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The Messy Process – How I Chose ALL The Lights For The Mountain House “At Once”

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.

Screen Shot 2019 07 11 At 8.06.25 Pm

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:

Screen Shot 2019 07 11 At 7.58.30 Pm

Lighting Options 2:

Screen Shot 2019 07 11 At 8.06.41 Pm

Lighting Options 3:

Screen Shot 2019 07 11 At 8.06.34 Pm

Lighting Options 4:

Screen Shot 2019 07 11 At 8.06.30 Pm

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:

Screen Shot 2019 07 11 At 9.00.29 Pm

Kitchen Lighting 2:

Screen Shot 2019 07 11 At 9.00.03 Pm

Kitchen Lighting 3:

Screen Shot 2019 07 11 At 8.59.45 Pm

Kitchen Lighting 4:

Screen Shot 2019 07 11 At 8.59.09 Pm

Kitchen Lighting 5:

Screen Shot 2019 07 11 At 8.58.59 Pm

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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!!
  4. 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.
  5. Your lighting and plumbing fixtures (faucets, etc) should be in the same extended family. The same rules apply.
  6. 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.
  7. 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:

Emily Henderson Mountain House Lighting Plan Process Grid

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.

Get The Look Mh Lighting First Floorgrid 1

Family Room: French Articulating Double Zig Zag Light Sconce | Living Room: Conical Drum Semi-Flush Fixture, Stark Minimalist Sconce, 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.

Get The Look Mh Lighting Second Floorgrid 1

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

We did partner with a lot of amazing high-end brands like Allied Maker, Urban Electric Co. and Katy Skelton in addition to more affordable like Jones Road County, Orange and Rejuvenation.

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.

Emily Henderson Mountain House Lighting Plan Affordable Options

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

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4 years ago

“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.”

I sympathize because I’ve been Googling one of the unsourced lights in the collage and it is MADDENING INDEED. Don’t suppose you happen to know where the pair of sconces, one black and one white, bottom row, second from left, in Lighting Options #2 is from?

4 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

Using the “visually similar” search function on pinterst found it in about 3 seconds:

4 years ago
Reply to  Kd

I was thinking this tip when I read that line! Also, if you do have an exact manufacturer image, you can reverse Google image search and you should be able to nail it down!

4 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

Such a great post to see. I am a newbie and we remodeled 90 percent of our house and I was picking the lighting for the house when I was 9 months pregnant and it was by far the most challenging part of the whole process. I’m glad to see we had the same “method” for picking out lighting. My favorite part after the hours of searching, pinning, pulling out my hair. I would present my ideas to my husband which he would then not like any of and then when asked what he likes would reply with “not sure…”

Everything looks beautiful, love all your lighting choices together.

4 years ago

This might have been one of my favourite posts you’ve written in a while! (possibly barring the swimsuit one from saturday :D) I love it when you take us along in the process and your thoughts with all the messiness that entails. Super fun and informative post! Love your writin style (and your design) as always Emily!!

4 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Agreed! I like the “inner workings” posts! And we are making a quick switch in our en suite right now for lighting so it’s perfect timing!

4 years ago

A tip if you have an image but you’ve lost the original link of where it was from. Instead of showing small glass shards into your eyes, you can reverse search on google images. Just open google images and drag the image from your desktop you are searching for into the google images search bar and it will TELL YOU WHICH WEBSITES HAVE THAT IMAGE! When I found this out it seriously changed my life!

4 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

This is amazing. Thank you, Jessica!

4 years ago

“Stay in the mess” is one of the mantras of a leadership conference I’ve helped facilitate. I always thought that was such great advice for us creative types.

4 years ago

Very pinteresting. I like all of the mountain house lighting choices except the dining room big one over the table (to my eye it seems bulky). So, I like 99 out of 100 of your choices :). A+ work!

4 years ago

Fabulous post! Glass shards in the eyes started my day with a great belly laugh!

Jessica Ortega
4 years ago

Can I do the same flushmount lighting throughout the entire house or should I change it? I have one in laundry room, hallway leading to master and one upstairs.

4 years ago
Reply to  Jessica Ortega

Of course! It’s your house and if you like the flush mount then use it. You get to make the rules for your space.

Roberta Davis
4 years ago

Some nice-looking fixtures. I am always vexed by poor lighting, so I tend to start with the very un-creative “requirements” and then look for fixtures that meet my needs. Such as, how bright it will be in a bathroom (because my husband will not let me change out for any less brightness than he has with 6 40-watt bulbs), and the color temp and quality, if LED (CRI of 90, ideally, and a warm light inside that doesn’t look too yellow). There are a lot of crappy light-quality LED bulbs out there and it’s hard to find the good ones. In my family room, I have a dark corner and the lighting store guy talked us into a light that shines up onto the ceiling to reflect- which does a masterful job of lighting (but I hate the actual lamp). While I like the look of bare clear bulbs, I hate the way they glare when turned on at night. Why is it so hard to find lamps that look good and do a good job? If you look at architect sites (like Dwell) in contrast to interior designer/decorator sites, you see architects often opt for fixtures that are “invisible”… Read more »

4 years ago
Reply to  Roberta Davis

I have always been amazed at the poor lighting choices of many architects considering the National Kitchen and Bath Association has very easy-to-follow- standards. As you noted, they often spec dim overhead or recessed lighting as opposed to side mirror lighting that flatters the face.

4 years ago
Reply to  Steven

Bravo on those side lights, those overhead are not flattering at all, not to me anyway. Thanks

4 years ago

Nice, thorough post, but PLEASE fix the typo on the opening image!

4 years ago

OK the design gods must finally have decided to finally look my because it is the second or third or eighth day in a row I think I have spent 4+ HOURS scrolling for lighting for my bathroom reno. And this is after doing that just a month ago – and getting it wrong and now the packed up stuff is awaiting UPS. This lighting thing is driving me nuts (must be because I forgot wine was part of the creative methodology, lesson learned).
And then thought, I love EH’s stuff (used 2 diff. tiles you recommended for kitchen, then bathroom, thankyouverymuch), why don’t I wander over and take a peek in her bathrooms. Whaaat? An all lighting post? Just posted today? You must surely have done this just for me, right?
This is why I love you. Great taste and – just as important – you share process and ideas and sources and prices. Now also going to find out what Keynote is, since this is also what I was missing in addition to the wine. Thank you, you are a treasure.

4 years ago

Love all of these! I want every one of them for my house which would be impossible, but still. 🙂 Love your designs and this style is perfect!

4 years ago

Please tell me how to find light in the very center of Lighting Options 4! It’s half frosted, half clear, with a cagey metal thing around the outside. Thank you!

4 years ago
Reply to  Angel
4 years ago

I like this post, but admittedly it stresses me out! I’m now looking at my house and realize it is a chaotic mess of lights. We just remodeled so I’m not changing anything, but I have lights from a million sources, and definitely don’t think they belong in the same “country “. We have a tasseled chandelier from Anthropologie, beaded flush mount from Pb kids, lots of rejuvenation, schoolhouse, lostine, as well as Hudson valley, visual comfort and some antique. Ack. Lighting honestly has been one of the stressful decisions ever!

4 years ago

I got to this post late today, but once I saw the subject matter, I dropped everything to read it…twice. Posts on whole house lighting, paint, furniture, etc are SUCH good stuff!!! They all lead to a cohesive home, but one that is, as you put it, “intentional and exciting!!” I love it! This process can be applied to everything one needs for the entire house. And Keynote is so easy for creating boards. No brainer.

Megan GC
4 years ago

I love this post so much! I’m a website designer and admittedly, my process is pretty messy too – with 8 million files and too many pins and SO many screenshots. But, I want the finished product to be a) original and b) the best I can possibly make it, and this messy creative process is what helps me to accomplish that. And secret: while the Adobe products are the gold standard for designers, sometimes I use Canva to play around and see if elements look good together because it’s just so easy. Glad I’m not the only one with kinda a messy process. xo

Julie S
4 years ago

It’s just really good to know that this kind of thing can go by feel! Getting a space right with this much pressure and this scale of project seems like it might be subject to severe rules. Messy creativity!!

Lori Nothwang
4 years ago

Oh my god. This is my favorite post yet. You A)not only made me feel like my process is completely correct but you B) put words into the madness I feel When I’m selecting lighting.
I read This out loud to my husband and we both just chuckled because I literally Do this EXACT process. Messy yes!!!

4 years ago

Lighting Options #3 is the same group as #1. Does this mean there are even MORE you can show us?!

4 years ago

SOOOO many choices!!

4 years ago

I disagree, I think it does look good on paper! You wrote once to make sure every finish in a room has at least one partner— two black Metal, two oak woods, two brass pieces, etc! That is exactly what I see with the lighting, everything has a buddy (a close cousin one could say, like a cousin who you share your birthday and have sleepovers with). Wonderful job!

4 years ago

Thank you for this post!!! We’re building a house and the electricians are asking me for things like precise sconce and pendant placement, so I need to finalizing lights and get them ordered this week. And the interior designer who was supposed to be great flaked on us ages ago, so now it’s just me. Yikes! Final fixture review was on my to-do list for today, and now it feels little less overwhelming.

I’m also seconding another comment’s suggestion of more posts on how to make the fixed elements (paint, plumbing, hard surfaces, etc.) flow and coordinate well. It’s so helpful to see your process for this.

4 years ago

I love the sconce options here. I really want to put a couple of sconces in my dining room, but I can’t bring myself to put holes in the beautiful wallpaper. So for now, a couple of lamps will have to suffice. Pinning this, though, for when I redo my bathroom!

4 years ago

Hello! I just found your blog (where on earth have I been???) and have literally binge-read pretty much the entire thing (not so much work has happened over the last few days). Question: I LOVE your mountain home kitchen so so so much. SO much. We’ve bought a new house and are about to begin planning a new kitchen, and I want to go with lots of wood. My question is about fading. Are you worried about the wood fading? Will it yellow? Will it look different in a short period of time?

Thank you for such a great blog.