18 Jan 2012

How to Find and Choose Great Lighting Fixtures

The real challenge in lighting your home is to find fixtures that are stylish without spending a fortune. Online lighting stores and specialty stores are a great place to find your lighting fixtures. We provide an approach and tips to help you get it right.
Three light Spritz Vanity Light from Restoration Hardware
There is no shortage of lighting fixtures for the exterior and interior of your home. Sometimes we think there are too many choices. In fact, you'll get the impression that they all look alike. Don't despair. Finding the proper lighting fixtures is fun and signals the near completion of your project. How you do here will set your renovation apart from a house that is builder's grade to one that says wow.

Where and how we shopped
We shopped for lighting for our renovated Washington DC Rambler using both online and local sources. Generally you will find more value for your money with online lighting stores. Large stores like Expo Design, the Great Indoors, Home Depot and Lowes are also good places to start. They will certainly give you an idea what everyone has. They also have lighting catalogs you can look through.

Our preference is to buy from stores that don't have a restocking fee. Most of the above stores will allow you to return an item if they carry it in stock. However, if you special order an item and return it, you are going to pay between 15 and 20 percent restocking fee. Ask the sales person what the return policy is before you buy.

We installed a great deal of recessed lighting in our house. We purchased Halo Brand recessed lighting from both the Home Depot and Lowes. The latter carried recessed lights for our family room which has cathedral ceilings. Next we focused on vanity lights, kitchen lighting and outdoor lights. This was a real challenge simply because everything looked alike.
Lighting in family room

When you are in these big stores keep an eye out for fixture shapes and styles. Don't dismiss a lighting fixture just because it's the wrong color in the showroom. Most manufacturers carry 3 to 4 different color finishes. So write down the manufacturer, model number and price. We actually found outdoor lights for another house this way.

Online Lighting Stores
A friend suggested that we look into online lighting store, Lighting Universe, which we did. We bought the majority of our lights from Lighting Universe. There is no shipping and no restocking fee. Of course, if you do return an item you pay the shipping, but then you normally don't pay State tax. We are sure that there are other reputable lighting stores as well.

Last week we came across AffordableLamps.com, an online lighting store and spoke with the representative, Michael Sadighpou. They offer brand name home lighting fixtures and lamps. This includes bathroom lights, pendant lighting, wall sconces, ceiling lights, foyer, kitchen island lighting, monorail and outdoor lighting products.

AffordableLamps.com also offers live customer service lighting professionals to assist you. Call 1-800-MY-LAMPS begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            1-800-MY-LAMPS      end_of_the_skype_highlighting (7:30 am to 5:00 pm pacific time). When I asked Michael what distinguishes AffordableLamps.com from others, he mentioned that the following:

"A" rated Better Business Bureau member
New items added every day
125% low price guarantee (competition is 110% to 120%)
Free Shipping
90 day return policy (competition is 30)
Monthly coupons + promotion

We'll be trying AffordableLamps.com in the near future since we have another project coming up. If you use them, let us know what you think of them.
We also found some very nice lighting at Restoration Hardware. They have an excellent vanity lights. We chose a Spritz vanity light. It's a bit modern and really makes a statement. They also have mirrors and accessories in the same line. Pottery Barn also carries vanity lights, but nothing caught our eye. Our approach with lighting stores

What to tell Lighting Stores
Tell the store that you are buying for an entire house. Ask for a discount for their contractor prices for that reason or if you are buying a large quantity a single item. If they won't give you a discount, we suggest that you walk. Competition in the lighting industry is fierce and the odds are that many stores will give you a discount, if the one you are in won't. Also consider the advice that a store provides. There's value in that and it should be factored into the decision on who to buy from. Still most stores will give you a discount even if they provide design services. Ask for it.

If you want to seek out a lighting designer, you might want to find out the names of people who teach lighting courses at colleges or universities. These are usually well seasoned people who do free lance as well.

Calculate how much lighting your rooms need by multiplying the length and width of each room (in feet) and then multiply that by 1.5 to get the wattage. So for a 12 foot by 13 foot room, you get 156 square feet. Now multiply the 156 by 1.5 and you get 234 watts. Make a list of you room sizes and have the wattages handy. When you select lighting you will have to focus on what wattage the fixture puts out in combination with other lighting in the same room.

When your get your lighting home
Vanity Lights from Lighting UniverseNo matter what anyone tells you, you can't make a final decision on lighting until you are at the end of your project. Ideally, Your rooms have paint and/or tile on the walls. In the case of bathrooms, your vanity cabinets and sink fixtures should be installed too. If they are not, at least gather tiles, vanity color samples and large paint swatches to get an idea of how things will look together.

In an ideal setting, you need to install or hold fixtures up and see what you think. The color of the light in both day time and night time may also determine your decision. Paint color will also affect how the lighting fixture looks. See our article on how to choose paint color if you need help with paints.

Bathroom vanity lights should always match the finish of your plumbing fixtures. So if you have brushed nickel, you get brushed nickel. Never mix polished chrome or with brushed nickel in the same bathroom. And please no gold plated fixtures with chrome or brushed nickel.

It's also important to see how outdoor lighting looks both during the day and night. For example, when we put lights outside on our desk we needed adequate lighting but did not want the glare to bother their eyes. The brick color also was a factor as well as the style of the house. For example, don't choose a Mission style light if you have a federal style colonial. We'll have an article that consolidates all our of lighting tips soon. One tip that we will provide now is that with respect to wall mounted outdoor lighting, bigger is generally better.

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