Designing with Light Techniques to Enhance Your Home

There's no question that human beings respond to light. Its absence can affect our sense of well-being, and this may be why bright, sunny apartments tend to be the easiest to sell. Whether you have an interior designer map out a detailed lighting plan or you choose the do-it-yourself approach, today there are more lighting options than ever before. And the results are always amazing. With an abundance of light in all the right places, even the darkest apartment can be transformed from a dreary space into a home that is envied by all.

An Acquired Taste

Light can be used to create a specific mood for a variety of functions from studying to entertaining. It can help create a sense of luxury and make your furnishings seem important. Some say it can even help you sell your apartment. I would rather be in an empty room with a great lighting design than one that has the best furnishings and improper lighting. Light is a luxury that people should afford before they buy a sofa, says Marjorie Hilton, founder of Marjorie Hilton Interiors, a design firm in Manhattan that does residential and commercial interiors.

Hilton admits that the cost of a professional lighting jobwhich should be done before you move into a new apartmentmight scare some people away. In a 2,000-square-foot space, the cost for electrical labor alone can run between $10,000 and $20,000. But even if you're on a limited budget, Hilton suggests splurging on lighting installed by an electrician according to a designer's or an architect's specifications. Do the shell of your new home correctlythe floors, lighting and wallsand fill in the blanks later, she advises. You can always add the furniture, piece by piece, after you've moved into your new apartment.

But while interior designers, architects and some savvy apartment owners see light as an essential component of residential interior design, others are lagging behind. When you walk in most apartments, there's no light, explains Hilton. This is not a problem for some people, because if you've never had light, you don't miss it. But once you've had light, then you can't live without it. Hilton is referring to those generations who have grown up with the traditional mix of ambient and task lightingtable lamps, a single overhead light per room and an occasional wall sconce.

Hilton recalls one such client who said she didn't need any lighting work done on her recently purchased Upper East Side co-op. One of the first things we determine when assessing a new site is where the dark spots occur. This client had no awareness that the entire front vestibule was as dark as the Black Hole of Calcutta, recalls Hilton. She told me, 'Let's just decorate.'

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