Aesthetic Lighting Help

It’s a Semi-Flush World, After All

Ceiling semi-flush lighting has been reasonably popular. Coming into heightened demand when builders started to increase ceiling heights around fifteen years ago, these have been an easy way to bring the lighting deeper into the room and deliver more illuminance for a reasonable price. Flip through a couple dozen luminaire catalogs and you will see scores of units in the 13” to 15” size. They have become somewhat ubiquitous to the industry.

I’ve always wanted more from a semi-flush luminaire. If sized appropriately, these could grow into a much more aesthetically desirable option. A 13” diameter is fine when running down a hallway or filling a pantry, but why can’t a grand-sized semi flush take center stage? My vision was piqued at the January Lightovations show when I saw a healthy 22” piece offered. (Image below.) Now here was a semi-flush that demanded respect. It had come to play with the big boys.

Eurofase – Jalore Semi-Flush 22″ diameter – Introduced January 2023

This piece was perfect for a single story foyer. I wanted it to also command a smaller dining room. Simply employing a semi-flush lighting fixture in these key spaces would set them apart, force attention and demand reckoning.

But wait! There’s more! How about three or five of them in a pattern over a larger dining room? If a second size was available, think about varying sizes AND elevations dotting the ceiling! If no added sizes are offered, could a larger chandelier size be hung with little or no chain or stem and achieve a similar look? Wow! My head was spinning with ideas.

I thought my fever dream of semi-flush lighting was singular. I was singing solo in the Mohave. “Table for one, please!” Then, the new issue of Architectural Digest arrived. (Crowning Glory – February 2023) In a home designed for a couple of worldly software engineers/investors the Interior Design firm, The Archers placed a goliath semi-flush light/sculpture over their 10-seat dining room table. “Alas, I am not alone!”

Nacho Carbonell’s oversized semi-flush

This piece was designed by Spanish designer, Nacho Carbonell and introduces us to a place where centerpiece lighting is destine, a position that straddles art and luminaires. As we use fewer decorative pieces and more functional lighting to answer multiple demands, such as sustainability, functional light will carry the bulk of the luminance weight, while centerpiece lighting will provide a glow and an aesthetic punch to the space. His work does that and in this instance, it forgoes the expectation of a chandelier and affixes the light, tight to the ceiling. It will be hard for me to forget the look created here.

A Few Asks

To join me in this requests, let’s all row together in the same direction.

Manufacturers, how about a few more oversized semi-flush pieces? If that isn’t feasible, how about an occasional application photo where a large chandelier is hung tight to the ceiling as an alternative to “every other set-shot in the world” where the chandelier is located at the prescribed 30” from the tabletop.

Designers, let’s step off the green and into the rough. Suggest a showpiece worthy, semi-flush luminaire as a way to create a unique look. Remember too, most large chandeliers and pendants CAN easily be hung close to the ceiling. Be sure to select a piece wisely, some will not adapt to this position, others may not look “right.” Those that do can excel in this alternate configuration. Think differently as you plan a space.

Consumers, you don’t need to hang a chandelier in a dining room! There is no such thing as The Lighting Police…yet. (I would however like a position of authority when it is established!) If your friendly neighborhood lighting salesperson suggests a semi-flush, don’t lift your nose in disgust. Relax and say, “Yes!” Your visiting friends and family will be envious! You’ll be the talk of your posse. It is, after all, a semi-flush world.

Aesthetic Lighting Help

Don’t Forget Sconces!

Hinkley – Reign pendant configured to hang as a sconce

I don’t think we use enough sconces in residential lighting. Sure, most manufacturers present sconces. At the just completed, Lightovations lighting show in Dallas, I saw a few exciting sconces that I would love to see used, but my deep seated fear is that they will be considered by interior designers and ignored by everyone else. That said, this is my plea to keep sconces top of mind.


Here’s an idea I love. Forget the foyer chandelier and use a collection of tall sconces positioned around the perimeter of the space. Of course, the architecture must be compliant. When it is, this can be a great alternative, especially when the foyer is single-story.

Perhaps you are not inclined to forgo the chandelier in a two-story space. Consider this. Use a smaller diameter foyer pendant or narrow and long chandelier and add a few sconces. This will add a layer of light variation that will supply depth and interest to the room.


Sometimes I feel like a one-man band reminding people that the best bathroom lighting is a sconce on each side of the mirror rather than one long piece, over the top. Every expert and almost every book written about lighting tells us this, but the economics of one outlet box vs. two is too powerful. Over mirror lighting is unflattering and is so laden with glare, it is considered the most egregious luminaire for senior eyes in the entire house. So I’ll say one more time with feeling, “Use sconces on each side of the bathroom mirror used for personal grooming. Your eyes and make-up will thank you.”


Most hallways are now illuminated with a string of recessed cans down the center. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is predictable and somewhat boring. To elevate these pedestrian areas, why not consider using sconces instead?

Great Rooms

Recessed can lighting, 22’-0” overhead in a two-story Great Room is very close to being useless. The light is so far overhead, the amount of measureable light is minimal. Nonetheless, light is very important in these communal areas. Floor and table lamps are crucial, but sconces can add a layer of light that serves two purposes. The light, closer to the user become functional, unlike the faraway cans. On a massive 20’-0” to 24’-0” wall surface, the space can be humanized and brought into better perspective. The room takes on a more intimate appearance. Forget the light kit on the overheard ceiling fan and the useless recessed cans in a two-story Great Room and replace them with sconces.


Forget the bed lamps. Use a sconce on each side of the bed with an individual control switch. Using a sconce rather than a lamp will save tabletop space and can be very effective in smaller rooms.


As some designers have eliminated upper cabinets in kitchens, the light needed on countertop surfaces must be provided by something other than under cabinet lighting. Sconces are a natural option. They also add an element of design to the now blank walls.


When ceiling heights were typically 8’-0”, 8” to 12” sconces were common. With 9’-0” ceilings now common and 12’-0” readily found, sconces must be taller, lest they appear puny and out of scale with the home. Seek out taller pieces. Forget anything under 18”. In multi-story foyers or great rooms, even taller units should be used.

Alora Lighting – Akoyo linear “string” has been configured in some applications running down the face of a tall wall in lieu of a sconce.

While many 24”, 36″ and 48” linear sconces are now available, recently, I have seen some exciting “string” products that can be installed like a sconce. Think of a string of pearls. Both ends use a type of canopy to connect to a surface. If one end is installed, say, 3’-0” from the next, a beautiful drape can be created. One end on a ceiling or wall can create a type of sconce that drives down a long wall surface. Some manufacturers are using plain white balls, others crystal baubles. Regardless, this is a wonderful option to create interest on wall surfaces.

Convinced Yet?

Please don’t let me sing this song alone! Sconces are a meaningful way to add light to many spaces in a home. Let’s all do our part to make sconce a more meaningful way to light residences.

Aesthetic Lighting Help

BDNY 2022

I’ll have more to say about the actual show in my next blog post. For now, let me share the interesting things I saw at this year’s installment of Boutique Design New York (BDNY) a trade show created to serve the hospitality design community.


There are two noticeable trends that permeated the show. Neither are surprising, I guess I was simply surprised by their dominance.

First, wicker and cane was everywhere. Dedon used a composite woven into the new Roii collection of outdoor furniture with great color combos. Global Lighting used cane to create oversized pendants. Summer Classics and Arteriors both also showed oversized wicker, reed and cane pendant options. Pallacek varied slightly with woven fiber pendants. There is no doubt the hospitality industry is embracing this natural trend. With such saturation, should we now question it duration?

BDNY 2022 – Deadon woven pattern
BDNY 2022 – Global Lighting – Wicker and Cane Oversized Pendants

LED Mirrors

As I prepared to attend the show Sunday morning, I commented to myself how horrible the hotel lighting was at the sink. In this particular room, a spotlight was aimed at my hair from overhead and no light anywhere near my face. I moved about like an indecisive fly until an adequate amount of illumination fell on my face. That preface was a telltale reminder when the second overarching trend became noticeable.

Seeing LED lighted mirrors in such abundance made me optimistic. Some, of course are glare-bombs with light aimed at blinding the user, but many of the pieces on display were making an honest attempt to deliver decent light for personal grooming. Seura, has a very professional collection with much attention paid to color and luminance levels. Artline Group and Mirror Image also showed a few interesting options with attention to aesthetics and light delivery. While I’m sure I should know better, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that better lighting in hotels is around the corner.

BDNY 2022 – Seura – LED Lighted Mirrors


Of course I gravitate to lighting. After working 49 years in this industry, I can’t, not look at lighting!

Cerno lighting showed an interesting assortment of products. Very “smart” modern and using some edgy colors and finishes, I found myself surprised. I have either ignored or forgot about this company. I think I will pay attention in the future.

Loved two pieces shown at the Visual Comfort booth. The Comtesse by Paloma Contreras is a very shallow spherical sector of metal, all the light is indirect and sizes are grand. The Orsay Pendant, also by Contreras stacks a small metal cone atop a larger for a clean simple look. The Sean Lavin designed Orbet pendant is a strings of white glass balls in a single drop, almost serving as a simple string of pearls against a black dress for the home, which of course, is always in fashion.

BDNY 2022 – Visual Comfort – Orbet Chandelier and Pendant

I do not believe I have ever come across Bover Barcelona Lighting while I was drawn in with their display, a quick review of their website and I found many interesting items. It might be worth a look!

Conversely, I have run across B.Lux many times in the past. Their new outdoor solutions are completely different. Track lighting and pole lamps for the outdoors? Wow! Exciting.

b.Lux Outdoor track and pole lamp

Ethimo looked again at solar lights, this time, they were porch portables in the shape of milk jugs, obviously called Milk. I still wonder if anyone will crack the code for solar longevity and power retention. These guys are nonetheless cute and would work nicely in most every patio setting. Longevity is however always the key with solar.

BDNY 2022 – Ethimo – Solar portable porch lamps

Sort of Lighting

Perhaps a result of the pandemic and the desire for outdoor eating deep into autumn and early in the spring, Kindle Living has developed a deep line of “Heat & Light” outdoor heating units that now include a lighting element. What is nice is the varied style. Some are clearly “outdoor” aimed, but traditional and mission styling is also available. These are nice solutions for any exterior look.

BDNY 2022 – Kindle Living “Heat & Light” outdoor environment accessories

Beem by Belgian manufacturer, Heatsail is a unique product. This is an outdoor lighting unit that includes a heating and misting option all in a compact, contemporary package. One product that solves three problems, heat, light and cooling, must certainly be of value for patio living.

Heatsail – Beem lighting-heating-misting all-in-one, over table unit

Not Lighting

Make no mistake, this show is filled with minibar suppliers and room safe providers. (I’m not sure I could make a career out of providing keycard access equipment to the industry, but that’s probably just me!) Stepping over all of the boilerplate, there was some interesting non-lighting things worth mentioning.

At most shows, there is always one wallcovering supplier that catches my eye. This time, Innovations displayed a textured collection that felt like cork and featured metallic veining that would nicely compliment the rise of warm brass use today.

BDNY 2022 – Innovations – wallcovering with metallic veining

I’m not sure I have thought much about wall clocks lately, if I have ever! That changed at the Noman booth. Rather than the massive blobs of white with schoolhouse numbers placed 30° apart, this company has created products that disappear into the architecture with wisps of metal and minimalist mechanics. These designs have turned functional necessities into beautiful wall accessories. Quite a feat.

BDNY 2022 – Noman – Subtle wall clocks that disappear into the surface

While they advertise their product “for island living” Teaki Tiles could have a much wider application, as long as imagination is used. Rather than ceramic, these tiles are fabricated from teak wood. Teak is an excellent hardwood that has been used around water for decades, so It might seem obvious to use it on floors and walls in patterns. That said, I don’t think I’ve seen it used before in these applications. Their offering could enliven almost any design. I felt sunnier after having seen it!

Teaki Tiles – wall and floor tiles made of teak wood

I really liked the heavily textured, ceramic wall panels at Medici & Co.

BDNY 2022 – Medici & Co. – Heavily textured ceramic wall panels

As I took this photo of a very creative rug shown at Portuguese weaver, Ferreira, I overheard a passing designer ask her friend, “Is someone going to trip while walking over that?” I don’t know if that would occur, but it sure will cause one to pause for a moment. These were beautiful textured and tufted floorcoverings.

BDNY 2022 – Ferreia – creative sculpted rugs from Portugal

Yes, we’ve all seen outdoor shade umbrellas. There were three or four manufacturers at the show. Only one made me stop and look. Umbrosa were much more interesting and based on the salesperson demonstration, very easy to manage. A quick look at their website and even more variation is available. I wish I had a place for one!

BDNY 2022 – Umbrosa – Interesting shade umbrellas

This was a neat idea. Kenco Hospitality showed a collection of double window coverings tucked into an illuminated valance. The front drape was sheer, allowing sight onto the photo-realistic scene printed on the back drape panel, giving you the illusion of a much more interesting exterior. As I opened my hotel window onto the stone wall of an adjoining structure, it appeared to me how valuable this could be in urban hospitality settings.

BDNY 2022 – Kenco Hospitality – Lighted valance with two drapes allowing for the creation of alternate window views.

The idea of printed surfaces heretofore left plain was again mentioned when an old friend showed me printed shower stall environs at ABG Hospitality. Printing on glass added a level of excitement and style to these surfaces. While created for the hospitality industry, I wondered if applications could be found for residential spaces. Something to consider.

Finally, why shouldn’t the sixth wall be interesting? Above View wants designers to think about the ceiling with creative artisan ceiling tiles. Geometric, textures, patterned and completely different ideas. I liked the idea that this product forced a conversation that stretched the idea of design.

Above View – creative ceiling tiles that bring interest to areas previously left blank.


Despite the fact that I found only a few visually excited things at the show, it is always nice to reconnect with friends and immerse oneself in a creative space. A few days in New York also allowed me to sample a few new restaurants, (Try Cadence and The Musket Room!) see some shows (I highly recommend Ohio State Murders & Kimberly Akimbo.) and check out some museum exhibitions. (Loved the Alex Katz retrospective at the Guggenheim.) Refreshed and energized, I’m ready to handle a cold and snowy winter while I hold my breath for Spring.

Aesthetic Lighting Help

Scouring the Discount Racks for Trends

When my wife and I are shopping in a multi-department retail store, she always knows where to find me when we get separated. Inevitably, I am wandering the aisles in the Housewares section. What sheets, dinnerware, appliances, cooking equipment and household accessories are on the racks, on sale, sold out or in the clearance section? What colors are low in supply and what finishes are in the discount section? Has the “latest trend” been reduced in price?

A recently opened H&M Home featured a prominent “SALE” rack. What is that telling us about Teal and Dark Blue home accessories?

Initially, we all want to know what is new. If we shop a store, or flip through a mail-order catalog or browse an online website, we do so to see the latest options. Understanding what is waning is of equal importance.

The same H&M Home with regular priced merchandise, not a blue or teal accessory to be seen!

I wander retail aisles to try and understand the impact on the look and trends of home interiors. One retailer selling orange, bunny motif accessories is just a funky idea. After the initial sighting, that observation is filed someplace in my brain. I move on. When I then notice the fifth or tenth retailer selling a variety of goods with orange bunnies it is likely becoming a fad or possibly a trend. An idea with which some reckoning is needed. Orange bunnies will now apparently be a factor.

Of course, orange bunny motifs are deceptively simple. They are most likely going to end up in the sale rack during the next season and in the “dollar store” six months later. Paying as much attention to the closeout racks as the new merchandise will help in the understanding of the trend cycle. One orange bunny at 50% off is a sale. Every retailer with all of their orange bunnies at 50% to 75% off and orange bunnies aplenty at the “Dollars Are US” store means they are no longer relevant.

I remember the first time I questioned the continuing viability of Oil-Rubbed Bronze. The finish had been red-hot for about a decade. I knew, the end had to be near, but it remained popular. I toured a new construction home (I’m always touring new construction!) and noticed the oil rubbed faucet in the bathroom. It immediately looked dated. The dark lighting above brought a depressed feel to the room. I knew then, it was on the downslide. A subsequent visits to Home Depot, TJ Maxx and Target confirmed stocked shelves of oil-rubbed bronze. When mass retailers are neck deep in a trend, it is clear, the end is nigh.

When a long-serving trend winds down it means a new option is on the rise. By paying attention to deteriorating trends, it forces observers (and me!) to ask the question of replacement. That in itself is just as loaded a problem. There is almost never a one-for-one swap. What happens after a trend deteriorates is a rebalancing. New ideas come forward and fill in gaps, trends midway through a cycle become more dominate and some other rising trends might accelerate their decline. In short, it turns into an aesthetic game of “Whac-A-Mole.” Balance is usually stabilized when the economy is roaring. Sluggish economies instigate change.

Consciously or subconsciously, we all know trends have a finite lifespan. Our personal methods for digesting them and using the information to our best ability can be supplemented by good observation skills. It is important to comprehend upcoming trends. One way which we can supplement that knowledge is by embracing the information gathered around the discount rack and discount stores.

Aesthetic Lighting Help

Interesting Things I Saw In NYC/ICFF 2022

Sure, I’m a “Lighting Guy” but it is impossible to visit showrooms, galleries, design show floors and window-shop without seeing things outside of lighting that attract attention and ultimately will interact with lighting in the residential environment. While exploring the International Contemporary Furniture Fair and the streets of New York, the following items could not be ignored.

A New Finish Direction?

I immediately fell in love with the new Umber finish show by THG called simply “Umber”. If you’ve been around metallic finishes for a while, you might remember the Burnished Umber or Umbered Brass finish popular in the late 1990s. It was created by oxidizing brass and polishing off the oxidization into a sheen, rather than the matte found in antiqued finishes. The oxidization was brownish. The new THG Umber has more black with red undertones. Darker than the brass now used, this could be a nice brass/bronze finish alternative, or next-gen brass direction. The same finish is also available in a matte version, equally interesting.

Plumbing & Texture

I was struck by the addition of textural elements in some new plumbing products. Brizo showed the new Tulham faucet with a glossy faceted ring on the end of a matte ensemble. This small ring detail was a nice way to extend the idea that some accessories are indeed, the “jewelry of the home.”

ICFF 2022 – Brizo Tulham faucet set with faceted trim ring

Similarly, Samuel Heath, the British “tap” manufacturer used a faceted ring around the handles of their One Hundred Collection. Stiloform, an Austrian company displayed a faucet with a knurled shaft that extended the texture idea into new areas.

ICFF 2022 – Samuel Heath One Hundred Collection
ICFF 2022 – Stiloform

Perhaps some of the most interesting and amazing faucets in the whole show were on view at Uniq-e! an Italian concern that appears to be reinventing all of the known parameters surrounding faucets. A quick look through their website information will provide an idea of their creativity.

ICFF 2022 – Uniq-e!


For the last couple of decades, vessel sinks have been sucking up all most all of the creative air in the bathroom space. Thankfully, that era is at an end. Placing the proverbial nail in the coffin, a number of manufacturers were helping designers to ease out of their reliance to these ubiquitous sink options. Perhaps the most engaging and “fun” were the cast concrete sinks shown by Kast. In fresh colors and interesting shapes, these will quickly allow a homeowner to forget they ever hear of a vessel. They can read as modern, deco, mid-century or slightly retro. These are exciting options for the progressive home.

ICFF 2022 – Kast

The LaCava Linea sink has reinvented the vanity and enclosed it within an invisible frame of square tubing. Add to the mix a delightful collection of colors and it immediately ups the appearance of any bathroom. There is also a wide variety of frame configurations available. I like this look.

ICFF 2022 – LaCava Linea

I am a sucker for almost anything Philippe Starck does and his White Tulip collection for Duravit is no exception. With just the gentlest of curves, the standing sink opens at the top to serve as a beautifully sculpted tower sink. The tub and surface mounted sink feature the same appealing curve. This is a stunning bathroom suite.

ICFF 2022 – Duravit White Tulip collection by Philippe Starck

On the opposite end of the aesthetic spectrum are the handmade sinks from Whitebirk. Made in England, these sinks are beautifully crafted, but lean a touch more traditional. Again, color is being used to better differentiate what is available from a high-quality supplier and that which is purchased through mass-retailers.

ICFF 2022 – Whitebirk

Outdoor Living

The partnership between Danver and Brown Jordan has produced exciting outdoor kitchens in bold, unusual colors (notice a pattern here?) Danver showed an electric yellow outdoor kitchen and a contemporary pink option. The acceptance of colored laundry room appliances, then high-end ranges (or was the progression reversed?) has allowed consumers to feel comfortable using big ticket items in something other than stainless steel. I think this is a wonderful step forward. We can never have too much color in a home.

ICFF 2022 Danver outdoor kitchen for Brown Jordan
ICFF 2022 – Danver outdoor kitchen for Brown Jordan

Opiary is a Brooklyn creator of concrete outdoor furnishings. The product is so fluid and organic that it belies the tough material employed in fabrication. Seating, water features, tables, planters and surrounds are all built for an unyielding outdoor reality, but look as if they are delicate and born of the earth.

ICFF 2022 – Opiary outdoor living


Interestingly, I’m seeing fewer and fewer new and exciting things in furniture. Yes, I liked the Bernhardt seating and I loved the joint between leg and top of the Ethnicraft PI tables. I also loved the student presentations of a table (Johannes Lu) and chair (Lara Villa) in the ICFF Studio. Despite that, I’m just not seeing the next “big thing” beyond the reemergence of beige I discussed in the 2021 report.

ICFF 2022 – Bernhardt

ICFF 2022 – Ethnocraft – PI leg-top joint
ICFF 2022 – Studio – Chair by Lara Villa
ICFF 2022 – Studio – Table by Johannes Lu


Wallpaper continues to be BIG, BOLD and exciting. A quick review of the options available from Wow Papers reveals an explosion of color and patterns. Even the staff manning the booth were dressed commensurately. The patterns replicated illuminated surfaces with blasts of neon and lighted tubes. Flavor Paper options were tame in comparison, but not when set aside toile versions of the past. Both of these companies believe that if a wall is going to be covered, it may as well be for a reason…a very bold reason. I love these extreme wall covering options!

ICFF 2022 – Flavor Paper


Two different accessories stood out to me. JD Staron creates rugs like Flavor and Wow create wallpaper, big and bold. This bespoke creator can deliver a variety of custom handwoven rug options. Each is more beautiful than the next.

ICFF – J D Staron – area rugs

Equally interesting were the mirrors shown by Zieta. One might initially believe these are fabricated from blown glass, but instead they are metal formed in Poland using the internal pressure, FiDU process. This involves welding thin plates of metal together at the edge, then inflating the assembly to create the interesting shapes. Sort of like a balloon made of metal! Construction process aside, what really matters is the amazing result. Airy mirrors, “blow-up” tables and ice cube columns. Really amazing stuff. I encourage you to follow the link below and check out some of their other projects.

ICFF 2022 – Zieta inflated metal


I’m always challenged to understand how personal fashion connects with home furnishings. Window shopping New York revealed light, feminine colors and fabrics and dainty jewelry for women and a wider color palette of equally light materials for men. The dichotomy here is the shoes. Sure, there is an occasional spike heal and slim brogue, but most women’s shoes were heavy, clunky and dark, while men are being sold heavy sports sneakers. What does this mean? Do we want a carefree life of fun and excitement, but our feet must be firmly planted on the ground to do so? Is the weight a counterbalance to the fluff we encounter daily? Are we both serious and goofy at the same time? The differences certainly make for an interesting conversation starter.

Faith Ringgold – The New Museum

Perhaps the single more interesting thing I experienced in New York this spring was the Faith Ringgold retrospective at The New Museum. This was a fascinating review of a 50+ year career that explores and attempt to understand the life of a Black, female artist in a world that is primarily centered on white European men.

She supplants herself in classic European cultural environments, places where no African descendants were likely to be found. It forces one to ask, “But, why not?” why wasn’t a Black artist, or simply a female amongst the masters in Arles? Shouldn’t a Black artist or writer have been involved in the roundtable conversations at Gertrude Stein’s Paris salons? While not invited and not expected, her art forced the viewer to see her image there and ask, why this is not a reality. Why would she have been relegated to Alice B Toklas’ separate room each Saturday evening?

Her artistic questions do not stop there. She brought the same perplexing questions into her later work. Women and Black individuals are missing from so many of our cultural milestones. Today we see images of Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi and Ketanji Brown Jackson, but we are well into the 21st Century. Ringgold’s art forced the point decades prior. Is it possible her work established a path to these “firsts?”

Ms. Ringgold remains an active artist, now well into her 90s. She continues to force everyone to recon with the failings of an American society to include ALL of its citizens. By doing so, through her art, Faith Ringgold explains the losses and missed opportunities we all face.

New York

No, I did not spend all of my time working in New York! I caught some exciting new shows on Broadway. A Strange Loop and POTUS should be on your list! I also ate at some dynamic new restaurants. Consider a visit to the inventive, Ernesto’s, Kimika and The Commerce Inn. By considering all a city has to offer, a better idea of where we are going can be imagined. I can’t wait to go back and see what is next!

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Tetrachromatic Vision

Photo by Magda Ehlers on

Each month, I deliver an educational lecture to hundreds of talented designers and architects from across the United States and Canada. A recent event centered on the color of light, a subject that has leapfrogged in importance exponentially since the introduction of LED and which I have spent a fair amount of time studying. In the Q&A section, for the first time, in a long time, I was stumped by a question. One of the designers wanted to know what I understood about those with tetrachromatic vision. Like a teenage boy being asked to define onomatopoeia and differentiate between a gerund and a noun, I mumbled, “Ahhh, I don’t know.”

Days after my Rick Perry, “Duhhh?” moment, a friend, who knows of and understands my interest in all things color, sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal discussing the research of tetrachromatic sight. (The Rare Gift of Seeing Extra Color – Jackie Higgins, February 22, 2022) The world was telling me it is time for some additional study.

Human color perception is delivered through tri-stimulus values. In other words, we have three photoreceptors in our eyes, one with peak sensitivity for blue, one with more highly refined sensitive to green and the third with heightened sensitivity for red. Images enter our eyes, the colors are separated into three “buckets” (R,G&B) and the information is sent to our brains for processing the understanding of the color of an object. (If you’re an ophthalmologist reading this, I apologize for that simplistic explanation!) If a person has some sort of color-blindness, one, or more of those photoreceptors does not work properly. If a person has tetrachromatic vision, they have a fourth photoreceptor. This fourth receptor allows that person to perceive higher gradations of color.

What Does Tetrachromatic Vision Do?

Explaining this is akin to developing an orthographic projection of an M. C. Escher drawing. How do we understand a higher level of color perception, when we, or the researchers can never experience it?

Imagine two paint samples. The average person sees the same color. In his research on color perception at Kodak, David MacAdams found that 90% of the population had average color comprehension, but about 10% had some level of elevated ability. They are able to hone in on the nuances and discern a difference. Those folks are likely my audience of designers, but also printers, photographers, artists, paint store specialists and even a few like MacAdams, a Physicists and Color Scientists. To understand persons with tetrachromatic vision, they see multiples of differences even in color samples perceived to be the same, by the rarified 10%.

Hourly and salaried wage-earners are the 90%, the 10% with better color perception are millionaires and those with tetrachromatic vison are the multi-billionaires of the world. Just a few, with overabundant powers.

So How Do We Respond to These Talents?

Unless the designer is equally gifted, it is near impossible to design to the demands of a tetrachromatic client. From comments provide by those with tetrachromatic vision, they also have no way of perceiving a life of color in any other way. How does one understand what one does not possess?

Recruiting people with tetrachromatic vision into the field of LED technology would be very helpful. Their superior color perception could help in the development of better products. If it passes muster with them, the rest of us will be well served with lighting of perfect quality. Wage-earners, millionaires or billionaires will all have great light. That egalitarian color solution sounds pretty good to me!

Aesthetic Lighting Help

How Big is Too Big?

Simply add chain!
Photo by Dids on

The Wall Street Journal asked the question, “Are Massive Lights the Next Big Thing?” in a January 8, 2022 article. In the story, radically oversized lighting was discussed, such as a 90” sisal pendant that oddly enough was dwarfed in the accompanying photo, by a huge room with 11’-0” ceiling heights. Personally, I think this was a case of a reporter jumping on a unique situation and turning it into a trend. It did, however raise the very real question of lighting size.

A quick search on the internet will deliver some very solid and consistent size recommendations for lighting size.

  • Add the two lengths of the room together to arrive at a minimum diameter (in inches) for a dining room chandelier.
  • Linear chandeliers should be between 1/3 and ½ the length of the table below.
  • Front porch lights should be between 1/5 and 1/6 of the door size.

I use these numbers, too…as a starting point. I then typically ignore them and think about the whole room, the size of the table and the height of the humans who occupy the space.

With those parameters understood, let’s unpack this reporter’s perception for a moment and think about when “big” (or bigger) could actually work in a design.

Dining Room

I always lean toward a larger chandelier than any calculation suggests. Most dining room tables are 30” wide, but if a larger one is used, that becomes a visual excuse to go bigger. 36” wide? Use a 36” diameter chandelier. A room that can hold a wider table can surely accept a larger chandelier. A 5’-0” to 6’-0” diameter or square table can also easily accommodate a larger chandelier.

Consider too, the ceiling height. Larger should be considered in the verticality as well. 12’-0” ceiling demand some vertical attention. Fill that space with stretched and elongated chandelier designs.

Squares contain more actual area than a round, so simply choosing a 32” square luminaire over a 32” diameter alternative will give you more mass and a bigger presence.

Dining rooms remain a showplace in a home. Allow them to earn that regard with majestically sized lighting.


As we move away from two-story entrance foyers, we still need a dynamic introduction to the home. A one-story home with 10’-0” or even 12’-0” ceilings cannot accommodate a hanging chandelier, but a huge semi-flush, stretched across the ceiling can elevate that space. Unfortunately, not a lot of luminaire manufacturers build oversized semi-flush units. I suspect, if no one asks for one, and they can’t sell the ones they’ve made, there is a good reason for the void. I’d love to see a reverse of that trend.

Until more are made available, I suggest installing a chandelier without the chain or stem, tucked up to the ceiling. We can always find a wide variety of large chandeliers. Pay attention to the height. A chandelier with a body height of 18” will work on a foyer with ceilings as low as 9’-0”, 30” works on 10’-0” and 54” body heights will fit in spaces with 12’-0” ceilings. Not all designs will work hung in this manor, so attention must be paid to the view from below. Once the right piece is unearthed, you might ask why anyone would ever hang it from a chain or stem!

Consider the same thing with sconces. Forego the ceiling lights altogether and use a collection of TALL sconces around the perimeter. A 36” tall sconce will fit nicely in rooms with 9’-0” and 10’-0” rooms. Go longer in 12’-0” ceiling heights.


In the March 2022 edition of Architectural Digest, one of the featured homes used a 36” diameter wicker shade over a 5’-0” Square Island. This is probably larger than most of us would consider, but I think it works. The ceiling was exposed, the space was open and the light cane and whitewashed island material created an airy feel. Square, or oversized islands can be a great place to consider larger than average lighting. They are big and fill a lot of space in the room so, commensurately sized accessories work. The additional lesson here is to understand how the colors will impact the visual proportionality.

With conventional islands, we all know to stay away from the petite pieces that were popular over a decade ago. There is strong evidence we are moving in the correct direction. Larger and especially taller pendants are being used. Continue that trend, stretch the envelope. This is the right direction. The open floor plans of living can readily accept larger island pendant lighting.

Great Room

If you are not already using massive chandeliers, ceiling fans and wall sconces in the great room, start now and disown any previous installations. These rooms are called “great” for a reason! They are big spaces and anything less is a huge mistake. Seek out those 96” fans, 72” tall chandeliers and 36” tall sconces. This room should be the easiest of all to adapt to larger sizing options, especially if you are currently using Lilliputian-sized luminaires.


You may never be responsible for a home that can comfortably embrace a 96” diameter pendant or a 10’-0” tall chandelier. Stretching common norms a few inches is however, a real possibility and should definitely be considered in more “typical” residences. That small difference can deliver a big impact.

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Rings! Rings! Rings!

A few posts ago, I talked about using linear LED extrusion luminaires. Almost as ubiquitous are LED rings. A wedding cake of them are stacked in halls, dining rooms and commercial spaces. Sizes at 5’-0” and beyond are not uncommon. Some are plain, in black or white. Others are finished in the popular metallic colors and even wrapped in leather or bejeweled in crystal. With this avalanche of options, what new options are possible? I think application offers a great amount of new possibilities. Like the linear pieces, let’s explore some alternate hanging scenarios.

Multiple Single Rings

A stack of rings has been a pretty reliable use of this luminaire type, but when faced with a shorter ceiling, or if in quest of something different, it might be time to consider an alternative.

Think about four or five smaller rings dancing over a dining room table. How about a ring at each corner of a large, square island? Three or five rings placed in the center of a bedroom tray ceiling will certainly add a look that departs from the norm. We already use multiples over countertops. Rings could be a nice variant, especially if combined with some of the ideas listed next.

Replacing one large ring chandelier with multiple smaller ring pendants can be a great way to differentiate a space.

Different Sizes/Colors

Is there a reason to have all the rings the same size? No! Try a variety instead. Are multiple finishes used in the room? Are two-toned elements used? Why not try three rings in one color and two in the other?

If using multiple rings, consider going one step farther and altering the size as well. A mix of sizes can create added visual interest. In rooms where it might work, consider using multiple finishes as well.

Varying Elevations

A collection of rings hung at different heights can be as interesting as size differences.


Rings are all aircraft cable suspended. Adjusting one cable can deliver a quirky angle for the ring. Repeat that with all of the suspended rings and the result will be a fun look. Don’t like it? The adjustment back to plumb, is easier than any of the other suggestions!

Adjusting the cable that suspends each ring can provide an interesting visual presentation that elevates the look and differentiates the space.


Pendants do not need to be on the centerline of the table or countertop below. Adjusting them closer to one edge will add yet another level of interest. Remember, if this is done, hanging heights may need some adjustments to avoid contact with the humans who occupy the space. You may also need to visually balance the space if doing this, unless an intentional asymmetry is the goal.

Shape Shifting

Take everything I just wrote here and replace rings with squares. Now take half of the rings and replace them with squares. You’ve just duplicated all of the possibilities! Black rings and Natural Brass squares. Chrome squares and White rings.

Exceeding Expectations

There is nothing wrong with simply using the ring as initially intended. Simple geometric shapes are classic elements of design and the rings (or squares) will look just fine. Consider moving beyond “just fine.” Experiment, explore and try something different. It might be exactly what is needed to elevate a room design and create something special.

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How To Use Linear Extrusion Chandeliers/Pendants

It seems, slender, linear luminaires are all the rage today. The tiny profile and baseline aesthetics allow them to slip, almost unannounced, into a design. Channel extrusions have allowed this grown in popularity. Filled with LED Tape, they can now be configured into custom lengths, specifically formatted to the space. They are taking their place over kitchen islands, dining room tables, bedrooms and great rooms. Because of their simplicity, customizability and ease of use, expect these lighting options to stay around for a while.

The simplicity of a 1” wide by 2” or 3” height can be intoxicating, but what if you want more? The fact that it is so easy to customize, might promote the idea of using these pieces in more interesting ways. Sure, a line of light, 36” above the island, a foot shorter than the island length will be stunning, but could something more creative be considered? When asking about a unique option, my answer is always, “Yes!”

Consider multiples. Think about varying lengths, plan altered hanging elevations. There are countless ways employ these pieces. Here are a few inspiration starters.


The idea of using two or three chandeliers over a dining room table is not new. Now apply that same logic and design sense to linear pieces. Perhaps they are positioned 45° or 60° to the surface of the table top. What about three lengths, forming a triangle over a rounded table? Four lengths can accentuate the perimeter of a table or island, one length on each side. Start with thinking about, “more than one.”

Varying Lengths

Each length can easily be different. A hacksaw and a blade that cleanly cuts aluminum will do the trick. Extrusion manufacturers sell end caps that can be assembled to whatever length you decide.

Using linear units of varying lengths can be a simple, yet exciting way to create a unique space, when faced with a tight budget.

Alternate/Angled Elevations

These extrusions are installed with the use of aircraft cable. This cable is easily adjusted, so hanging the piece at an angle is simple. One cable just needs to be shorter and an angle is created. Combine the angle hung akimbo to the ends of the table/countertop for a more exaggerated variant.

While hanging extrusion pendants parallel with the table/counter is fine, a slight angle will add energy to the space and interest to the room. In a plan view, avoiding parallels to the table or countertop will add another layer of interest.

Different Extrusions

Aluminum extrusions are available in a wide variety of shapes. We might be inclined to stick with a single profile, assuming the simple look will allow the lighting to disappear into the background. That is certainly an option. Variation can, however work well. Think about a common width and three different extrusion height, or a common height with varying width. This also invites the inclusion of additional strips of LED Tape. Like everything else in design, when done with intent, the results can be exciting.

Use linear extrusion pendants of varying widths and lengths to add more interest to a design and a space.

Different Lumen Levels

There are different extrusion sizes and each size can accommodate different quantities of LED Tape. Different amounts of light could be installed, delivering varying levels of illuminance. Perhaps the center light is brighter (has more strips of LED Tape) than those at its side. The supplemental light can serve as a more ambient illumination, thereby adding to the room’s aesthetic.

Think about using different levels of light in each of the extrusions. This play of light can be as visually exciting as multiple paint shades and complimentary tile solutions.

It’s Easy to Be Creative

Extrusions are just straight lines. If a straight line design can be imagined, it can be realized in light. When working with lighting, remember, they are simply another aspect of design. Treating them as such will open up a whole new palette of creativity.

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Interesting Things I Saw in NYC/ICFF/DBNY 2021

Photo by Roberto Vivancos on

Sure, I am a “lighting guy” but it is virtually impossible to ignore all or the “other” interesting design ideas that surround me. By nature, I am aesthetically inquisitive. I see, assess and catalog, fashion, labels, product design, interiors…almost anything that comes from the mind of a creative person. During that absorption, some strike me as interesting, fresh and worthy of note, perhaps indicating some sort of trend change, or maybe they might have an impact on the next trend. Here is my list of things that stood out.

Beige! Beige! Beige!

It’s as if gray neutrals never existed. Every major furniture manufacturer was showing beige products. Now don’t get me wrong. This does not mean a return to all beige, all the time. It simply indicates that beige, rather than gray will be the hinge on which interiors will be hung. In my mind, this makes sense. We see brass/gold rising, brushed nickel declining and black at its peak, with a decline inevitable. As we enter this warmer design phase, beige and warm brass are perfect partners. Expect this combo to dominate for the next ten to fifteen years.


Could Glyn John’s 60s era fashions, so dominant in “The Beatles: Get Back” documentary have made such an immediate impact (doubtful, simply because of timing) or are we just looking for something cozy because of the never ending pandemic separation? (More likely!) For whatever reason, pile is EVERYWHERE! Pile lined coats, pile coat exteriors, cuffs and collars, pile covered furniture (in beige, of course!) and pile trimmed everything else. It is textural, demands a touch and just feels engaging.

Demar Leather

We all know leather is hot right now, so I could have easily passed by this company. What is so striking here is the WIDE variety of color. They are combining high quality materials and a nice selection of textures with their ability to customize color. There are a lot of possibilities here, delivering trend-relevant material in brand-specific color palettes.

Poltrona Frau

With leather in mind, I love to visit the Poltrona Frau showroom. The furniture is intoxicating and so beautifully crafted. In the window of their Wooster Street showroom they displayed ottomans with a basket weave pattern in dense red. Adding the pattern was a nice way to contemporize classic leather furniture.

Poltrona Frau – SOHO front window featuring beautifully woven leather furniture.

Bernhardt (Terry Crews)

Many people know Terry Crews as an actor, most recently, television’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Others remember him as a football player. Football players remember him as the player who created individualized artwork that appealed to the narcissistic tendencies of the star athlete. Some people might even know him as a body builder, inspirational speaker or all-around “nice guy.” I, on the other hand respect him and know him for his talent as a designer. So does Bernhardt, the premium manufacturer of fine furniture. Over the last five (?) years, Crews has design some remarkable pieces for Bernhardt and I look forward to seeing each new item, every year. Crews worked his way through art school as a ball player, when success came in that field he never forgot his core calling. With success in many areas, his return to art/design probably was inevitable for such a motivated guy. Regardless of how he got here, we should all enjoy the end result. The new Belmont chair just became another jewel in his crown.

Bernhardt – The Belmont chair designed by Terry Crews

Lioli Glass Tiles

Lioli produces thin micro-tiles (3mm) in an astounding array of colors. The small size allows them to contour to irregular surfaces and refract light in multiple directions. Because of the size and palette, there are endless possibilities for use. I must admit, their website and displays can be perceived as tacky with too much glitz and corny examples, but in the hands of the right designer, this is a product that could individualize a space.

Lioli Glass – miniature sized mosaic glass pieces combined to create amazing designs and item facades.


When wallpaper reemerged I was mesmerized by the reinvention of the stale product I remember from my youth. Gone were the tiny flowers, pinstripes and inane patterns. Bold, clever design was everywhere. Since then, I have nodded politely to most wallcovering sources. Been there. Seen that. So I was surprised to be taken aback by Arte. Some were bold, some subtle, some textural, others with the complexity of a Persian rugs. Perhaps, to a more learned eye, there is nothing new here, but for me, this was notch above what I have seen for a while.

Arte – Textured wallpaper
Arte – Wallpaper borrowing from the detailed visuals created by Persian rug artisans.

Lab Designs

Like wallcoverings, laminates have been readily available and oh, so typical. I found the variety and color of Lab Designs to be different and new. The range of creative patterns and colors was inspiring. A quick review of their samples has me wondering where I could use it. Done well, it could substantially elevate a space. I’m pumped!

Lab Design – It might look like wallpaper, but it is in-fact, a laminate surface!
Lab Design – It might look like wallpaper, but it is in-fact, a laminated surface!

Brizo Faucet

I’ve always associated the introduction of black into the bathroom with the Jason Wu collection of faucets for Brizo. Perhaps there were others who proposed matte black, but none so elegantly and persistently. They alone persevered until the whole industry followed. Black can now be found in Home Depot and Brizo has shifted to a wood-enhanced faucet, part of their Frank Lloyd Wright collection. While I’m not sure how FLW connects with this design, it is time to think about the proposed intersection of wood, chrome and water. The wood compels you to touch and feel the faucet in a way metallic finishes alone do not. The hardware feels soft and approachable. The designs are also available in metallic-only finishes, but they are really uneventful without the draw of wood.

By the way, Jason Wu is now showing Brizo faucet designs in white, a finish that has been unused in plumbing for over twenty years and it looks fresh, new and revolutionary. The difference here is a subtle matte instead of the 1990s gloss. Re-read the first few sentences of this section and buckle your seat belts for what is next!

Brizo – Frank Lloyd Wright inspired faucet suite.
Brizo – Frank Lloyd Wright inspired suite uses wood as a design element.


What’s not to like about a Poggenpohl kitchen? I find myself drooling over each one. I was especially drawn to the Venova island, realized with chrome “legs,” gloss white surfaces and stepped countertop. It is flawless.

Poggenpohl – a streamlined island with simple legs and tiered countertop.


Let’s face it, hand sanitation stations are REALLY ugly. Some are placed on a wobbly pole in the middle of a hallway, others are mounted in bathrooms featuring some pedestrian, brand-specific look. We need this cleansing juice, but we surely don’t want to interact with the homely dispenser. Vaask has elevated this yeoman’s piece of equipment into an aesthetically interesting and interactive tool. The station recognizes the user when a hand is placed under the sculptural spigot by illuminating the wall surface. As the sanitizer is distributed, the light replicates the fluid’s motion. A mirror-image drip guard eliminates the unsightly and inevitable puddle on the floor below. Don’t you love when a designer solves a multi-faceted problem with a great looking solution? Sure, it’s a sanitizer dispenser, but I love this design!

Vaask – Why do hand sanitation stations need to look ugly? Vaask has solved the problem with a beautiful, streamlined design.


Brian Peters

Peters is creating 3D printed ceramics and employing them in installations that take advantage of the multiplicity of the printed unit. Because of the digital manufacturing, these pieces appear to be delicate and more detailed than those produced using conventional methodology.

Brian Peters – 3-D printed ceramic that takes advantage of duplicates to form something amazing.

Inspiration comes from many places. Pile lined parkas lead to furniture fabric that defines the tonal nuances of the metallic surroundings and that in-turn drives the style of a space. Trends start from the oddest places and typically die of exhaustion. Watchful eyes can understand those paths and determine how to use the information. Trips to New York help me sort through these concepts. I hope this miniature overview helped you as well.