Designer Tips

8 Lighting Tricks from the Pros

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THE TRICK: Replacing your incandescents without anyone noticing

“For a price close to incandescents, halogens are the next-best alternative. They come in the same shapes and work with dimmers, but they’re more efficient: A 43W halogen equals a 60W incandescent. That said, halogen light tends to be slightly more white, so if you prefer a yellow hue, consider a pricier LED.”—Jessica Cien, specialist at Bulbrite Industries

“I’m all about the LEDs now. Our home is illuminated by warm-colored LED bulbs, and they look like traditional incandescents, plus they’re made for all fixtures including recessed cans, table lamps, and sconces. As for the perfect color temperature, try to keep it around 2700-3000 kelvin.”—designer Paloma Contreras


THE TRICK: Making one light work for all occasions

“Dimmers on overhead lighting are a must. You can also add them to lamps with simple dimmer cords. This allows you to layer the light: Rather than turning on an overhead light full blast, try turning it on 50 percent and also turning on a table lamp.”—San Francisco-based designer Grant K. Gibson

“Unless you’re in a kitchen or a bathroom, you don’t want really strong overhead lighting, and replacing your regular wall switches with dimmers allows you to set the lighting to match your mood.”—Paloma Contreras

“The most impactful lighting change you can make is adding a dimmer. It can make a single fixture work for any occasion.”—San Francisco-based designer Lauren Geremia

All new bulbs have a 'Lighting Facts' label, similar to nutrition facts on food. There you can check the number of lumens and see how it compares to that of an incandescent bulb.

— Jessica Cien

THE TRICK: Setting the right mood in the bedroom

“You definitely want additional sources of light aside from a ceiling fixture. Bedside lamps and swing-arm sconces are a natural fit. Rely on lamplight more than overhead lighting, and again, use dimmers whenever possible to set a nice, relaxing mood.”—Paloma Contreras


THE TRICK: Turning the lights on or off without having to get up (or clap twice)

“I have this panel installed in my bedroom, and I love it, as I don’t have to get out of bed to turn the light on and off. The remote feature is great!”—Grant K. Gibson


THE TRICK: Faking daylight

“Bulbs that emulate daylight are great in bathrooms and kitchens. Traditionally bathroom lighting is very yellow, and if you’re putting on makeup it looks much different once you walk outside. Foods also looks a lot better in cooler light.”—Jessica Cien

Essentially lumens are what your eyes see and wattage is what your electricity company sees. The goal is to find a bulb with the highest lumens for the lowest watts.

— Paloma Contreras

THE TRICK: Besting those pesky lamp-shade-clip problems

“Whenever you use a shade, whether it’s on a lamp, a sconce, or a chandelier, use frosted or soft-white bulbs to eliminate the shadows and hot spots created by shade clips.”—Paloma Contreras


THE TRICK: Making old light fixtures look new again

“Swapping out traditional candelabra bulbs for round bulbs is an easy way to make fixtures like chandeliers come off as more modern.” —Paloma Contreras


THE TRICK: Disposing of your light bulbs without throwing them away

“Don’t just toss your light bulbs! When you buy them, ask where you can recycle them when it comes time. The hardware store that sells them to you might recycle them, and most local recycling centers take them too.”—Grant K. Gibson is a great resource for tips and tricks for picking bulbs.

— Jessica Cien

What’s What?

A metallic finish on the top half softens the light, making these perfect for base-up overhead fixtures.

LED (light-emitting diode)
Pricey but incredibly long-lasting bulbs that come in a variety of hues, currently vying with halogens to become designers’ favorite incandescent replacements.

Relatively affordable, these bulbs create light in much the same way as incandescents but use halogen gas to make them more efficient.

Low-energy compact fluorescent light produced exclusively by British design company Hulger.

Soft-White Incandescent
Slowing being phased out, these are the standard bulbs we grew up with. While it’s not illegal to use them, and there are exceptions, as of January 1, 2014, the United States no longer allows anything over 40W to be manufactured or imported.

Soft-Pink Incandescent
Gives off a flattering rosy glow that’s ideal for living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms. Currently exempt, along with all other colored bulbs, from the incandescent ban.

Filament or Edison bulbs
Replicating the style of the very first bulb invented by Thomas Edison, these bulbs throw off a moody low-wattage light and are best left exposed.

CFL (compact fluorescent light)
These affordable, energy-efficient bulbs are easily spotted by their pigtail shapes. Most aren’t dimmer-compatible, so check before you buy.

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