A light fixture is only as good as the bulb you put in it. But a visit to the lighting aisle can get overwhelming fast with the number styles, shapes, and applications available today. We asked Lights Fantastic’s former president, Jon Sayah, to illuminate us on what we should know. Plus: Local design minds weigh in on the best bulbs and an innovative way to integrate your lighting. Thomas Edison wishes.
The Shape of Things
“It used to be a house had 100 recessed down lights, but now you can do so much more than that,” Sayah says. He points to innovations made possible by advances in LED, including beams embedded in walls, wayfinding strips embedded in floors, LED tape hidden behind fascia in closets, and illuminated bathroom mirrors. It’s important to note that what has changed is technology—not technique, Sayah says. A room still needs a mix of general lighting, accent lighting, and task lighting.
Light Bulbs 101
Incandescent: Traditional filament-style bulbs with which you grew up. Not energy efficient and burn out fast.
Light-emitting diode bulbs that look and feel like incandescents but use up to 80 percent less energy. Cost less than other bulbs and have a very long life.
Compact fluorescent lamps are spiral or tube-shaped bulbs. Use 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs but are more expensive and not as long-lived as LED bulbs.
NOTE: A 12-watt LED is equivalent to a 15-watt CFL is equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent.
Color by Numbers
LED lighting is softer and more adaptable, which are qualities that help make a house a home.
“The lower the color temperature, the warmer the light, and the more comfortable and cozy it feels. That’s why amber lights are good for night lights in a stairway, for example. As you get higher on the color spectrum, the light is brighter and bluer. That’s good for waking up and working,” Sayah says.
And it used to be that homeowners chose either a warm white or a cool white bulb, but smart LED lighting offers more options. “You can still dim for less or more light,” Sayah says, “but now you can change the coolness or warmness of a bulb as well.”
Smart Lighting Control
Switches, dimmers, and sensors simplify lighting—and life.
“Even with Google Home and Alexa, you can turn smart lights on and off, dim the lights, and change colors,” Sayah says.
Designers’ picks for best bulbs—because a lamp is only as good as its light.
Hide and Chic
Now you see ’em, now you don’t.
Make your lighting practically disappear: Plaster-in LED lighting allows for all the illumination without the distraction, as unsightly housings are recessed within drywall. Whether you opt for more traditional down lights or linear channel lights (which can run long spans across a ceiling, along an accent feature, or down walls), this innovative solution allows you to get creative with where and how you light a space.