows. He also suggests installing a dimmer light in the shower, allowing for a more relaxed experience at dimmer light or the ability to shave in brighter light. “Ambient lights inside the commode aren’t crazy (nor are) low lights that turn on as you make your way to the bathroom,” Thornton said. “Think about safety. You have someone getting up in the middle of the night, walking barefoot. You want a little lighting.”

While extra illumination in the bathroom is welcome, light from ceiling fans generally is not, Nelson said. Though he admitted he has one in his house: “Each time the kids turn on that light, I turn it off. Those lights have so much glare.”

In living rooms, “light up your art to give it drama,” Snodgrass suggested. “It’s about the right angles and adjustability,” she said. “You want a 30-degree angle from the source, so you don’t get a glare off the glass or glossy surface.”

Lighting also can be used to highlight a favorite possession. “You can also illuminate a wonderful piece of furniture or a rug,” Thornton said.

All of the designers agreed that technology is changing the lighting game. Children’s rooms can be a ticket to creativity. “I’ve done blue and green lighting in kids’ rooms or even lights that create shapes on the wall,” Nelson said. “Change colors or go back to white lighting with wireless controls. It’s fun for the children to play with the colors.”

“You can even change your home lighting scheme on your phone,” Nelson said.

“How you control your lighting is equally as important as the light,” Thornton said. “The great thing is many lights are controlled by an app, so you can set it before you even walk in the front door.”