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10 Ways To Master The Art Of Lighting

Brian Faherty, founder of Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co. in Portland, Oregon, schools us in how to use light as a design tool
(Courtesy of


Embrace recessed lights.
“Max four inches [in diameter]. When you have them as directional lighting in work areas, you can add a pendant without cluttering your ceiling too much.”

Ignore “rules” about matching metals.
“Your kitchen should harmonize, but when it comes to finishes and materials, it can be more interesting to have, say, brass hardware and black light fixtures, plus a colored pendant.”

Just don’t go too bright.
“Yes, you want to be able to see what you’re chopping—but this is also a room where you’re having people in for a glass of wine or hors d’oeuvres. You want it to be welcoming.”

Transitional space is underrated.
This is the place to create ambience: “I think the spaces between spaces are really important. In hallways, I’m really into antique-style bulbs. You’re not reading in your hallway—it’s about mood.”

Living Room
Enable light-layering.

“The living room should only be lighted with lamps. When you’re sitting down, you want that light to be centered lower, around people’s faces. I have a floor lamp in a corner next to a chair that’s a nice place to read, a pair flanking a 1970s credenza, and one of our Ion Lamps next to my turntable, so I can get that needle on track three, you know?”

There’s never too much dimmer.
“The more dimmable, the better.”

Sconce plus lamp is the one-two punch.
“On either side of your bed, have both a wall-mounted sconce and a bedside lamp: When you look at the bed and have sconces on both sides, it gives the room balance and symmetry. The swing-arm sconces in our room aren’t always on, but when you need that extra reading light, they’re great.”

Bedroom lamps should go both ways.
“As opposed to a desk lamp, where you just get that down light, a lamp next to a bed should shine light up and down—it makes the room restful and more soothing.”

Don’t get too far from the mirror.
“Either over the mirror or on each side—you need a really good light. But it doesn’t have to be the brightest (and harshest) light. There’s nothing worse than when you don’t like how you look in your own bathroom.”

Make a guest bath or half bath sexy.
“A powder bath in general can be a lot moodier.”