During a recent lecture with a large group of designers, “lighting brand recommendations” was the most popular request I received. Because there are so many brands, it is often difficult for designers, to say nothing of the typical consumer to wrap their arms around this broad category. Combine that with placement optimization and technology changes and the average consumer and professional designer is left with a challenge. So what do you do?
As lighting becomes more and more complicated, the need for a professional, well-versed in the practice is becoming more important. The percentage of projects that employ a designer to specifically address lighting is in the single digits. That must increase. LED has created “The Wild, Wild West” where new suppliers crop-up hourly, deliverables are knowingly, or unknowingly exaggerated and the foundation a conventional 60-watt light bulb provided has been shattered. People can’t intuitively relate to lumens. They don’t understand integrated installations and luminaire-control compatibility remains a mystery. We won’t even try to broch the subject of voice-controlled, smart systems.
While it could be a pipe dream, I have to think the employment of lighting designers will increase in the coming years. With Boomers and Gen X holding large percentages of wealth, residential projects should be increasing in value and a desire for a “better” lighting option should be inevitable. Insuring great lighting that saves money and performs more effectively will be worth the professional fees associated with the expertise delivered.
A Friend in the Biz
Weeding through the mass of decorative product is almost as daunting. One of the most popular requests I receive is for a curated list of lighting options. With selected furniture, floor-coverings, window dressings and wall-covering choices made, “What are the decorative lighting options?” if you talk to anyone who works in lighting, this is a common request. Showrooms display a thousand products. E-retailors fill websites with postage-stamp sized images of 36” diameter chandeliers. Both have pros and cons. An internet site allows you to shop in your PJs with no disturbance other than the incessant pop-ups. In the store size and scale is easier to imagine, if there weren’t so darned many other pieces encroaching on the vision. Mass retailers hang hundreds on wire racks, far overhead in a lovely warehouse setting. If that doesn’t get the creative juices flowing, I can’t imagine what will!
Having someone whittle the mass down to four or six options can be amazingly helpful for many people. Unfortunately, not everyone knows someone in lighting. That is why the next group is so valuable.
Lighting Sales People
You can’t buy a mattress without a salesperson. Try; it’s just too complicated. A salesman-free car buying experience could be a joy, unfortunately it is all but impossible, even via an online site. It is time to respect Lighting Salespeople more. Most are real pros. Most have multiple years of experience. A large quantity are ALA (American Lighting Association) Certified. While the average citizen buys a lighting product every seven years, these folks think about, discuss and learn about lighting daily. They are a great resource. What’s more, they are free! Talk to them online or in the retail establishment and they will provide a career of expertise.
Remember, many earn a commission. If you’ve received usable information, buy the luminaire from them! They worked. You learned. Respect that and allow them to earn money and help the next person. Didn’t get what you needed from the sales person? Ask for someone else or try another establishment. Perhaps the lighting store owner is trying to staff their place with minimum wage, junior-high school dropouts. They might be crappy employers and pros refuse to work for them. Taking your business elsewhere will help them understand their poor decisions. Just buy from a quality retailor with good salespeople.
When each room in a home featured one light bulb in the center of each room, it was simpler. When each city had one retailer handling lighting and the internet was not yet imagined, it was simpler. Before LED, Smart Homes, Energy Efficiency and sustainability, it was simpler. Now, we need help to insure we are specifying, buying and using the best lighting options possible. Whether it is a Lighting Designer, a professional lighting salesperson or (if you’re lucky) a friend in the business, call them. You’ll be amazed at the difference they make. You’ll be amazed at the difference it will make in your home or business.