The client approached my desk, clearly unhappy. Her new granite countertops didn’t look as handsome in her kitchen as she had expected. She thought maybe the fabricator had installed the wrong slab. I sent our project manager to the job site, paperwork in hand, to check. He confirmed that she did get the Santa Cecilia – very popular in 2005 – she’d chosen. The problem was her lighting, which was making the heavily patterned gold and brown stone look downright ugly. If tunable lighting had been available back then, her problem could have been solved with simple user-operated color controls. Chances are, her guests would have looked better too, and her kitchen turned into a more welcoming space.
That technology — and other smart home-enabled lighting advances that enhance aesthetics, energy efficiency and wellness — are available now and, according to home improvement platform Houzz, trending strongly in remodeling projects. “In 2022, light fixtures were the most popular technology item among renovating homeowners,” said Mitchell Parker, Houzz senior editor. “Even more notable is the share of homeowners who opted for smart lighting, which can be controlled from a mobile device. It grew from 14% in 2021 to 17% in 2022.”
Designers See Demand Spike
Some designers are seeing even bigger jumps in their practices, they shared in social media comments about this trend. “Requests for smart lighting design have gone from about 25% to close to 75%,” commented Seattle area luxury designer Sarah Walker.
“Lighting controls have become a part of almost every project we work on,” declared northern New Jersey area designer Sharon L. Sherman. It became so prevalent that she added a technology integrator to her design team. She doesn’t see a big bump in her lighting budgets, she noted, since the technology is multi-functional. “So many people are installing the controls for safety, privacy, convenience and security.”
“Our percentage of homeowners that now request smart lighting is up by 50%, whether they have the budget or not,” declared San Francisco Bay Area interior designer Andrea Jeffery. “We have had to quickly educate ourselves in the fast-paced and increasingly changing market of lighting technology and systems to integrate them into, which is challenging due to how fast it’s changing,” she added.
Uses And Benefits
“Lighting is a massive deal to my clients and if it isn’t, I make it one,” exclaimed Jennifer Hutton, lead designer of Grau Building Company in Durham, North Carolina. “I am always recommending LED tape lights in otherwise forgotten spaces like closets, above cabinet crown, inside closed storage areas and inside showers. I also recommend they link it to their smart phone or home hub for a continuous, easy access approach.” The designer shared that she installed smart lighting in her own home gym, letting her adjust it for calming yoga sessions or high energy spin workouts.
Clients often request lights that can dim down to 1%, Hutton shared, as well as change color temperatures for flexibility and balance. Wall panels are common, but the most popular lighting controls are systems with voice that also link to smart phones, she reported.
“Interior designers and architects are starting to see how easy it is to radically change the look and feel of a home without an expensive dimming system,” observed JP Bedell, author of the Delivered Lumens lighting blog and a 20-year lighting industry veteran. He added, “So this is a high end and budget trend for sure.”
Walker’s clients like its convenience and wellness benefits, she noted. Circadian lighting is a particular favorite benefit, she pointed out. “Its ability to replicate the sun’s natural light throughout the day with a range of colors and brightness levels matches the natural circadian rhythms of the human body, promoting daytime productivity and better sleep quality,” the designer explained. Color changing, excellent dimming and new app integration capabilities are all high on her list of client lighting needs.
Southern California beach cities interior designer Heather Ball also includes smart lighting, she commented, including on more affordable projects that aren’t opting for full house automation. “Often clients request being able to control from Alexa or their phone. We’ve also had requests for color-changing capabilities.” She has resources to offer with these capabilities even when a client is not opting for a robust system, so that every project is getting a level of smart lighting that works for its budget. “Who doesn’t love never turning on their porch light?” The designer mused.
The Integrators’ Take
Eddie Shapiro is one of the tech pros called upon to make homeowners’ wishes come true. Based in the Washington, DC area, he works with designers and builders and sits on the board of CEDIA, a trade association for the fast-growing industry. He theorized in an email on the reasons for increased requests for smart lighting, “I think that wellness is playing a larger role in today’s new home planning.”
Client perceptions are also driving budget considerations, he shared. “When clients see how good lighting can change a space, and how they feel in their home with better lighting fixtures, the budgets change to accommodate better lighting.” The rooms getting these upgrades, he said, are typically first floor living spaces and the primary bedroom/bathroom suite.
Miami-based Al Reinhard of multi-location technology firm AHT Global sees those same spaces getting the gear, he replied electronically, and is seeing the same type of client responses to demonstrations of its potential. “We are seeing lighting control expand across project budgets,” he added. “It’s something that homeowners are now willing to prioritize. In the past, lighting control was more commonly seen in high end projects. As time has gone on, so many more projects have lighting control systems.”
Reinhard mades an astute observation about demand: “We are seeing stakeholders from all sides adopting smart lighting. Developers who didn’t want to do it before because it was an expense now they feel it is a necessity to compete in the marketplace.”