Local expert Chris Nichols of Bedford Lighting and Home gives us some bright ideas for illuminating our living spaces.
Q: The chandelier over our dining-room table cast harsh shadows, even though it was on a dimmer, so I recently had it removed and installed wall sconces. They’re an improvement, but I’m still not getting the warm, flattering light I’m after. Is there a way to tell — before spending a bundle on fixtures and electricians — if the end result is going to be what I want? Any suggestions about how I can fix my sconces? — Tessa W., Harrison
“She needed a lighting consultant — there’s your answer,” says lighting consultant Chris Nichols of Bedford Lighting and Home, who adds that it’s difficult to either diagnose your problem or suggest a solution with so little information. “I need to know how big the room is, what colors are in it, where she wants direct light,” Nichols says. “Light affects everyone differently, but most good-sized dining rooms wouldn’t have enough light if you took it away from the table and pushed it to the walls.”
A mix of overhead and accent lights (like wall sconces or buffet lamps) usually creates the most pleasing effect. A chandelier that’s too big, or hung too high or too low over the table, can cast the unflattering shadows that make your dinner party look like a scene in a low-budget horror flick. But assuming you had the right size, installed at the right height, and on a dimmer, if the light was still too harsh, Nichols goes on, you can soften the effect by using different bulbs, or by adding the right shades — and the same remedy could apply to your sconces. “We can do shades in any color, so they’ll complement the room and create a warmer glow than just a bulb filament,” she says. “Glass shades diffuse light. A more amber light is pleasing for a dining room.”
In the future, before you plunge into the costly electrician-drilling-holes-in-your-walls thing, Nichols suggests checking the effect you’ll get by putting portable lamps in the spots you want your hard-wired lights to go. Try bulbs of different types and wattage until you get what you’re after. Better yet, go for a consultation at a lighting showroom like hers. “People will show me a room, either bring plans or pictures on iPads, and tell me what the problem is. I can see whether it’s best to use incandescent, halogen, fluorescent — there are so many types available, and so many variables.” The consultation is free in Nichols’ store. There’s a charge if you want her to visit your home to figure things out, but it can be applied to any purchase you subsequently make.
“Then we often take it a step further,” she adds, “and allow customers to borrow sconces or lights to try them at home, on 24-hour approval.” She’ll attach a cord and a plug to fixtures that will need to be hard-wired so that customers can see how everything looks before calling in the electrician. “That way, they can see if it’s a happy purchase,” says Nichols.