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Ask Priscilla - RemodelingRemodel
with Light

Spotlighting ways to
transform your space


By Janis Turk

Yesterday I renovated my guest room, and the project cost less than $100.

How is that possible? How can someone beautifully transform a space and put the final touch on a room for so little money? It’s simple: Look at the room in a whole new light — start by revisiting your home’s lighting elements.

While rummaging in my garage, I recently came upon an antique brass fixture original to the house. I adore it. We have one just like it in our master bedroom, but I had no idea that we had its mate gathering dust in the garage. So I took it to a local lamp repair shop (The Lion and The Eagle on Broadway), and just $45 and a few days later, the lamp was rewired and ready to hang. It looks fantastic.

Then a $50 visit from an electrician ensured that the light fixture was safely hung, and the room was transformed from dark and dated to light and lovely.

I also came across an alabaster table lamp I’d bought years ago but had never found the right shade for until now. Today the lamp rests on a bedside table in that same room, creating a polished look for the space and providing light for reading in bed. Before, an ugly square light fixture from the ‘60s hung from the ceiling, and an inexpensive superstore-quality table lamp stood by the bed. Now my guest room looks sharp, with lighting that is both flattering and functional —these inexpensive changes completely remodeled the look of the room.

Ask Priscilla - RemodelingOutdoor spaces
Does your yard have big oak trees? Do you live on a dark street? Does your landscape lack a certain pizzazz, especially as night falls? One of the most dramatic ways to change the look of your home’s exterior is to turn to local lighting experts, who know how to take a dark, uninviting yard and transform it into something spectacular.

Just putting lights high in the branches of large trees or on the ground pointing up along the base of trees can create an impressive sight. Small, low-to-the-ground lights can line pathways and make an attractive accent for garden elements, creating a clean, well-lighted look to enhance your home’s curb appeal.

Getting advice from local lighting experts, such as Land Design of San Antonio, Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of San Antonio and the Hill Country LLC, Turney Lighting and Electric and American Landscape Lighting Design, to name just a few, is a good place to start when “remodeling” the look of your home’s exterior by adding lighting.

Kenneth Wells, president and owner of Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of San Antonio and the Hill Country LLC, says that when done correctly, outdoor lighting can enhance not only the beauty and value of the house, but it can add to the safety and security of your home. Lighting the façade, trees and landscape elements beautifies the space and achieves the same impressive curb appeal after dark that your home projects during the day — impressing the neighbors and also allowing you to enjoy outdoor living spaces after dark.

Wells, who has been in this business for many years, has a few tips he keeps in mind: “Lighting should be installed so that it beautifies the space, which means fixtures should be invisible — lost in the landscape. And never have light hitting you in the eyes.”

It’s important also to consider the neighbors and your own ability to enjoy the night sky, says Wells: “As people think about the environment, they also should be sure that their lighting designs are night-sky compliant. We are losing the ability to see the stars at night, so most of the lighting we do shines straight down or washes the façade of a house, minimizing light encroachment on your neighbors’ homes.”

Another factor in outdoor lighting is keeping it “green.” Wells’ company uses low-voltage lighting that gives as much illumination as household current lighting but is far more energy efficient and economical and adds less electrical danger. “Low voltage doesn’t mean low intensity or low brightness at all,” he says. He also stresses that a good outdoor lighting company will do as his does and give its free consultation at night so you can see how the lights will look after dark.

In addition to free consultations, his company and many others offer periodic maintenance to keep the lighting systems in good shape year after year. They also offer lighting control automation from inside the home — another factor contributing to convenience and safety.

Ask Priscilla - RemodelingStep into the light
Just as outdoor lighting can enhance a home’s exterior, well-planned indoor lighting makes an enormous difference, too.

According to the experts at Stevens Lighting, proper lighting makes tasks easier, creates a feeling of safety, adds beauty and creates a sense of comfort. Lights can make small rooms appear more open and larger rooms cozier. And compared to other home decorating or remodeling projects, lighting can make a dramatic change for a relatively low cost.

Ron Turney of Turney Lighting agrees. His company designs and provides lighting layouts for the smallest of homes as well as high-end custom homes, and he understands what a difference good lighting can make.

“We provide a turnkey service for a lot of our customers, and we provide electrical services in addition to light fixtures, ceiling fans, recessed lighting and other home accessories,” he says. Changing the foyer light will make major strides in improving the look and, in some cases, the efficiency of your home. Fixtures in the entryway should set the style for the rest of the house, according to Turney and the American Lighting Association. “Even a small flush-mount fixture can add style to an otherwise lackluster entry,” they explain.
Turney reminds homeowners that it’s also a good idea to install dimmers throughout the house, even in rooms where you might not normally think of using them, like the kitchen and bath. For example, dimmers in a bathroom enable you to use the facilities in the middle of the night without light glaring in your eyes.

Old-fashioned light fixtures can really date a home. In many cases, countertops and bathroom light fixtures give away your home’s age or remind visitors how long it’s been since you last remodeled. Installing new lighting fixtures is an inexpensive way to change and update décor.

Area retailers and lighting experts such as Boyd Lighting and Richardson Lighting (both on San Pedro) and Gallery of Lighting in Boerne are good places to see the beautiful selections of traditional, modern and classic lighting fixtures, chandeliers, lamps, shades and more that are available when remodeling your home. And remember, you can live longer with styles that are classic and timeless than with those that are trendy.

Recessed lighting and beyond
If your remodeling budget allows you to do more than just buy a new lamp, chandelier or sconces, talk to your contractor about adding recessed lighting, canned or pot lighting, track lighting or spot lighting.
Bringing more light to work areas in your kitchen, bath, utility and computer room or even your closets can make a dramatic difference in the way that you’re able to use your everyday work and living spaces. Under-counter lights in the kitchen, dimmer-switched recessed lighting in the dining room, spot lighting over your side of the bed for reading — all these can enhance the way you live and view your home without costing a fortune.

Why not have a pantry or coat closet that has a light go on and off as you open and close the door? These spaces needn’t be black holes in your house. It’s easier to find and use the things you need if you can see what you’ve got and what you’re doing.

Let there be light
Good lighting can be as attractive as it is affordable, and it can make a tremendous difference in your whole design scheme. My $100 guest room renovation is proof of that, for the little touches really do count, and it’s the light you let in that shows off all the beauty there is to behold.