By Jill Brown
Originally Published: Houston Design Resources Issue II 2006
Lighting is my passion! Chandeliers, sconces, and lamps add charm, sophistication and individuality to a home. Specially chosen fixtures add warmth, texture and visual impact to a room. They are also great conversation pieces. At “BROWN”, our lighting shop on Alabama, we strive to offer lights that are timeless and unique.
Interesting light fixtures are an opportunity to add character and quality to a project. Unique light fixtures will set your home apart. A builder’s lighting allowance should not be considered the maximum that one spends on lightning, but should be thought of as a contribution to a total lighting concept. Eddie Morrow, the owner of Alcon Lightcraft has always instructed me that the decorative lighting budget should be between four to five percent of the total project. When we built our first time in 1987, I was shopping for special lights and thought that I had a workable budget until I realized that the “budget” had to cover all switches, switch plate covers, and recessed lights. I was so disappointed! I had enough left in the budget to purchase only one decorative chandelier, and I still have that light fixture today. It has traveled from room to room and country to country. Light has been referred to as the “jewelry in a room.”
I prefer the European ideal of using very few recessed lights in a home. When we moved back to Houston from Belgium, our real estate agent asked me what we were looking for in a home. I told her that I wanted a home with no recessed lighting in the dining room, living room, or master bedroom. She said that that was not going to be easy to find. It wasn’t, so we proceeded to remove all of the cans in the living and dining rooms and to add scones, chandeliers, and specially selected floor lamps. The entire feel of the rooms changed! The rooms became timeless. The cookie-cutter feel of the home evaporated. Classic lighting lets on both literally and figuratively “see” a room, its furnishings, and the people in it. Our realtor saw first hand how lighting can totally transform a home. She commented “A well-placed, handsome chandelier, sconce, or lamp can make a defining difference by setting the mood of a room.” Both speculative builders and homeowners constructing a custom home, who understand that lighting is an important element, plan a budget with appropriate amounts for the lighting allowance. Or, they hire a designers to select special, quality fixtures that will make a dramatic impact on the total project.”
Special lights should have the same level of quality and sophistication as the other fittings. It seems pointless to me to buy restaurant quality kitchen appliances and then settle for common lighting. I do not believe that lights should be “trendy.” The trend that I see in the lighting business is for sophisticated, unique looks. There seems to be an increasing client appreciation for authentic design stressing authentic materials. Again, I think of the European home that sports a collection of lights that span generations. A Flemish bronze light graces a room. The room next to it houses a crystal light that is next to a wrought-iron chandelier, and that can be seen from a room that houses a fabulous, simple contemporary pendant. Each light has been hand-picked and is timeless in its own right.
When we work with customers at Brown, we stress that customers buy to their tastes and with their hearts. I want my clients to enjoy their lights so much that their chandeliers and sconces become treasured possessions like other pieces of furniture. We focus on lights that are mostly European and one-of-a-kind or lights that we design and have handmade for us. We are extremely hands-on and relish finding the perfect lights for existing homes or new construction. We edit from the thousands of lights that we see and select those that we feel are well-designed and timeless. We hope that our customers have a collection of chandeliers and sconces that looks like they were collected over a long period of time. We do not worry about “matching” sconces to a chandelier in the same room. In fact, we would suggest that sconces and lamps complement the chandelier, but not match it.
I was told about a listing where the seller had a great eye for detail. The seller was a genius when it came to choosing lighting. Some of her collections were very dear to her. She had acquired most of her chandeliers and sconces over time. Wanting to reserve a particular chandelier, the seller asked if she could take it down and replace it with another before putting her house on the market. This sounded like a great idea so that the buyer who fell in love with the house would not also “fall in love” with the sellers cherished light fixture. The seller selected a replacement that retained the character of her special light. However, the replacement light turned out to be just too good to part with and ended up being reserved when the home was listed. I guess this illustrates just how important lighting is to customers who have a great sense of style.