If you need to cut costs during a home remodel or renovation, cheap out on a bathroom rug or living room sofa. But go for quality when it comes to lighting fixtures, says Vanessa Bell, co-owner of Omega Lighting Design in Berkeley, CA.
I can happily rave about the aesthetics of Vanessa’s custom lighting – she masterfully meshed my love for modern design and vintage architecture. My latest remodel (and current home) is 100 years old, but I didn’t want the dim lighting and fussy fixtures associated with that era. I wanted bright lights with clean, simple designs. Vanessa found and created “timeless” lights that transcend the centuries between the house’s original construction and our recent remodel.
Value of Custom Lighting
I absolutely adore my custom fixtures, but I’ve also found visually appealing lights at Ikea. I’ve written before about Ikea’s Maskros light, which just might be the coolest light you’ll find for less than $100. So my question to Vanessa for this blog was, essentially, “Why pay more?”
Vanessa, who has been creating, customizing and restoring lights for more than 20 years, gave these 5 tips to homeowners who plan to purchase light fixtures as part of their home renovation project:
1. Ask about what materials are being used – including materials you can’t see.
Vanessa says that lighting fixtures at some popular home goods stores boast about brass finishes but contain sheet metal interiors. These will rust, particularly if the lights are in any room that contains a lot of moisture, such as a kitchen or bathroom – or any room in any house located in a humid climate.
Vanessa’s creations are most often made with solid brass or copper but, when the look of a piece calls for it, she uses hand-rolled steel.
She also used hand rolled steel to create custom butcher meat hook lights for Chef Michael Touhy’s Block Butcher Bar in Sacramento. The design needed the support of a strong metal such as steel.
For your home, Vanessa recommends that you find out what’s beneath the finish before buying a lighting fixture.
2. Restore and Re-purpose.
Vanessa gets excited when a client brings in old light fixtures they found in an attic or salvaged during a home demolition. Giving new life to old lights – or making a light fixture out of a cherished object — sparks her creativity and ignites her passion.
“Creating one of a kind, conceptual lighting that makes use of re-purposed and found items is what Omega Lighting Design is all about.”
She recently worked with Johnson & Ross Interior Design to create a series of lights for Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co., a Sacramento eatery that was once a fire hall. They turned old brass fire nozzles into pendant lights and water pressure gauges into wall sconces in the men’s bathroom.
If you want to have a passion reflected in your lighting choice, a custom light designer can help. Vanessa has created lights from motorcycle parts, toy airplanes and whiskey bottles.
Consult with your electrician about the feasibility and safety of installing re-purposed light fixtures.
3. Avoid Trends that Don’t Include Screw-in Bulbs.
Innovations such as LED lighting have given homeowners important new choices when it comes to light fixtures. But she cautions against following trends such as PCB (printed circuit board) lighting. Because, as cool as some of the designs look, finding replacement bulbs could prove problematic.
If you want something ultra-modern in design, find something compatible with a screw-in light bulb. Or accept the possibility that you may have to install brand new lights when the bulbs in your current fixtures burn out.
4. Keep the Room’s Inhabitants in Mind.
It’s important, of course, to keep the room’s dimensions, paint color, natural lighting and furniture in mind when choosing light fixtures. The placement and height of your dining room table, for example, will affect the optimal hanging of a chandelier. You might consider cool, bright lighting in a modern, minimalist living room.
But don’t forget the people – you and your family – and how you look in different lighting conditions.
“I look really good in the dark,” Vanessa jokes. “Most people are flattered by soft, incandescent lighting and few look good in harsh light.”
Vanessa says you should plan your home’s lighting with the most important aesthetic in mind: you.
5. Don’t Micromanage Your Lighting Designer.
If you choose to work with a lighting designer, consider his or her expertise as well as your own sense of visual appeal.
Vanessa says she works closely with clients to design what they have envisioned and the give-and-take during the creative process is vital.
But it’s also important to trust that the designer has more experience than you about the size, shape and placement of a fixture.
Clients who see a finished fixture and ask a designer to make it four inches longer or six inches wider can doom themselves to disappointment. Because the inches here and there affect the balance of the fixture and its balance in the room.
Insist that your custom lighting designer embrace your vision (or find one who does) but allow the designer the flexibility to carry it through.
I am very hands-on when it comes to remodeling my homes. I adore the
creative process and even get giddy about some of the technical details.
Renovating homes is FUN! But, just as I look to experts for electrical,
plumbing and woodworking help, I also rely on professionals for interior
design, including lighting design.
How about you? Have you hired or worked with a lighting designer? If so,
what was the experience like? Have you invested in custom lighting? If
so, what tips would you share with other homeowners?
Please tell us about your remodeling projects in the comments section below. And if you’ve purchased lighting you did (or didn’t) love, please upload a photo and post a Revuu. The success of Revuu depends on you!