5 Lighting Tips From the Pros

Turn your room from drab to fab.


This living room by Eluminations has at least five different light sources.

Chipper Hatter Architectural Photography


Most of us probably take lighting for granted. Flip on the switch, and as long as you can see what you’re doing, you’re good. But lighting can be magical. It can change the mood in a room and illuminate everyday tasks. So to add that little glow to your home, here are five quick tips from the experts.

Layer Your Lights
Sheryl Klein of design firm Eluminations tells clients to "think in layers." Creating the right ambiance in a room means a careful orchestration of different types and qualities of light. Create a cozy bedroom with three layers: accent lighting on artwork for drama, more focused task lighting over the bed or sofa, then blend in a small table lamp or two for warmth. To perk up a dining area, use two layers: a pendant/chandelier for some visual bling and recessed low-voltage lights over the dining table to cast a strong but subtle glow over mealtimes.

Keep It Personal
Designer Sue Johnson believes lamps should be lived with, and she encourages clients to turn their favorite items into quirky, one-of-a-kind light fixtures. "Lamps made by hand have their own special energy that bring a room to life." Anything from a ceramic sculpture to a vase or musical instrument can serve as a base. Throw in a well-loved piece of fabric for the shade, and you’ve got not just a lamp, but a piece of art you can live with for years. Bonus point: You’ll be casting a warm spotlight on your treasured object.

Mix It Up
Mark and Vanessa Bell of Omega Lighting Design built their business around a love of old fixtures. Rather than follow the latest fads, they recommend incorporating time-tested vintage lighting decor. "Older designs transcend time periods and trends. There is nothing worse than five years after you’ve redecorated to feel like you are surrounded by yesterday’s news." So even if your home shouts 21st-century industrial chic, try mixing it up with an early 20th-century chandelier or a deco light fixture. You’ll add visual interest to the room while creating an instant conversation piece that shows you’re willing to break the rules.

Make an Entrance
You only have one chance to make a first impression, and the folks at the newly opened Rejuvenation lighting store in Berkeley advise that the best place to do that is the entrance to your home. Clean out the clutter of shoes, keys, and mail, and then light up that liberated foyer with a statement fixture. Use a long pendant with slender shade if your space is tall and narrow, or try a flush-mount ceiling fixture with dramatic shade in a bigger, lower-ceilinged room. You’ll create a warm welcome with the simple flick of a switch.

Green Light Go
Lawrence Grown, owner and designer at Metro Lighting, encourages customers to pick sustainable lighting, whether it’s LED bulbs or up-cycled lamps. "More and more design options are available with LED. Until recently, most LED bulbs cast a one-directional glow, but new multidirectional models at lower price points open up the creative possibilities." And Metro Lighting’s up-cycled product lines offer plenty of inspiration, from pendant shades made of bottle glass rescued from local restaurants and recycling centers to "cantern" lamp shades fashioned from repurposed olive oil cans.

Lighting Resources
Eluminations, Oakland, 510-507-0808. www.Eluminations.com
Sue Johnson Custom Lamps & Shades, 1745 Solano Ave., Berkeley, 510-527-2623. www.SueJohnsonLamps.com
Omega Lighting Design, 2204 San Pablo Ave. Berkeley, 510-843-3636. www.OmegaLightingDesign.com
Rejuvenation, 1717-D Fourth St. Berkeley, 510-423-9309. www.Rejuvenation.com
Metro Lighting, 2240 San Pablo Ave. Berkeley, 510-540-0509. www.MetroLighting.com