A cellar-level lounge in Brooklyn showing a combination of hardwired semi-flush mount spotlights, a Poul Henningsen table lamp and a three-arm Serge Mouille floor lamp.
A Southampton game room with a combination of Alvar Aalto pendants over the pingpong table, along with carefully placed recessed lighting, and incorporating a simple shaded floor lamp.
A plug-in light is a great way to add adjustable accent lighting even when a junction box is not present.
There are few moments more enjoyable than a lazy Saturday evening in the Hamptons, winding down at home on your favorite sofa, with golden-hour sun bursting through an open western-facing window, casting a warm orange glow on the walls and furniture inside. Fast forward a few hours into the night, and suddenly that captivating naturally lit embrace has now transformed into a sharp sting of ill-placed hospital-grade compact fluorescent bulbs. This, unfortunately, resembles a not-so-uncommon occurrence for many East End dwellers who have, like many others before them, left the priority of good lighting dead last on their to-do list when designing their home.
While many people choose their homes based partly on the natural (sun) light it provides, it’s critical to remember that a significant portion of time spent at home — if not the majority during certain seasons — is actually at night, when the sun isn’t shining. For this reason, it’s always good practice to incorporate a combination of carefully thought out hardwired and plug-in lighting, with the same vigor and excitement that one approaches antiquing at one’s favorite Sag Harbor shop. Not only does this add tangible value to the property itself, but it also adds emotional value in the increased enjoyment that one immediately gains from a well-executed lighting plan.
While there are truly endless options available and professionals who specialize in lighting design alone, it’s worth exploring a few favorite tricks to create the perfect Hamptons atmosphere after hours.
With hardwired lighting in a residential setting it’s usually good practice to ensure an even dispersion of ceiling lights such as high hats or track lighting that are both dimmable and warmer in color temperature. Add in accent lighting like bedside sconces and picture lights over favorite artworks to highlight certain defining areas of each room. In most instances, be careful to keep the color temperature of all lighting consistent within a space for an even tone.
With plug-in (lamp) lighting, the same rules apply in terms of dispersement and temperature, but now the lamp’s form and height should be considered further. I generally suggest a mix of shaded lamps and reading/task lamps, with shaded lamps placed toward the corners of the room itself or in relation to the furniture layout, and reading/task lamps placed either next to a comfortable reading chair or atop a writing table. Ensure that there is some variation both in the scale of the different lamps, and in the casting of each’s light in an upward, downward, and/or outward direction, especially to fill in any gaps left by hardwired lighting, if it exists at all.
Pay careful attention to whether or not a bulb is exposed, and if so, opt for a concealed or at least dimmer bulb so as to not produce too much glare. For certain special pieces where the bulb is visible, consider a frosted or silver-tip option to mediate the harshness of direct light. For a classic East End appearance, look to naturally derived materials like glass or wood for the body of the lamp, and crisp white linen for the shade. As an added touch, mix in a menagerie of scentless candles for the mother of all natural lighting sources: fire.
LEDs are usually more attractive than CFLs for residential purposes and last an extremely long time in addition to being energy efficient. Opt for 2700 Kelvins over higher temperature bulbs. Incandescents unfortunately suffer from short lives and energy inefficiency, but it is also hard to argue against their attractiveness and undeniable warmth.
Leaving the exact bulb type preferences up to the readers, I will make one further suggestion: consider a significantly dimmer environment than what you are used to. One of the great mysteries in interiors is the popularity of 100-watt-plus bulbs incorporated into spaces like living rooms and dining rooms, which are typically for leisure, not work, like a laundry or utility room, where added lumens are welcome to complete nuanced tasks. For most people, a gentle 25-, 40- or 60-watt bulb (at most) will do. For evidence, think of a favorite dinner restaurant: Is it bursting in cold white light like an operating room? Or bathing in warm, dim candelabras like a medieval wine cellar? Our eyes adjust rapidly to varying light levels, so as long as you doesn’t need to perform surgery at home, keep the lighting appropriately dim.
At the literal end of the day, it’s important to have good lighting to enjoy. However, it would be a disservice to the lighting industry as a whole to not mention the importance of appearance when it comes to the fixtures and lamps themselves, particularly when the lights are off and daylight is in full force: each piece is a sculptural element in its own right, and should be beautiful even when it’s not being used. Lighting is often the resting place for the eyes along with artwork, given its smaller scale and often precious nature. Make sure that you’ll enjoy not only the light that’s cast after hours, but the pieces themselves at all times as well.
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