This post about the mountain house lighting is going to leave you with three feelings –
1. ‘Yay I got a sneak peek with lots of inside information …?’… then
2. Wow. Emily’s design process is very messy, even amateur… ending with the question…
3. Is this house even going to look good?
When I came up with the original ‘how to choose a lighting plan for the whole house’ concept last week, I assumed that all of the lighting would look good presented TOGETHER on one board, and we could show you how we seamlessly curated them all, using analogies like ‘think ‘cousins’ and ‘siblings’ but never twins’. And while it looks so amazing together in person (barring 2 that are awesome but might be changed out at some point) it actually doesn’t look that great on a board together. HOW?
Well, like anything tactile that’s because sharing 3-dimensional design on a computer screen lacks, well one whole dimension first of all. But it also lacks texture, and in this case, we are talking lighting so it’s a lot about experiencing the room with the actual light.
But before I show you the board with all the final choices, you need to see the process, my process. It’s messy, as is any creative process (and if it’s not messy, then I have to tell you it might not be that creative). But when I’ve shown it to my friends or any new employees they find it A. alarmingly amateur and B. super easy and helpful.
Again, the program and skills you have will dictate how good this looks, but I use Keynote on Mac and have very poor Adobe skills so this works for me. The reason I use Keynote? Because it’s so easy a toddler could use it. Like even my toddler who likely inherited my alarming lack of Adobe skills. You drag and drop. Hell, my kids can do that ALL DAY LONG. In fact, (may I rant? oh dear I do think I’ve been watching too much Outlander these days) my whole team used to make fun of me about my Keynote enthusiasm. FOR YEARS. But the truth is, I’m bloody fast so I need a fast program. I need to be able to switch out things super easily without turning ‘on’ and ‘off’ different layers and trying to remember which layer does what (surely there is a Photoshop joke in there somewhere). Well, one day, during the Portland project when Brady was doing a great job on Photoshop but it felt too precious for the speed in which he needed to work I suggested sheepishly that he try Keynote. He went to school for architecture – he does NOT do mood boards on Keynote, so he continued his resistance, but I was his boss so he tried it and then a week later, gone missing, we found him holding a ‘Keynote and Beyonce for president’ sign on the corner of Sunset and Hollywood. It’s just so fast and you can switch things out, move them, resize and add text so quickly. She ain’t pretty but she works well.
So here is my process:
Step 1: You scour the internet’s lighting resources for probably 65-70 hours over the course of 3 months. This is often performed best with a glass of wine while watching Younger, Sex in the City or a Real Housewives – something that requires minimal attention and makes you feel like you are hanging out with your best friends. It could even be actual Friends. The process is flexible as long as there is on-screen kissing involved.
Step 2: You screengrab any photo of any light you might possibly like within your (4) styles and drag it onto a keynote page. Since our style was/is ‘modern mountain, contemporary California, refined, rustic Scandinavian chalet cabin’ there was a vibe, but it did span both handmade pottery and linear modernist contemporary lights. So I screengrabbed them all.
Step 3: VERY IMPORTANT – You also PIN all of these onto a Pinterest board from their original store/source or you will have literally no idea where you screengrabbed it from and you will eventually take your wine glass, break it and shove the small glass shards into your eyes wishing to stop your maddening world wide web search. A wise man once said, “Better to never see at all than to look for one lamp for the rest of your life.”
Step 4: You size it down so you can see everything. You literally take the little corner thing and drag is so the picture gets smaller. Then you add page after page… I had like 15 pages of just lights.
Step 5: You play around. This ‘playing’ part can last months. To your partner, whom you might ask opinions of, it can often feel more like torture, but to you/us, it’s the fun part. However, this part can also be paralyzing. You like so many. You don’t want to be basic. You don’t want it dated, nor do you want it too traditional. You don’t want what everyone has seen a million times, but you don’t really feel like taking huge risks, especially when they can be expensive.
Step 6: Finally, you ORGANIZE. A good idea for “playing” is to organize it either by style, type (sconce/pendant) or by room. For the blog, we organized it by style to best show you what styles we were considering. Then we started eliminating and “promoting” the losers and winners. It was like fantasy football or March Madness, for sconces. I don’t ever delete, I would instead drag the rejected off the page (hidden outside of the frame, but retrievable). Then yes, I would start taking favorites and put them on a few new pages. Then even if I loved one, if it didn’t seem like it was playing well with others I would remove.
This is the part that is tricky because I think that if you love one and it is in your style then it’s ok if it doesn’t look great with a sconce 3 rooms away – you’ll never see them together. I wish I had not eliminated some of the more raw pottery pendants or wood sconces that I loved that sure, but wouldn’t have worked with much of the more linear modern pieces. However, in their own rooms could have been beautiful and added so much warmth. No real regrets here, but just a warning that if you love something don’t worry too much if it doesn’t look great next to another that you also think works.
Lighting Options 1:
Lighting Options 2:
Lighting Options 3:
Lighting Options 4:
Admittedly I’m one of the most open-minded people in every subject–yes, from politics to lamp styles–making my decision-making process often tortuous. It’s not that I’m indecisive, I just really see every side and can easily see the benefits of choosing something budget vs. custom, hand-made vs. mass manufactured, minimalist vs. decorative, stylish vs. sleek, etc. And that doesn’t even cover function. I’m by nature eclectic and like/need the occasional surprise and unpredictability of something special that doesn’t quite fit.
So then I started breaking it down by room.
I started adding the lighting to boards with some of the hopeful other design elements. We didn’t have any renderings at this point so I was actually just screengrabbing elements that kinda looked like what we might choose to see how the room would turn out. I wrote text on them like ‘I LIKE’ or even ‘YES, DON’T CHANGE’. So bossy. Funny enough I often did change and former Emily did not sue. Litigious we are not. So below you’ll see a bunch of those notes, along with spelling and grammatical errors 🙂
Kitchen Lighting 1:
Kitchen Lighting 2:
Kitchen Lighting 3:
Kitchen Lighting 4:
Kitchen Lighting 5:
I know this seems both specific to my process and also really abstract.
So WHAT ARE THE RULES? Here are the original tips that I wanted to tell you before I realized it was more helpful to show you my shit show of a process:
How to choose lighting for a whole house at once:
- Choose lighting as close as siblings and as distant as cousins, but try to not make two room ‘twins’ (unless we are talking just flush mounts or cans, obviously – it’s fine to have those the same in multiple rooms).
- Choose lighting from the same “country”. Of course, you can make any design choice and if it’s “right” it won’t be wrong. But unless your style is super wacky and you want your house to have that look and feel in every room then you don’t have all of your lighting be from “different countries” i.e. eras, styles, etc. Furniture can be, certainly but for hard fixtures i.e. lighting and plumbing think of them as being VERY close relatives born around the same time, from the same “country” but sure, of course with different personalities. We knew we wanted ‘contemporary’ and ‘Scandinavian’ which leans simple and minimalist. There are a few outliers that are more ‘traditional cabin’ like the lantern style choices. But for example, I wouldn’t have one sconce have a beaded shade with tiffany glass and another room have minimal and sleek. It’s doable, but just be mindful that you’ll be battling the wacky party throughout the house.
- Vary the function–i.e. mix up sconces (single, double, triple?) pendants, chandeliers but obviously know that each will give you a different type of light and certainly a different function (aka a directional sconce will light beneath the shade so while you may love how they look, if they flank your vanity mirror it should be HIGH enough to direct light down so you can see your face). Sure, every bathroom can have sconces or pendants, but varying them makes the house feel both exciting and custom – and when done under the same cohesive art direction they’ll feel intentional and yet exciting. MAYBE THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I WANT IN LIFE – INTENTIONAL AND YET EXCITING – OH SH*T I JUST WROTE MY NEW MANTRA!!
- Know what you see from one room to another – ensure that they don’t compete too much and feel cohesive, but not matchy-matchy. I think this is something you can obsess about toooo much, but yes, you want to think about all your open spaces as one big room. Individual rooms don’t really matter, but with the open living/dining/kitchen/hallway they do. A good rule of thumb is to give yourself a statement ‘moment’ and let the others be supportive characters.
- Your lighting and plumbing fixtures (faucets, etc) should be in the same extended family. The same rules apply.
- Give yourself some cohesive elements and finishes to work with. We chose matte black, brass and wood and hand/mouth blown glass (I’ll never know which it is…if only I could google it?). Again, I wish we had incorporated more pottery elements, but I love what we chose. You can’t do everything. I often choose silver tones or gold tones and mix with black. It’s ok to mix all of them, but it’s definitely harder to get a great result.
- Work in the same “finish family”, but don’t be too strict about exactly matching because, well, it’s REALLY hard to. For instance the sconce over the vanity is in a different finish than the faucet which I hadn’t predicted. But once they are together it doesn’t matter – they are both awesome. Again, mix around the finishes equally and it’s all good. Just don’t use 10 different metals in the same room but if you want to mix 2-3, that’s fine (but less will be easier on the eye, more could look more custom).
Ready for a sneak peek?
Here are some in-house photos before we decorated to show you how thing work together:
So now to the roundup of what we actually used. This was rather confronting because it doesn’t actually look that good together. And yet they do in person!!!! Take a gander:
Ultimately you’ll see that we chose a theme of black, gold, linear with some lantern and shaded elements. Modern but warm. Linear but soft. Interested but not risky. That’s the idea anyway.
Family Room: French Articulating Double Zig Zag Light Sconce | Living Room: Conical Drum Semi-Flush Fixture, Concentric 10 | Kitchen: Mini Dome, Vic Sconces, Ellis Pendant Light | Guest Room: Huntley | Powder Bath: Well Pendant Mini | Dining Room: Urban Smokebell
The second floor is a lot of the same – black, gold, linear with some lantern elements.
Guest Room: Potence Style Otis Light, Brass T2 | Master Bathroom: Hillgate Pocket, Bright Side 4, Jones Double Sconce Hardwired | Master Bedroom: Conifer Medium Wall Sconce, Perry Sconce, Topsy, Aperture Sconce | Kid’s Room: Electric T Banker’s Sconce, Radar Sconce | Kid’s Bathroom: Stud Sconce
But every house and budget is different. This was meant to be a show house for our company and for a magazine. We found a lot of affordable options out there with the same vibe, but less of the handmade special quality.
1. Black Steel 4-light Pendant | 2. Brass Pendant Light | 3. Leggero Pole Wall Sconce | 4. Aged Brass Bath Bracket | 5. Hourglass Pendant | 6. Enok Metal Wall Sconce | 7. Alliance Gold Sconce | 8. Zaire Pendant | 9. Black Flush Mount Light | 10. Black Wall Sconce | 11. Mid-Century Sconce | 12. Brass Vanity Light | 13. Black Iron Dual Bulb McClure Pendant Lamp | 14. LED Perforated Sconce | 15. Black Wall Sconce with Clear Glass Cylinder | 16. Maddox Collection Pendant | 17. Teti Wall/Ceiling Lamp | 18. Aged Brass Wall Sconce with White Shade | 19. Tabby Pill Sconce | 20. Vintage Antique Black Clear Glass Wall Sconce | 21. White Ceramic Light Wall Sconce | 22. White Shade Pendant Chandelier | 23. Iconic Color Pop Dome Ceiling Light | 24. Plate Matte Black Wall Sconce
So that’s the process. Now that I’m done with the house (and Brian is forcing me to not start another major project) I have more time to write about the messy process. Man, I enjoyed it. It’s what this blog has always done–We ramble about design in a messy way, but with heart and a lot of grammatical errors.. xx