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'Lighting is the key to making everything look good'

| Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, 8:54 p.m.
Inner cabinet lighting by Sea Gull at Cardello Electric in Cranberry Thursday, October 18, 2012. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)
Under cabinet lighting by Sea Gull at Cardello Electric in Cranberry Thursday, October 18, 2012. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)
A Holt Kotter reading lamp at Cardello Electric in Cranberry Thursday, October 18, 2012. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)
Toe-kick lighting by Sea Gull at Cardello Electric in Cranberry Thursday, October 18, 2012. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)
The Verilux Brookfield bedside light retails for $119

Matt Cardello says it is fairly easy to find a way out of the darkness.

“The biggest part of the problem is determining where you need some light,” says the president of Cardello Electric Supply, based in the North Side with nine shops in the area, West Virginia and Ohio.

He and other lighting professionals see effective lighting of a home to be sometimes badly done, creating rooms that are unnecessarily and impractically dim.

“Many people are just uneducated on what they can do with lighting,” says Tara Pakler, showroom manager at Typhoon Lighting in Regent Square.

Laura Kuhns from Kuhns Electric Supply in Latrobe says lighting sometimes is overlooked.

“When people are looking at a home, they often get impressed by the rooms or the furniture and don't think about the light,” she says. “But lighting is the key to making everything look good.”

Kuhns says some elements of lighting can be deceptive. An impressive chandelier can be added to give a dining room a dramatic touch with no thought about the light it provides, she says.

Jeffrey Dross from Cleveland-based Kichler Lighting agrees. He says many people put a light in the center of a room without thinking about what they might want to do in other parts of that space.

“The biggest step is to decide what you want to do in a room,” says the company's director of education and industry trends.

He believes many light purchases are mistakenly made from a standard of “aesthetics” rather than practicality.

The reliance and fascination with the computer also could have hurt the appreciation of good lighting, Kuhns and Pakler agree. Because more and more people are used to reading newspapers, magazines and books on computers and e-readers, they become less demanding of good reading light in their homes.

Customizing lighting does not have to be expensive. Fixtures can cost as little as $20 while floor lamps can climb easily into the hundreds. But, of course, installation and any of the work it entails can add to the cost of a project.

The possibilities are many,

One of the areas understood the least, Pakler and others say, is the use of task lighting that can provide illumination for specific functions such as reading, cooking or hobbies. That lighting makes the jobs easier, provides some accents to rooms and can even be energy-saving.

Cardello says task lights can offer needed illumination for jobs that must be done, possibly eliminating the requirement for light in the rest of the room.

“Why have those main lights on in a room if you don't need them?” he asks.

The use of task lighting sometimes is ignored “because people just don't know what it does,” says Steve Hoffman from Lighting by Erik in Dormont.

But it can be an important feature in a house for what it does as accent lights and for creating a better workspace, says Ryan Douglas, CEO of Vermont-based Verilux, a company that specializes in making lights designed to rival the sun.

“Having a light that has a full spectrum light — whether you're at your computer, studying, reading or doing any of your favorite hobbies — improves your productivity, eases eye strain and allows you to enjoy the things you are doing,” he says.

The focus on the benefit of natural light was the heart of the founding of the firm 56 years ago by a graphic artist who found his eyes were becoming aggravated when working under a bare light bulb, he says.

“You see best when exposed to the full and balanced spectrum of natural light,” he says.

A form of task lighting can be good accent lighting in a kitchen, too, Kuhns says. Besides offering light over a stove or a prep area, that lighting can add enough brightness to illuminate the room when full lighting isn't necessary.

She also says toe-kick lighting around the bottoms of cabinets can offer an effective-but-subtle brightness.

“It can even act as a nightlight to guide someone through the room,” she adds.

At the topside of a kitchen, another form of lighting can be beneficial, she and Cardello says. Lighting shining up on a ceiling from the top of cabinetry offers the same kind of subtle illumination without being intrusive.

Cardello says the best aspect to that form of lighting is that it “concentrates on the effect rather than the source.” He says those lights do the job well because they reflect off the ceiling without offering any glare from the bulb itself.

Another form of less-direct light also wins a great deal of acclaim. Hoffman says recessed lighting has become more popular because it entails no fixture, thus making its source virtually invisible.

By placing it near corners and against walls, it can provide many means of reflective illumination, he says.

“You can look up at the ceiling, and you have a clear look,” Kuhns says.

Cardello says recessed light sometimes can be used in a dining room with a chandelier. The recessed bulbs provide illumination on the table while the chandelier can function as largely a decorative divide.

But one simple item can be a real key to household illumination: the dimmer.

Dimmers are as simple to install as switches and also can be part of some extension cords, Pakler says, allowing brightness to be controlled on many lights,

“I tell people to buy as much power as they can, and get a dimmer,” she says. “Then they can make the light whatever they want it to be.”

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

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