Lighting Design Will Make Your Home Worth More
"Architectural lighting design can increase the value of a high-end home by hundreds of thousands of dollars. And, it makes home a better place to live", said Chris O'Grady, President of O'Grady Homes.
This article is about how lighting design in a high-end home increases value and why it is typically overlooked.
Let me cut to the chase - lighting creates the space, makes it functional, highlights the beauty and determines the mood. Get the lighting right, and the perceived value goes up. Poor lighting and the home doesn't have any pop.
How Does Lighting Design Increase Value?
- Space - A poorly lit room will feel small and cramped. This feeling is amplified by furniture in close proximity to each other and the walls. Or, a large Great Room can use lighting to define the spaces within the area for the living room kitchen and dining room.
"A well designed lighting system truly changes how a home looks and feels. Defining the space, creating focus and bringing a room to life are the most important reasons for lighting design", stated Chris O'Grady.
- Functionality - This can include reading, cooking, putting on make-up, and path lighting to name a few. Reading also has a functional requirement, but a table lamp may not properly light the book. This challenge is amplified as we age because brightness and contrast are typically the first things to go in our eyesight. Cooking requires knowing where the working surfaces are, which allows a lighting designer to illuminate these areas without casting a shadow over the work area. Path lighting for stairs and hallways is not only a functional requirement, but it can also be a convenience as well as a safety factor.
- Decorative - Every home has a few focal points for art, such as paintings, sculptures, and even furniture. Lighting these focal points makes a great piece of art really shine. The light fixtures can also be decorative, such as chandeliers, sconces and lamps. Lighting artwork is not as simple as putting a lot of light on the art. Too much light and the art is washed out from being too bright and the wrong color temperature severely discolors the art. However if the entire wall is illuminated, the art doesn't stand out as well. Three dimensional art (sculptures and textured walls) requires light from many angles to bring the art to life.
- Color - The color of a room really impacts the mood of the space. Light bulbs come in a very broad spectrum of color temperatures. For instance, if a warm and inviting space uses a bright white light, it may make the room feel cold and uninviting. There is an art to using the right color temperature to create the right mood.
Why is Lighting Overlooked?
There are a few reasons why architectural lighting design may get pushed aside on a project.
Every state has its own unique electrical code. California Title 24 dictates the minimum requirements for most of O'Grady Homes' projects. The problem starts with a minimum requirement.
A MEP engineer (Mechanical Electrical Plumbing) will typically specify the lighting design based on Codes. Construction Code requires a certain amount of light per square foot, therefore the MEP puts the bare minimum on the plan. The design is typically a grid layout to provide even coverage for the area and it looks symmetrical on the RCP (Reflected Ceiling Plan). At this point of the project, the homeowner is looking for a budget and they just need a "ballpark" on everything, including lighting fixtures.
The MEP is usually missing some information such as: furniture layout, how the area will be used (reading vs gaming have very different requirements), art work/decorative requirements, design style and finish, and many other details. To be fair to the MEP, he/she is designing to what he/she knows, which is typically just code and budget.
Nearly everyone involved in a project during in the budgeting phase tries to get costs down on everything, including lighting. Being budget conscious is an admirable goal, but it often overlooks the realities of living in the home. Saving money on a few fixtures and having a dark space that feels cramped (as an example) is a bad trade off.
What we have seen happen is the interior design of the home is not fully developed, yet the lighting design and budget are well under way. Sometimes construction has gone pretty far before the interior design is developed. If the design comes forward soon enough, the budget and engineering can be updated, which delivers a better result and may save money.
Money will be saved by:
- Not having to rework wiring - paying twice for wiring after the design can double the electrical costs.
- Going back to the city for permit revisions - expensive time delays.
- Additional circuits for better zoning after the fact is expensive.
- Ordering the correct fixtures the first time - when the wrong fixtures are ordered, returning them typically includes a restocking fee.
Lighting design is not simple and easy, especially for a high-end home. The number of fixtures, trims, cans, mounting solutions, light bulbs and control system can be pretty overwhelming. However, a good lighting designer reduces all that complexity to a few options with cut sheets and a rationalization as to why they are needed. The design will also create circuits that will make the lighting control easier. I have seen the complexity of lighting design overwhelm clients, which either kicks the can down the road or nothing is done at all.
Just turning all those lights on/off will feel like a complex problem as well. A good lighting design will group circuits and define scenes for simple functions like "ON", "PARTY", and "OFF". We have all seen the row of light switches from a manual lighting solution. I call this "wall acne". These rows of switches are unpleasant to figure out, especially when you're walking into a dark room. A lighting designer converts all of those switches into a simple button at the top for "ON" and one on the bottom for "OFF".
A lighting control system will also save money over time. The human eye cannot tell the difference between a light bulb at 100% on vs 85% on. This is because the pupil opens a little more and lets more light in. Yet, it saves 15% of the power. This will also extend the life of the bulb.
Lighting design will make your home amazing by creating spaces, having the right functionality, making your art pop, and creating the right mood with the right color temperature. Homes with well designed lighting tend to sell for more money, sell faster, as well as being convenient and cost effective to live in.
At O'Grady Homes we will help you have a great home and make sure the lighting is right. Call us about your project as soon as possible.