Friday, February 27, 2015

Lighting challenge

This post is not meant as a complaint, but as information that might be helpful to anyone in the Houston area who is searching for lighting for a historic style house.

We all know that stores cater to the needs of their customers, which is only wise business practice. Since the vast majority of the new homes in this area have had a Tuscan, French, contemporary, or a more decorative ranch style influence for the last several years, it only makes sense to specialize in lighting for those homes. Having what the customer base wants is what pays the bills for the lighting store.

This niche of historic reproductions is on the sideline for most vendors, so it is more difficult to find fixtures that feel like they could have been hanging in the house for a century or more. We have searched photos of historic homes to figure out styles that were used during the time period of the old south. Deciding on lighting we liked was easy. However, finding anything close to those styles in stores became a challenge.

On top of that, apparently our house is not easy to describe. It has become a joke between my husband, our designer and myself. Every time we go in a lighting store and find ourselves explaining what we're looking for, we start with living room, dining room and foyer. We explain this is one large, open space that "can be seen together," yet somehow all the sales people seem to hear are the names of the rooms.

We are immediately directed to what I have started calling "bird cage" lights.  One gentleman listened to the story about my house, asked me to show him styles I like, after which he asked if he could show me what he sees in my house. There we went, straight to a bird-cage.

After repeating this experience for months and in multiple stores, I finally asked someone yesterday why everyone was trying to sell these bird-cages. We both laughed when she shared how they are very popular for 2 story foyers and have become the standard fixture for new homes in Houston. Since this light has become "standard" it is automatic for the sales staff to think about them after listening to the customer description of their home.

Last weekend a store owner immediately directed me to such a light. It was absolutely beautiful, but wasn't going to fit with the light in the dining room. After agreeing with her that it was stunning, I went on to explain that it wasn't the style I was looking for. At that point, she rolled her eyes and walked away.


I guess we'll look on our own then! (However, I almost burst out laughing at the lady's reaction when I didn't just blindly choose the light she suggested.) We kept our composure, pretending that had never happened, and continued to look around the store and ask questions of the lady. Although she was never gracious, she did provide answers to our questions about prices and various sizes. Funny thing is, I imagine she will get the sale because she has the lights we want.

The lady I met with yesterday was standing in my house when I asked why everyone is trying to sell bird-cages. Her immediate answer was "because they haven't stood in this space and don't understand what it looks like." She went on to say that bird-cages aren't the right fixture in our foyer. THANK YOU!!!  She had a suggestion that will work beautifully, a fixture made by the same company who makes the dining room fixture we are choosing. Although they are from different collections, they will have a matching finish. It has taken over 12 months, but the search seems to have ended for lights for these 3 spaces!!!

My suggestion for anyone in Houston who is looking for lighting for historic-style homes:

Lighting Gallery on FM 1960 in the Champions area

Lighting Unlimited on Richmond Ave (SE of The Galleria)

Both stores are jam-packed with beautiful light fixtures. After literally searching this entire city, these two have provided the best selections.

Lessons learned:
  1. Don't discard any sales person just because they can't see your vision. Many are willing to work to help you find the lighting you want. The gentleman who showed me lighting that he "saw" in my home is getting the sale. He kept making suggestions that I would veto until my designer was in town.

    I asked him if he would stop by our house to see it that afternoon. He took his own time after work to visit, stood in the front of the house and told us he could now understand what we were talking about all along. Even though his store doesn't have many lights on display that fit our home, he is more than willing to help us search through catalogs, even finding prices for us when we see a light or fan elsewhere that we love.

    We first met him because our builder has an account with his store, but we have continued to work with him because he goes above and beyond to help us find what we want.
  2. You might meet some "characters" along the way. Take their actions with a grain of salt because they probably know something that can help you find what you are looking for.

    The lady who rolled her eyes was the same lady who pointed out the dining room chandelier that I had been searching for. Don't give up just because of personality.
  3. Don't discount a store simply because they have a basic website or no website.
    While we assume every store has an incredible website because the big-box stores do, and we have grown accustomed to having them, smaller independent stores simply do not always have the resources to finance or manage a comprehensive website.

    Use the websites of the lighting manufacturers to find what you want. Take that information to the store to get pricing.
  4. Measure, measure, measure!!! 
    We have trim around the bathroom mirrors. There is limited space for lighting brackets to be attached. Know the amount of space you have so you can know if a specific light will actually fit in your space.
  5. Canopy and ceiling medallion
    A basic rule for ceiling medallions is to be either larger or smaller than the chandelier width.  It the medallion is the same diameter, it creates a cylinder feel that makes the room seem more narrow. If the room is "grand" then a larger medallion might be the answer.

    I was told that I needed to wait to find a ceiling medallion until I had chosen the chandeliers. That is only partially true. Every chandelier has a "canopy" (the piece at the ceiling that hides the wiring, and from which the chain hangs). The medallion needs to have enough flat space in the center so the canopy will fit on this space without encroaching on the raised design.

    So, while you need to know canopy sizes, it's a general rule that most canopies are 6 inches or less. If you find a medallion that has that much space in the center, there is probably a good chance it will fit your light fixture.  

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