- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Kerry Touchetteis as concerned about functional indoor lighting as anyone. He wants light bulbs to last, wall switches to work and lamp cords to be unobtrusive.
As an interior designer, he's also interested in the creative potential of lighting, such as accenting art pieces and creating moods.
"People go to all the trouble to assemble fabrics for their furniture, color on the walls and art objects but if the light isn't right, all that work is in vain," says Mr. Touchette, a Dupont Circle-based interior designer of more than 25 years.
He and other interior designers like to layer light in a room to allow the space to look and feel different creating varying moods depending on how the room is being used, Mr. Touchette says.
Layering light means combining different types of light task (such as desk lighting), ambient (overall lighting), accent (directional lighting) and decorative/aesthetic (lighting that's a piece of art in itself).
"We have multiuse rooms nowadays," he says. "We might do homework and entertain in the same room."
Doing homework requires good, bright light, while warmer, cozier lighting is more appropriate for entertaining.
A designer's nightmare is a room that is lighted evenly, that neither highlights art nor provides adequate light for certain tasks, such as reading or cooking. Simply put, one traditional overhead light is not going to do the job.
"That's going to create boring, dull light," Mr. Touchette says.
Irma Dobkin, a Chevy Chase interior designer, has installed layered lighting consisting of hundreds of lights in her own condominium, both for her own comfort and to show prospective clients an example of layered lighting.
She has track lighting to highlight dozens of art pieces and colorful walls, recessed lighting for ambient light, cabinet lights to accent her china, bright fluorescent lights in closets, under-the-cabinet lights, and three-way task lighting in her kitchen and office.
"Great lighting is a combination of ambience and function," Ms. Dobkin says.

Track lighting is not the most aesthetically pleasing type of lighting, Ms. Dobkin says, but it has the advantage of letting you spotlight art and walls without having to do the extensive electric and carpentry work that recessed lighting requires.
"But track lighting has gotten better," she says. "There are more funky fixtures around now."
Tammy Thomas, a lighting consultant with Rexel, an electric-products store in Rockville, agrees. The store carries a new type of curved track that comes with a wide variety of fixtures. Customers can get all of the same type of fixture for consistency or experiment with differently shaped and colored lamps retro pastels are trendy right now on the same track.
"We sell a lot of these. It's a real contemporary look," Ms. Thomas says.
Most people still prefer recessed lighting, Ms. Dobkin says.
"Recessed lighting just can't have a negative impact on the aesthetics. That's why people like it so much," she says.
Another type of permanent fixture is sconces, which create ambient light. They can be aesthetically pleasing and also help give a room overall light. In some cases, they give specific light. In a bathroom, for example, if placed on either side of a mirror, they give much better light for makeup application than just an overhead light.
Layering light, aside from adding ambience, also can make a room seem bigger, Mr. Touchette says.
"You can increase the light in the corners of a room, which will make it seem bigger," Mr. Touchette says.
Ms. Thomas has, in her own kitchen, a chandelier, two wall sconces and recessed lighting on a dimmer.
"It gives the room a lot of ambience," Ms. Thomas says, "but it also spreads the light to the corners of the room, which makes it seem more spacious."
After installing the permanent fixtures such as recessed lighting, tracks and sconces, designers add table and floor lamps to create visual interest and provide extra task lighting.
The key to matching lamps with overall design is identifying common denominators in the lamp and the design for example, a fabric, material or color.
Ms. Dobkin, for example, decided on a mahogany art-deco-style table lamp to go with her mahogany living-room chairs.

Aside from the layered lights, using dimmer switches can help create or emphasize certain moods. Ms. Dobkin probably has 90 percent of her lights on dimmer switches.
Ms. Thomas says dimmers are underused because many people think they are difficult to install.
"That's wrong," Ms. Thomas says. "They cost about $5, and most people can install them themselves."
Also, using a dimmer switch can significantly extend the life span of a light bulb, she says. "Even if you only dim the light 10 percent, the bulb will last five times longer."
Another money-saver is using fluorescent light bulbs, which draw about a quarter of the energy a halogen light bulb draws. However, Ms. Dobkin and others agree that the type of light these bulbs emit is cold and often flickering, appropriate just for such spaces as closets and laundry rooms.
"You get a lot of punch for your buck, but the flicker can also give you a headache," Ms. Dobkin says.
Money is a definite issue when it comes to lighting, the designers agree.
"For some reason, lighting is the most neglected part of people's budget," Mr. Touchette says. "They think the old fixture in the middle of the room is enough."
Ms. Thomas says the lighting design, lights and installation should amount to between 1 percent and 2 percent of the value of the home. Ms. Dobkin suggests it should constitute 25 percent of the interior design budget.
Though that's more than many people want to spend, Ms. Thomas makes the case that lighting design, especially in its simplest form, is one of the cheaper, if not the cheapest, home improvements one can undertake. A lamp can cost $30, while installing new hardwood floors can cost thousands of dollars, she says.
In the end, lighting is about feeling comfortable in a space, the designers say.
"Too much light can hurt your eyes and make you feel exposed. Underlit rooms can be gloomy and depressing," Mr. Touchette says, "but if you get the right combination of lights, you end up with a happy person."

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