Thursday, December 08, 2005

Lighting design

It is now coming down to decision time on much of the house. For the first time in our lives we are able to decide what we want and where we want it. For years we have been mastering the creative art of making do, but now we have a choice and we must decide. Its a new and interesting concept. A skill we have not cultivated. The electricians are coming so we need to know where we want light and what we want it to look like. If only we really knew what we wanted and what it would look like!

The design of lighting has been an interesting lesson is a couple of ways. First, there is the design, and then there is the dealing with the electricians.

The architect designed most of the rooms with symmetrically laid out recessed can lights in grids on the ceilings. I am fine with recessed can lights and the symmetrical grid thing seemed sensible. Until the electricians came. Turns out they couldn't exactly put things symmetrically because of the way the roof is shaped, where the rafters are, where the heating ducts go, etc. The electricians are like, "we can't do this, we can't do this..." Arghhh!

After the invention day we went over to a friend's house for dinner. She had added on a room last summer and had the same architect. I wanted to see how her lighting was. It turned out to be different, but neat. Instead of symmetrical grids of lights, she had more functional clusters of lights in the ceiling: over the kitchen counters where you would stand, in the corners of the room where there were easy chairs. It looked nice, organic, and functional.

And then there are the electricians. With most of the workers who have been to the house, I have felt like they had my interest at heart. If something was difficult, but better, they would be willing to do it. The electricians were different. They were more pushy. "It would be a whole lot easier for us if you'd put the switches on this's not going to work this way, if I were you I'd..." Blah, blah, blah. It was getting annoying. I didn’t want to intentionally make their lives difficult but it isn’t their house! The worst was the “if I were you” part because it was patently clear that their taste was very different from mine. How to say, “Yuk! What a terrible idea!” in a tactful way?

After debriefing about it with everyone from the carpenters to the contractor and friends, I felt much more able to make decisions and tell the electricians what I wanted. Friend Adrienne gave me the best response when they gave me the "this won't work" news. The correct response, my new mantra, is: "What are the options?"

And, if I had to do it again, I'd forego symmetry in favor of functional constellations. Works, looks cool, and if something doesn't fit exactly as drawn, you have more options in the end.

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