Most luxury homeowners today appreciate the importance of good lighting in their home and  that achieving just that is not easy without expert advice. Unfortunately, many homeowners came to that conclusion a little too late, after completing a project when lighting was an afterthought. A recent conversation with Susan Kabins, President of Luminosity, Inc., shed some light (pun unintended) on the ABCs of incorporating a lighting design expert into custom renovation or building plans, why it is so important and what a difference it can make. For Kabins’ expert advice on why lighting is a priority for a custom built home, read on.

The sooner the lighting designer is brought into the project, the better; ideally once the design is approved. From a practical standpoint, this ensures proper electrical wiring placement and allocations, yet more importantly prevents the homeowners from “settling”. According to Kabins, “the reality is most often we are brought in later in the game, when the homeowner is already burned out on design selections and left with limited funds for finishing touches, and as a result end up settling for lighting that is greatly inferior to the quality of the home”. She echoes that lighting layouts become critical during the construction phase to “maximize both design elements and functionality – to put light where you need light”.

When asked what rooms should be given priority when making a lighting plan, particularly if there are budgetary concerns, Kabins responded, without hesitation, the master bath and the kitchen. She explains: “these are the rooms you basically live in, where more light is always better.” With the kitchen in particular, one does not want to rely on ceiling fixtures, as it has so many different utilities requiring different lighting. A rule of thumb for Kabins is to layer such important rooms with 4 types of light: general, perimeter, accent and task.

Some common mistakes that homeowners make, particularly when a lighting designer is not consulted, is choosing fixtures or chandeliers based purely on aesthetics. This is where expert advice becomes invaluable, ensuring proper wattage and size for the space and its utility. Kabins contends that usage of space is the most important consideration when choosing fixtures and their placement. “It is very hard to tell scale and wattage – consulting a lighting design expert is critical to get aesthetic and function merged.”

When asked about design guidelines and trends, Kabins advises to keep the finishes of lighting fixtures consistent, particularly amongst open, adjoining rooms and spaces. Separated or private spaces, such as a powder room or office, can be more creative, deviating from the home’s overall design scheme. Kabins also noted that design trends are cyclical, and recently finish preferences have returned to chrome, polished copper and polished brass, after many years of brushed. In terms of style preferences, “refined industrial is more sought after – eclectic enough to blend into both traditional and contemporary homes.”

In parting, Kabins reiterated the advantages of working with a professional lighting designer during the early stages of your custom home project. Proper lighting is a critical component to the home’s overall ambiance and architectural detail. “You can have the most gorgeous home or room, but if it is lit poorly, who cares?” Hobbies and art collections should also be factored into the plan, along with potential for future acquisitions. Lighting impacts many of the other details in the home, and therefore it is important to “make the commitment up front, as it will only add more money and mess to do it properly later”.

Susan Kabins has been an interior designer for over 30 years, and started Luminosity, Inc. in 1992 in Milwaukee, WI.  She taught lighting design at MIAD (Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design) for 10 years and at WCTC (Waukesha County Technical College) for 2 years.