Milwaukee/NARI Members Say a Room is Just a Room Until You Add Lighting

Feb. 19, 2014

Lighting is an important element in creating the perfect environment inside your home, whether for work, play or relaxation. It’s key to pulling your living space together.

Members of the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council Inc., the area’s leading home improvement and remodeling industry resource for 52 years, offer suggestions on getting that perfect combination of form and function.

“When choosing lighting, you need to consider how the room or space will be used,” advises Linda Bishop, president of Elektra Lighting and Fans, Inc., Wauwatosa. “Take each room individually and assess what your needs are and what kind of mood you want to create. That is the best way to approach it.

“Colors are an important part of choosing the right lighting because colors impact how much light is reflected off of surfaces,” she said. “For example, if you have chocolate brown walls, there will not be much reflective light and you will need to add layers of light throughout the room.”

Lights work best in layers
No single light source can provide all the necessary lighting, so lighting professionals such as Bishop and Patty Donnelly of Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, Milwaukee recommend lighting in layers.

There are three basic layers of lighting: general lighting, function or task lighting, and atmosphere or accent lighting.

Ambient lighting provides overall lighting for the space. It delivers a comfortable level of brightness without glare. Most often it is provided by an overhead light and might be the only fixture in an area, such as a laundry room, hallway, or closet. Task lighting focuses on a specific area where a certain activity is being performed, such as food preparation, office work, or personal grooming. Examples of task lighting include a pendant over a kitchen counter or a reading lamp near a chair or desk. Accent lighting creates some drama in the room by highlighting architectural features, artwork, plants, or other decorative items.

“Ask yourself how much light do I need and how well lit do I need this area,” Donnelly said. “Determine that and then layer the lighting. I like to distribute lighting throughout the room so there is not one dark side and one lighted side. Uplighting can be used in corners, behind a chair, or behind a plant. A torchiere can provide really good reflective light off the ceiling and that can pull four to five feet of light in a corner.”

Bishop noted that in the bathroom, the best lighting comes from the sides, so she recommends sconces on each side of the mirror. “The best lighting is to do a recessed light overhead with two sconces,” Bishop said. “I would either do LED or incandescent. I’m not big on fluorescents in the bathroom because they tend to wash out skin tones. I would also not use halogens, as they give off a white light, plus they get hotter than a regular bulb.”

LEDs coming on strong
Homeowners also have many choices when it comes to light bulbs or the industry term, “lamps” – incandescent, compact fluorescent (CFL), halogens, and LEDs.

“There are so many choices in bulbs or lamps and what you choose really makes a difference,” Donnelly said. “Fluorescents are redesigned and the color is now so much nicer. It’s closer to incandescent and the temperature is updated and corrected. They’ve also made fluorescents much smaller so they can be tucked into a glass globe and not seen.”

LEDs, which are dropping in price, now have improved “color temperature,” which is measured in degrees of Kelvin and describes the relative color appearance of a white light source, indicating whether it appears more yellow/gold (warm) or more blue (cool) in terms of the range of available shades of light. A rule of thumb on Kelvin color temperature is a lower Kelvin number means the light appears more yellow; higher Kelvin numbers mean the light is whiter or bluer.

“When doing a kitchen with undercabinet lighting or task lighting, I would recommend only LEDs,” said Bishop. “They are long lasting, don’t emit heat, and cost almost nothing to run.”

Trends in lighting
“We’re seeing a lot of people wanting to go to a cleaner style, like organic drums or orb fixtures,” Bishop said. “Homeowners are trying to minimize with very clean lines and a more contemporary look. We have also seen an interest in the Edison light bulbs, which look like the old-fashioned bulb with filaments. They are usually found when a home has an organic, Pottery Barn style.”

“The transitional look is very popular right now,” said Donnelly. “The finishes are more of a nickel for a cleaner finish. Bronze is still popular too, but not as much as it once was. Gold tones are coming back, but in a warmer finish than brass. Mixing the different metals is gaining acceptance, too.”

Chandeliers are not just confined to the dining room or grand entrances anymore. Shelter magazines show them in kitchens, bedrooms, and bathrooms as well. “There is a much wider array of choices for the chandelier, fitting into more designs than just traditional,” Donnelly said. “A chandelier can lend itself from contemporary to rustic to a European Old World look.”

The Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council was chartered in July 1961, as a Chapter of the National Home Improvement Council. In May of 1982, the National Home Improvement Council merged with the National Remodelers Association to form NARI – the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

The Council’s goals of encouraging ethical conduct, professionalism, and sound business practices in the remodeling industry have led to the remodeling industry’s growth and made NARI a recognized authority in that industry. With over 740 members, the Milwaukee Chapter is the nation’s largest.

For more information or to receive a free copy of an annual membership roster listing all members alphabetically and by category, and the booklet, “Milwaukee/NARI's Remodeling Guide,” call 414- 771-4071 or visit the Council’s website at

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