Lighting Design Tips for Your Home

Peter Twohy of 2e Architects sits down with Rand Dorman of Dorman’s Lighting and Design in Lutherville, MD for a deep dive in understanding the impact of lighting on architecture and interior design in custom homes. The two professionals discuss the significance of lighting as a part of the design process and the important role lighting plays in some of the most important rooms of the house: the kitchen, dining room, family room, and in exterior lighting.

Part One: Lighting Design, Where to Start


Part Two: Lighting the Kitchen and the Family Room


Part Three: Interior and Exterior Lighting Issues Resolved


In this three-part series discover the different types of lighting choices for use in your home: LED, Halogen, and Incandescent. You need to be cognizant that for many uses halogen and incandescent are superior to LED. For example, dimming just doesn’t work with LED lighting; so in places where you are trying to set a mood with the flexibility to dim, then LED won’t be the best choice. There can also be color issuing problems with LED. Some people love the bright white light of LED, others do not.

“Architecture is sculpting with light,” says Peter Twohy, Principal Architect and Founder of 2e Architects.

LED light is great where coloring isn’t a factor or where bright white lighting is preferable for task-oriented spaces. This makes LED preferable for laundry rooms, kid’s rooms, general lighting in places like hallways, and for use on the exterior.

As a part of engaging a client to create a lighting design plan, Rand and the team at Dorman’s Lighting and Design will first interview the client and ask questions about how they like to entertain and do they have children and what are their ages? They also discuss the rooms they do most of their living in and what are their preferences for lighting type. For example, do they prefer lighting that’s more decorative like lamps, pendants, and chandeliers, or do they prefer recessed lighting or a mix. Some clients will say they like more traditional lighting in rooms they entertain in–most clients prefer a mix of traditional with some ‘charismatic’ light fixtures, as Peter puts it.

“Lights have a personality… some are loud, some our quiet,” says Rand Dorman, Lighting Consultant, Dorman’s Lighting and Design

Lighting Budget

Lighting budgets can be set in different ways. Sometimes money is no object, sometimes clients set a budget, but don’t like what’s available so they increase their budget, and sometimes contractors or builders set a lighting allowance. Dorman works to educate clients on where their budget will be eaten up and where it will be best spent. Budgets are about sorting out priorities…

Interior Lighting

Kitchen lighting is by far the most important and highest priority and where you should consider spending most of your budget. Kitchens have become the new, universal main room in the house. You do homework, make and eat dinner, and do just about everything else in this room in today’s world. Kitchen lighting should be approached in layers. Island fixtures tend to be more decorative, recessed lights provide task lighting, under-cabinet and in-cabinet can highlight certain design features. A mix of all of these kinds of lights and light types like LED, halogen, and incandescent are used to provide the best and highest impact in kitchen lighting design.

Family rooms tend to use recessed lighting in the ceilings and sconces on the wall along with lamps that compliment the decor. The sconces uplight the ceiling and are dimmable. This dynamic lighting effect gives presence to a room and creates a truly custom space. In family rooms where a fan is installed, pay careful attention to designing the recessed lighting plan so that you don’t end up with a strobing effect because the lights are too close to the fan. And never use the four-exposed-bulbs lighting kit sold with some fans.

So many switches… we used to want to have a million switches, everywhere, now, people are opting to simplify and to replace what was once eight switches with one small panel that takes up the space of 2 switches and is an interface to a lighting program that controls the lights. Companies such as Lutron have been making reliable products for a while now.

Exterior Lighting

Peter and Rand discuss exterior lighting and how to best use it to both enhance the beauty of the home and landscaping and to welcome guests and yourself home every day. Rand recommends using a post light at the beginning of the driveway and uplighting trees at the front of the property. He says to never use small, single poll lights along the drive. They get covered up during snowstorms and inevitably get chopped down by a lawnmower. Plus you don’t want to create a “landing field” effect. Peter recommends using lighting to accentuate landscaping to be seen from the inside of the home. Often in the dining room he’ll include a large, beautiful, and impressive window with a view to the exterior. Since dining rooms are most often used at night, lighting the landscaping outside the window elevates the dining experience.

They both agree that lighting can go a long way on the exterior and that you should consider the wattage and beam spread of landscape and exterior lighting. Another professional tip is to light the pool from the side that is closest to the house, so that when you’re looking at the pool from the interior you don’t see the lights, only the soft glow.