Less is More

June 01, 2017

Sometimes, less is more. Fewer ornamental fixtures on the exterior of a building can have a greater impact. Too many fixtures make the owner appear to be a victim of an over-zealous lighting salesman. One well-placed post lantern can be better than four. This is not to say that multiples are never appropriate. They often are. But it is very easy to overdo it. I have been to houses where there were so many exterior lighting fixtures, I was embarrassed for the homeowner. The home looked like a poorly designed commercial for the cheap light fixtures the builder had used. As we relit the house, we upgraded the exterior lights, while eliminating some of the excess. The combination of carefully chosen, well-placed ornamental lanterns with some subtle, understated landscape lighting makes a home or business come to life. Show off the home and landscape, but make it look natural.

Restraint is not a trait just for the exterior. It is equally easy to get crazy with decorative lighting indoors. A chandelier over a breakfast table, with another over the kitchen island and one more in the center of the sitting area is probably a bit too much. No two spaces are exactly alike, so the solutions for the space may well be different. A chandelier over the breakfast table, with multiple smaller pendants or even small recessed lights over the island, and a larger single shaded pendant, or a ceiling fan, or recessed lights with wall sconces in the sitting area makes for a far more comfortable space. And always, always, always create many small excuses for light: table lamps, floor lamps, art lights, bookcase lighting, up-lights for potted trees. The goal in every room remains the creation of a balanced, multi-directional lighting scheme that leaves some carefully placed shadows for drama.

Lighting is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Every space, both interior and exterior, presents unique challenges. Not only are the space and its furnishings different from job to job, but the people living in the spaces have different needs and different aesthetic sensitivities. One client wants to sleep in a space that is absolutely dark, with no light at all. The next client wants to be sure that there is a path of light from the bedroom to the kitchen so that the dogs can see to get water at night. Neither is wrong. They simply have different needs and lifestyles. In both cases, utilization of local or remote lighting controls can make their lives and lighting systems simpler to use and more flexible. And you know what comes next: get help from your lighting designer, one who knows that less is more.