How often have you stumbled across a poorly lit room fumbling for the light switch or lamp cord?  Or sat in a room with harsh lighting thinking that the person you are talking to has aged decades and then realized that it is just due to harsh shadows?

Drama unlimited

Good lighting choices are essential for the ambiance of the room and the tasks that need to be performed there. Lighting designers take all this into consideration when lighting a room. However, a lighting designer was not in the budget at Howlets, so the task fell on my staff of one, me. After struggling with the lighting for the studio, no doubt the most important room of the house and the space that has to be lit perfectly, I had the good fortune to meet Mark Sterns at a social event. Mark is a senior manager at Philips Lighting and he has been an invaluable resource for getting just the correct lighting for the studio ceiling. The reaction when first time visitors see the studio is usually a phrase starting with the word holy and ending with an expletive. The eye immediately shoots upward to take in the cathedral ceiling twenty-eight feet above and arched window set in stone. In planning the lighting for this room we wanted no hanging light fixtures. Mark suggested that the lighting come from one side and flood the opposite side, making the ceiling itself a light fixture. The lighting will be on dimmers and temperature controls so the mood can be changed to suit the time of year and occasion. On a hot summer evening, the light can be set to cool blue tones or, in freezing February, set to warm Malibu sunset tones. Table and floor lamps will be used for tasks and candles for dinner parties. Although we can’t assure that all the lighting changes will produce Dorian Gray effects, we can certainly give it a valiant effort. Now, where to store Dorian’s portrait?


The kitchen at Howlets was in need of a lighting re-do as well. The large lollypop bulbs screwed into the ceiling provided overall ambient light but provided no subtlety. I decided to replace them with a series of inobtrusive track lights to provide task and drama lighting. There are granite walls in the kitchen which, when lit from above, cast eye pleasing shadows and bring out the texture and color variations of the stone. A combination of flood and spot lights were used. The spots are aimed at the work stations on the counters. There are several stations in the room so it was necessary to place the tracks and spots strategically. A light from behind a person standing at the counter will cast a shadow on the work station; a light too far in front of the person will throw light into the eyes. The upper cabinets on one wall of the kitchen were removed and open shelving was put up. This change necessitated a series of under-the-lower-shelf puck lighting to place enough light on the cream-veined black granite counter work spaces. One of the objectives with the lighting in the kitchen was to have the features of the room noticed, not the lighting fixtures. One large statement hanging fixture above the stairwell to the cellar is the exception to this rule. This fixture mimics the shape of the newly installed pot rack, which replaced a hanging glass cabinet.


The kitchen is now complete with the exceptions of a trash/recycling station being custom made and a fresh coat of paint on everything. The basic layout of the kitchen remains unchanged from a renovation done about ten years ago. However, the counter surface was changed from a green and black tightly specked granite to a cream-grained black granite. The soapstone sink and new faucet replaced the British racing green ceramic sink which was in vogue for about ten minutes ten years ago. Two undercounter refrigerators replaced the large refrigerator that blocked the view of the granite walls. This change also added another counter work space on top of the undercounter refrigerators.

Romancing the stone

The kitchen now fits the house and is a pleasure to be in. Heather has already used it for a cooking video in her online Food For Thought column at the Gloucester Times. I had not realized when asked to give the kitchen a makeover that I would also be designing a studio set. Metro Goldwyn Mayer, pay attention.

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