Experts tell me I should consider lighting as “the jewelry of the home.” This has always bothered me instinctually, but it wasn’t until a few days ago that I understood why.
Jewelry is useless.
Wait, wait, I am not advocating that we give up jewelry on our bodies and in our homes. I happen to be quite fond of my wedding band. Last year for our anniversary I made a beaded necklace for my wife (one blue glass bead for each year, three big ones for her three boys, and other sentimental choices).
Maybe jewelry isn’t useless. It makes us feel good and look good. Beyond the aesthetics, however, true ornamental jewelry is, well, useless. If you choose your lighting like you choose your jewelry- because it looks good- you may end up with fixtures that are just as useless as a diamond tennis bracelet. Who plays tennis in diamonds??
If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you know I am endlessly seeking analogies to explain the mystery of light. Red Velvet Cake is my tastiest. Let’s try another.
Light is footwear. And socks.
I don’t wear jewelry when I go for a jog, but I do wear running shoes. I do not work in the yard barefoot, but I do wear boots. I hide my toes when I go to meetings inside my beloved Keen sandals or shoes. If I am feeling excessively traditional, I put on my polished black dress shoes. Lest you think all of my shoes are strictly utilitarian, keep in mind that I am a designer. I want them to look good and work good. Yes, I realize it should be work well, but it’s early in the morning and I am prioritizing poetic repetition over grammatical correctness. Sorry. Okay, let’s add to the rule:
Great Lighting is Great Footwear and Great Socks.
Now we’re talking. Go ahead and buy that beautiful light fixture for over the dining room table that looks good, so long as it also works good. Go ahead any buy the table lamp that looks good, so long as it works good, too.
Socks? I wear little “breathing” socks when I run. I wear Smartwool when it is cold outside. I don’t need people to see my socks, I just need them to work. Some lighting should be that way, too: nearly invisible but just as critical. Recessed downlights, hidden indirect cove lights…all these can be just like socks.
Make sure your lighting is like good shoes and good socks. Then, if you have money left over or are looking for an anniversary gift, go ahead and buy that jewelry lighting as well. Just don’t spend all your money on the jewelry and end up going barefoot in December. Jewelry won’t keep you warm.