The devil is in the details.

Lighting design goes further than fixture selection, we also keep an eye on all of those seemingly simple, small details that become big eyesores if not carefully coordinated. We polled the office for some of their common pet peeves when it comes to lighting design and came up with a handful of easily avoidable mistakes.


Mio: Remote vs Integral Emergency Indicator Lights – Remote emergency indicator lights are an eyesore! Pay attention to this detail and your options when specifying lights with integral emergency batteries, especially when dealing with nicer ceiling finishes/spaces. 

example of downlight + em light cutouts on nice exterior wooden soffit

example of downlight + em light cutouts on nice exterior wooden soffit

example of remote em light next to installed downlight

example of remote em light next to installed downlight


Addie: Technical Details Overlooked – Have you ever seen reflections of glaring diodes on your counter or backsplash? What about unsecured wiring or power cords, sagging lenses, loose trims, "socket shadow"  – or even worse – a glimpse of a fixture under a shelf, behind a mirror, or in a cove? These detail mishaps drive designers crazy, but they also irritate everyday users and take away from their subconscious experience of the space. Taking technical aspects into consideration gives designers the power to prevent common lighting mistakes and creates seamless lighting effects. Some important technical considerations for integrating light fixtures with their environment are:  

  • Interior Finishes – matte or polished, light or dark (contrast ratios) 

  • Available fixtures – line or low voltage, integral or remote power supply, physical size, optical performance, amount of light output, flexibility in the field (I.e. field cuttable) 

  • Available accessories –  clear or frosted lens, mounting accessories – track, channel, clips, etc. 

  • Spatial constraints – physical space for desired light effect - you can't defy physics, concealing fixture from all views, space to install and later service the fixture or remote power supply 


Steph: The Classic 'Bank of Dimmers' Control Approach – We've all been to a restaurant and seen the "zone control" of 3,459,814,584 dimmers with tape and pen markings for the light level they prefer. Tacky, right? Or what about the space with a bank of switches – How confusing for the end user? Technology has advanced so much, so should we! Have the conversation with the architect/designer/owner/end user and determine the best approach for your controls. Maybe they prefer the look of different dimmers and switches with notes written on them, or maybe they didn’t realize scenes are possible with little-to-no cost impact. In my opinion the gradual change to a nighttime scene with a simple wallstation or timeclock control is much more elegant than sudden lighting changes with an unsightly wall of dimmers and switches. 


Stan: Photo cell installed at floor level.  Always note daylight sensors are to be ceiling mounted, or better yet, give an elevation if it is an open ceiling. The photo shows the sensors mounted just above the base. 

Stan 1.jpg

Mitch: If it’s an important installation, make time to mock up your lighting solution - Not every project allows for it, but if you’re working on a special lighting installation or solution that the owner is excited about, make time to mock it up as realistically as possible. The best intent and research from IES and manufacturer photos only goes so far. Maybe you’re back-lighting a translucent panel and aren’t sure if you’ll have a uniform distribution; what about that great textured wall that you want to graze, how far from the wall does the fixture need to be installed to achieve the desired effect? How much punch do you actually need from an in-grade fixture to light to the top of a 30’ column? It’s always easiest to demonstrate with an actual fixture, and you might even find out solutions or problems that you wouldn’t have been aware of otherwise.


Melina: When in doubt, ask for a sample. The images don't always tell the whole story.  
It is not uncommon for manufacturers to photoshop their products into a space. It is less common for them to photoshop the appearance of the fixture. Either way, seeing a fixture in person as a sample tells you a whole lot more about the product than an image. Take the images with a grain of salt, use them as reference and for conceptual communication, but don't take them as gospel.  

If you are using a product you are not as familiar with, ask your friendly neighborhood rep to bring one by and get your eyes on it. You don't want to find out about the unknown headaches of the appearance after it has been installed on a project, like this beautiful pendant with a junction box looking canopy, which was not apparent from the product images.

Melina 2.jpg