Friday, September 30, 2011

Lights without Ladders

The Bliss Light Spright in this installation is agumented
with a filtered green luminaire to illuminate the trunk

For those of you who dread the idea of hanging holiday lights in the trees. I have good news for you. There's a company out there called Bliss Lighting (  that offers an exterior rated fixture that uses a laser to project thousands of pinpoints of green light way up into the tree branches. And I mean way up... Easily 50, 60, 70 feet up into the canopy of foliage. It offers instant gratification without the hassle of climbing up ladders and stringing lights through the trees. Ans as much as I dislike hanging lights, what I like even less is the idea of taking them down after the holidays are over. For residential size projects, they offer the "Spright". They also have other versions for commercial settings, as well as other interesting projection devices for interior spaces. Using this product, for me, helps relieve a little of the stress around the holiday season.

The 'Spright' by Bliss Lighting

Monday, September 12, 2011

High-Tech Green Lighting Solutions Transform a Traditional Home

Green Means Go for this California Re-Design!
In these hard economic times homeowners are not moving into the next bigger house but are instead staying put and investing their hard-earned (if somewhat deflated) equity into upgrading their present residences. If budgets are tight, sometimes green design isn't first on the list, as there's a perception that it's more expensive. But with a bit of savvy design expertise, energy efficient lighting can be both within the budget and warm and inviting. Designers are learning how to integrate efficient lighting into all styles of projects, not just high-end modern design, for new construction as well as retrofits and remodels. This is a positive trend, as building codes, led by California (where Title 24 requires the use of high efficacy lighting in kitchens, bathrooms and outdoor areas), are gradually changing to require more efficient lighting and other systems. In this post I talk about a traditional remodel project where highly collaborative teamwork produced a result that is beautiful, green and affordable.
Exterior- Traditional homes reap benefits from being energy conscious. Here, exterior lanterns use two 8 watt CCFL by Litetronics, providing 45 watts of light, lasting 25,000 hrs. Resembling standard household bulbs, they dim with a standard incandescent dimmer.
Design magazines looking to remain current offer up contemporary architectural layouts and stark, eye-catching interiors. While it’s true that futuristic modern design and green design often seem to go hand-in-hand, modern design is not for everyone. How does the owner of a more traditionally styled house make use of today’s earth friendly lighting and interior design techniques? Can progressive lighting design be applied to non-cutting edge spaces to enhance the sense of warmth and comfort that these cozy interiors inspire? Absolutely!
Breakfast Nook: The Pendant fixture and sconces use dimmable CFL’s in a flame tip shape by Litetronics. Five watt bulbs provide 30 watts of illumination with a lamp-life of 25,000 hours
My technique for those clients with a fear of fluorescents is to use what I call stealth energy efficient lighting design. I hide compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL) and light emitting diodes (LED) within traditionally styled fixtures and behind architectural details. If they can’t see a bulb that looks like a softy ice cream then they won’t instantly hate it!

Many of today’s fluorescents can be dimmed, do not hum or flicker and have a wonderful warm color. The key here is that the best bulbs on the market do not come from the dollar rack at the big box stores. Lighting-wise, I like to think of the decorative fixtures as the architectural jewelry for a home. This allows the chandeliers and table lamps to give the illusion of providing a room’s illumination.

For this modest two-story home I was very fortunate to work with interior designer, Nancy Satterberg. She believes that the trick in a remodeling project is to keep the upgrades subtle so that wall colors, floor finishes and well integrated lighting enhance the existing architecture.

Living room - A pair of alabaster pendants by Lightspann provides decorative and ambient light. Each uses four dimmable CFL’s by Maxlite, with 400 watts/fixture, but consuming only 96 watts worth of power. Track lighting at the apex beam is fitted with LED MR16’s bulbs by Philips/Color Kinetics-- accent light without harmful UV.
There was nothing more satisfying to the owners than working with the highly collaborative team of interior designer, lighting designer and contractor (in this case, Forde Mazzola Inc), to update and transform the overall feel of their home without losing the charm of the existing architecture.

While some homeowners may want their homes restored to their previous splendor; these owners decided to go a different way– creating a feeling of smooth traditionalism with unexpected warmth using innovative, energy efficient lighting. They also relied on Satterberg’s skilled hand to mix contemporary furniture and Asian antiques. The use of much of the owner’s furniture, as well as their treasured artwork and objects, collected from around the world, brings an element of personalized grace to this beautiful home. This was also a big help for a modest design budget. The 9 month-long project updated the look to what Satterberg calls “new millennium traditional”, meaning that the hard-edged look of the home’s 1950’s architecture was now softened with warm wood molding, saturated colors and the contrasting finishes available today.

Dining room- An alabaster pendant by JH Lighting was converted to a hard-wire fluorescent using locking sockets for GU24 bulbs manufactured by Maxlite. The reduced heat output of CFL’s prevents the alabaster from discoloring.
The lighting was designed for versatility in all areas, without overpowering the traditional look and feel of the space. We went beyond the requirements of Title 24 and applied energy efficient lighting to all the rooms. The result is dramatic, inviting and warm, while saving on power consumption.

For example, the flat ceiling of the master bedroom was replaced with a deep coffered detail offering greater height to the room, along with the restful glow of illumination from both indirect LED lighting and decorative CFL pendants. This dramatic yet cost sensitive change blends beautifully with the existing architecture. The whole design stayed within the confines of the existing unused attic space.

Kitchen: Fluorescent puck lights by Tresco provide both task lighting for counter tops and ambient light above cabinets. Warm color blends seamlessly with the incandescents used in other parts of house.
The experience of “juxtaposition” is a prevalent theme throughout. Here, in this project, the use of richer colors and finishes is dramatically different than what is typically used in homes of this period. In the kitchen for example, the existing warm-toned granite countertops are complimented by freshly-painted existing cabinetry, with updated hardware. The kitchen is lit with a combination of 100% fluorescent and LED lighting.

Satterberg took care to choose natural cotton and wool blend upholstery fabrics for their durability, to stand up to constant use by children and pets. The varied textures are complimented by the lighting, both day and night, as well as season to season. The interior designer’s selection of Asian-inspired textiles enriches the owner’s collection of rugs. Satterberg’s decision to refinish, instead of replacing the existing floors, helps unify all the rooms and adds a rich textural quality, while saving a few trees as well!

Bedroom: Raising the flat ceiling added architectural interest to master bedroom. Pendants by Christina Spann of Lightspann have dimmable CFL’s. The perimeter cove LED lighting is the Color Kinetics/Philips EW Cove GLX Powercore.
She believes that, when art is introduced in a room, the scheme for the furniture and walls should be stylishly neutral, so not to detract from the more important focus on the art and accessories. My job as the lighting designer was to make sure that the owners and their guests felt welcomed and not overpowered by the other elements. Good lighting draws more attention to what it is being illuminating, rather than focusing attention to the lighting fixtures, themselves. What helps pull all the design elements together at night is a well integrated interior lighting plan and a Dark-Sky-compliant exterior lighting plan.

There are three elements within each space that need lighting: art, architecture and people. Think about lighting the people first – you must humanize the light. A layer of ambient light softens the shadows on people’s faces, as well as softening the otherwise hard edges of the architecture. The addition of accent light can add drama, but should remain subliminal, only attracting attention to objects, artifacts and artwork or other dramatic design details in the room.

Bath and Vanity: Wet location-rated recessed LED fixtures by Cree Lighting illuminate tub. These LED’s rated for 50,000 hours and are dimmable; CFL’s may burn out prematurely when enclosed, as in these sconces by Metro Lighting, but Maxlite makes a CFL specifically for enclosed fixtures.
The well-integrated layering of decorative, task and accent lighting within each space created a unified and inviting design. For this project, an additional, inviting layer of ambient light created just the right balance. In the living room, indirect dimmable LED lighting is mounted on top of the beams to help bring the gabled ceiling details to life.

There was also an extensive use of adjustable low-voltage LED lighting on this project, to accentuate the artwork throughout. CFL sconces and hidden, linear indirect LED and fluorescent sources were implemented for general illumination. The window coverings were minimized to allow a generous amount of natural light into all areas, while also allowing the subtle, shielded exterior landscape lighting to draw guests outside at night.

Effective lighting is an integral design element and needs to be planned along with all the other design components at the beginning. Well-done lighting design has to accommodate all the practical and aesthetic needs of the homeowners. Exciting new technological advances in luminaires (light fixtures), lamp sources (bulbs), and controls can make lighting versatile enough to meet any need. In other words, effective lighting is critical to creating the desired in any home, especially at night.

Ultimately though, I see the role of the interior designer as primary. Without an experienced and inventive interior designer there may be little worth lighting. The result of a collaboration between interior designer, lighting designer and contractor is a home, which, when combined with the latest in lighting technology, creates a unique and dramatic kind of understated glamour.


Photographer- Dennis Anderson

Interior Designer- Nancy Satterberg, Satterberg Desonier Dumo

Contractor-Forde Mazzola Inc.

Lighting Designer- Randall Whitehead, Randall Whitehead Lighting Inc.

Randall Whitehead is a nationally known lighting designer and author. He has written seven books on lighting, the latest being Residential Lighting- A Practical Guide to Beautiful and Sustainable Design (John Wiley and Sons). For more tips on lighting visit him online at

He has also has published his first book of photography called, Lost Dolls- The Hidden Lives of Toys. See images from the book and watch a two-minute video at

To learn more about Title 24 lighting requirements, go to:

To learn more about Dark Sky Compliance, go to:

Lighting Resources noted in captions:

Exterior and Breakfast Nook:

Dining Room:,