Archive for the ‘Tips & How-To’ Category

Lighting Tips

Minka Aire Kewl Ceiling Fan $99

Minka Aire Kewl Ceiling Fan $99

Just like with the purchase of a car – you do get what you pay for when you choose a ceiling fan.

The Porsches of ceiling fans are made of high quality materials and have strong precision motors that can move some air without noise and wobbles.
So, How do you determine which fan is better than the other?

Here are five things to look when choosing a ceiling fan:

Motor size

Blade pitch
Blade size
Ceiling Height

The airflow of a ceiling fan is measured in CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute)
More is Better.
It is more important to buy a fan with higher CFMs than it is to buy a fan that uses less electricity, since it moves more air and cools you down more, allowing you to set the thermostat higher.
For average size rooms, we like to see ceiling fans that move at least 6000 CFM.
Larger rooms need more (or multiple fans.)
Smaller rooms can get away with less.

Motor Size
Choosing  a high-quality motor will eliminate the noise, wobbling, and shaking found in lower-end ceiling fans.
Motor sizes are identified by the diameter and the height of the motor. The measurements range from 153 x 10 millimeters up to 212 x 25mm. Bigger is better.

Blade Pitch
Cheap fans generally have fan blades that have a low pitch, since the motor can’t handle more.
A higher blade pitch (13 – 15) degrees will generally move more air, but the pitch of the blade and the power of the motor must fit together so the motor won’t burn out or the fan won’t be wobbly or  noisy.
Be careful of judging the quality of the fan based on blade pitch alone.
It is all about the ideal combination of motor size and blade pitch.

Blade Size
Small Room ( up to 75 sq. ft.) = 36″ diameter fan

b. Small/Medium Room (76-144 sq. ft.) = 42″-50″ diameter fan

c. Medium Room (144-225 sq. ft.) = 52″-54″ diameter fan

d. Large Room (225-400 sq. ft.) = 54″-72″ diameter fan

e. Great Room (400+ sq. ft.) = more than one 54″-72″ diameter fan

Ceiling Height

How High do I hang my Ceiling Fan?

How High do I hang my Ceiling Fan?



Factoid: Ceiling fans do not change the room temperature. They simply create a wind-chill effect that makes you feel pleasantly cool.
So, leaving the fan on when you leave will not cool the room.  Just like leaving the lights on will not make the room brighter.




“T’s The Season

Some fun French Holiday ideas. Check out our Pinterest board.




Hudson Valley Lighting Haverhill Pendant

Scenario: Brand new kitchen.

You chose the most beautiful counter top or island surface with lots of color and drama. You spent more on it than you spent on your first car. It is a dream.
So of course it would be a crying shame, if you could only fully enjoy the beautiful colors and feel of the exquisite materials during the daytime.

So, now the question is: How to light your kitchen surfaces.
For the work areas undercabinet lighting is a great way to light the counters. Pendant lights over the island add the light that is needed for food prep and meals.
Pendants add a atmosphere in comparison to using just recessed lights, and in rooms with high ceilings they bring the light down to a level where it is needed as task lighting.

Please note: You can find all the fixtures you need at Form + Function.

LBL Bonn Pendant-


If you are using good old Edison bulbs in the fixtures over your counter they have a warm tone of light (2700K, as in Kelvin, to be nerdy) that works well with warm colors. This type of light and this color temperature (the 2700K) is what we are all really familiar with. It has a warm tone, makes its surroundings look cozy, inviting, just like candlelight.
Incandescent lighting might, however, not quite have the punch to bring out the colors and pizzazz in your materials.

LBL Volo Pendant -

Halogen provides excellent task lighting and really brings out the sparkle in  granite and many other unique stone surfaces. The clean, white light offers illumination that just can’t be beat by incandescent or fluorescent lamps.
The drawback of halogen under cabinet lighting is the heat it produces. It might actually make the surfaces warm to the touch, not ideal for cooking and entertaining on a hot summer day and therefore most likely will increase the cooling cost.

Fluorescent under cabinet lights have a bad rep.
Most of us still remember the cheap garage lights that flickered and hummed, and made us look sickly.
If you haven’t changed out your fluorescent lights since those old days you are in for a surprise.
Recent advances in the technology of fluorescent lights have made this an excellent option.
The color temperature ranges have improved and so has the CRI (Color rendering index), which measures the the ability of a light source to reproduce colors.
What I like about fluorescent lighting is the even distribution of the light without hot spots. They don’t give off much heat and are energy-efficient.
I am, however, worried about the recycling aspect and the mercury they contain.
Fluorescent under cabinet lights can generally not be dimmed. I don’t see this as a huge turn-off. I’d just get the wattage needed for the workspace based on the distance from the bottom of the cabinet to the work surface and not worry about using them as mood lights. But that’s just me.

Xenon lights are very similar to halogen lights. They do not give off quite as much heat as halogen  but on the other hand they don’t provide quite as bright a light.
Xenon is a a good choice if you are not after the extra sparkle that halogen produces and don’t want the heat produced by halogen..
Another advantage is its longer lifespan. The average Xenon bulbs last 2-1/2 times longer than their halogen counterparts.
One last selling point for Xenon: Xenon bulbs do not require that special handling you are asked to use when you deal with halogen bulbs. It is sometimes tough enough to exchange those tiny bulbs. Now holding onto them with a tissue while contorting yourself under the cabinet light adds to the excitement. We have seen grown men cry!
Xenon bulbs are not this sensitive. You can eliminate that one obstacle from the procedure and just hold them with your bare hands. Yeah.
But, then there’s the sparkle……    Guess, you can’t have it all.

Cool, long lasting, super energy efficient. What is there not to love about LED?
When LED lighting was first introduced into the residential market cove and under cabinet lighting were some of the first applications it was used for.
Well, LED was obviously not where it is now, and the light output was not quite strong enough for other uses in the home. This has of course changed a lot just over the last few years.
LED has so much to offer. The main advantage is the incredible savings in energy and the long life of LED.
Unfortunately many manufacturers jumped on the LED bandwagon without going all the way with their design. A lot of inferior products have hit the market and we now see a lot of LED under cabinet lights with horrible color reproduction, hot spots where you see the reflection of the individual diodes on you counter top, multiple surface shadows, you name it.

But, there are also excellent choices out there like the Tech Lighting Illume. They are expensive, but worth every penny in the long run.

lease note: You can find all the fixtures you need at Form + Function.


Can LEDs be Dimmed?

This entire morning I have been surfing the web looking for in-depth info on LED lighting for the home.

LED Step lights by WAC Lighting

We get SO many questions from our clients, and even though I have attended many sales meetings and demos from pros in the field, I am still digging, since I want to know more and be able to translate it all into terms we all understand.

I really liked this article that American Lighting passed on from James Broderick, Electrical Construction and Maintenance.


The LED Dimming Dilemma

Solid-state lighting (SSL) differs from conventional lighting in that it uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) instead of filaments, plasma, or gases. Although still relatively early in its development, SSL has become competitive in many markets and is expanding into others as the technology continues to improve. But in the process, it’s encountering a number of important issues that need to be addressed, one of which is dimming.

Many people think of SSL as being fully dimmable, an expectation that gets reinforced to varying degrees by manufacturer claims. In theory, LEDs are easily and fully dimmable, because — unlike some other kinds of light sources — there’s nothing inherent in their makeup that would impede the dimming process. On top of that, LEDs typically maintain their efficacy when they’re dimmed, and sometimes even increase it — whereas incandescent sources become less efficacious when dimmed.

Acting up instead of dimming down

However, as we all know, theory doesn’t always hold up out there in the real world — where the rubber meets the road. When installed, the actual dimming behavior of many LED lighting products (their reputation notwithstanding) leaves a lot to be desired. While dimming performance varies significantly across many types of commercially available LED sources, less-than-ideal behavior shows up most frequently when integral LED replacement lamps are installed on circuits controlled by phase-cut dimmers.

This misbehavior runs the gamut of quirkiness. Some products won’t dim at all — a limitation that may or may not be clearly disclosed on product packaging. Others may exhibit what’s known as “dropout,” where they only dim part of the way down to zero light output — say, to 60% of maximum — instead of all the way from 100% down to 1% or below, the way incandescent lamps do. Still others may dim in an abrupt or “staircase” fashion, instead of dimming smoothly and continuously as most of us are used to. In the worst case, users may experience the exasperating phenomenon known as “dead travel” — where the dimming slider or knob moves a certain distance without any noticeable change in light output at all.

And that’s not the end of the possible shenanigans. Some LED lighting products may also demonstrate a “pop-on” phenomenon, whereby a light source that’s been turned off in a dimmed state doesn’t “remember” the dimmed setting. Instead, it initially reverts to full light output when it’s turned back on or, worse yet, requires the user to raise the dimmer setting above some threshold before the light will “pop on.”

Then there are the distracting noises that can accompany the dimming of LED light sources, not to mention the perceptible flicker that can also occur. Even the most basic function a lighting control performs — turning the light source on and off — is not immune to unwanted effects. When some LED light sources are put in the “off” state by some phase-cut dimmers, they may exhibit a variety of unexpected and unwanted behaviors, including: “flashing,” where the light source flashes repetitively; “ghosting,” when the unwanted light is faint but steady; or even “popcorning,” in which different lights on the dimmed circuit flash randomly and asynchronously.

Believe it or not, there is method behind the seemingly random madness of these various dimming problems. Ghosting, for example, occurs mainly with more advanced phase-cut dimmers, where additional functions involve microprocessors or other energy-consuming elements that require a tiny but steady source of current flowing through the light source, even when the lamp is off. While that small amount of current isn’t enough to make a filament glow, it can “fool” some LED lamps into emitting light — an unwanted effect that’s much less likely to occur with dimmers that have a neutral third wire instead of just two live wires.

A question of compatibility

Can LEDs be dimmed?

Figure. Phase-cut dimming, which modifies the input voltage to a light source, was developed for incandescent lamps.

All of these dimming problems can be disconcerting, to say the least. Nevertheless, it’s important to keep in mind that they’re not caused by any shortcomings of SSL technology. Rather, they’re due to the fact that almost all of the existing dimmers in this country were designed for another kind of lighting rather than for LEDs. That is, nearly the entire installed base of traditional line-voltage (phase-cut) dimming controls was designed for incandescent light sources (Figure). Therein lies the rub — there can be compatibility issues between these controls and an LED light source’s “driver,” which converts AC power to low-voltage DC power and maintains a constant current in the LEDs to keep them emitting a steady level of light.

But LED sources are more complex than incandescent bulbs. Incandescent filaments vary only slightly from one product to another, which allows them to interact consistently with different dimmers, all the way down to very low light levels. What’s more, those filaments don’t cool down right away when a phase-cut dimmer removes part of the input AC voltage waveform. As a result, the light they emit doesn’t vary much over the 60-Hz cycle. LED drivers, on the other hand, show considerable variation from one product to the next. In addition, the LEDs themselves react very quickly to changes in current. So even a slight incompatibility with a dimmer — or, for low-voltage circuits, even slight incompatibility with the transformer as well — can significantly affect the light output.

So you can see why it’s so hard to make LED drivers compatible with a wide range of line-voltage dimmers. This difficulty is only compounded by a lack of industry-wide dimming standards. For example, even the term “dimmable” has no universally accepted definition. To fill the void, the industry has adopted “dims like an incandescent bulb” as a de-facto substitute.

The industry is very much aware of the problems associated with dimming LED light sources and is addressing them in a number of ways. For example, for the last four years, DOE has supported efforts led by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) to develop manufacturer dimming guidance and standards for SSL. Most recently, this has focused on the development of NEMA SSL-7, a multi-part global standard for phase-cut dimming of LED lamps. Part A of SSL-7, which will cover compatibility requirements and associated test procedures, will pave the way for the development of Part B, which will cover performance requirements and their associated test procedures.

SSL manufacturers are also looking into the intriguing possibility of bypassing phase-cut dimmers by using alternative approaches to dimming, such as wireless communications networks. Dimming via wireless networks is already addressed by a new standard called the ZigBee Light Link, which was developed by an industry group called the ZigBee Alliance.

See for yourself

At this point in time, however, the most reliable way to tell how an LED light source will behave when dimmed is to actually test it. Otherwise, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise. But to be accurate, such testing should include the whole circuit, not just a single LED source with a single dimmer — because all dimmers have a minimum and a maximum number of LED sources they can effectively operate, and these limits can vary with the make and model of the LED source, the remote driver (where applicable), the dimmer, and (for low-voltage systems) the transformer. What’s more, variations in any part of the system can affect dimming performance, which means that substituting a different lamp, driver, transformer, or dimmer for what was originally specified can lead to dimming problems.

If extensive testing isn’t practical, you should at least test one or two LED light sources before you install more. While not infallible, this will give you a rough indication of how the products are likely to dim. Another option is to consult the database of DOE’s LED Lighting Facts® program, which recently began allowing manufacturers to provide optional links to dimming compatibility information for their products. A growing number of manufacturers are putting together dimming compatibility tables for their products, and including links on LED Lighting Facts will make that information easier to access. (See “Dimming LEDs: A Work in Progress.”)

Although this article focuses largely on what can go wrong, the truth is the outlook for dimming LED light sources is much better now than it was even a year ago — and it’s getting better all the time. For one thing, an increasing number of dimmable LED sources are finding their way onto the market, and manufacturers are also developing new dimmers that perform better with LED products. During this transition period, the best policy with regard to dimming LED lighting is to proceed with caution, ask lots of questions, and do as much testing and verification as you possibly can.

Brodrick, Ph.D., is the solid-state lighting portfolio manager for the U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, D.C. He can be reached at


Your front entry is your chance for that great first impression.
Check out our tips, guidelines and ideas for your outdoor lighting design.

Most guests visit your home at night, so your entryway lighting is crucial for setting the mood and make an inviting entry.
Welcome guests to your home with the warm glow of outdoor lighting.

Contact us with your questions. We’d love to help you!

Garage Lights create a safe entry. Via CG&S Design Build

Outdoor lighting has a dual purpose: You want to create a welcoming entrance to your home as well as be able to walk safely up the steps and from the inside clearly identify who’s coming to visit.
Your front door is usually what most guests approach (Or so they say. For some reason all our guests find the kitchen door first – and then never leave the kitchen!)
So, theoretically at least, the front entrance door is THE place to choose to make a statement!

Lighting is one very important way to create a great first impression. 
A pair of wall sconces or lanterns flanking the entryway can complete the look you want, whether it’s grandiose, contemporary, rustic or artistic.

Safety is of course also an issue and the right lighting is key to reducing trip hazards around your home.
Wall lanterns create a warm welcome  and are very important for that exact reason. Aside from that they are primarily  supposed to be decorative.
Combine them with landscape, step  and path lights for ideal illumination.

A third, maybe unexpected,  benefit from outdoor lighting is the illumination it creates outside the windows. Keep the windows from becoming “black holes” when viewed from inside. Instead it visually extends the living areas to the outside.

The Troy Lighting Cameron outdoor light has a striking architectural design


Lighting the secondary entrances to your home, like patio and kitchen doors, follow the same requirements as the front door, but there the focus might be primarily on safety paired with a comfortable patio light for outdoor entertaining.
I’m not saying that you can ignore aesthetics and go ahead and install some of those glary security lights that will illuminate your neighbor’s back yard as well as yours. That is Light Pollution! (More about that later.)

Troy Lighting Old Town Outdoor Light

Choose lights that meet your needs for illumination as well as atmosphere and fit the style of your home.
You’ll find styles from sleek, minimal architectural fixtures to traditional lanterns or Craftsman style lights in all price ranges. The choice is yours!


Troy Lighting Dayton Wall Light

Troy Lighting Dayton Wall Light features an LED light for energy efficiency


Wall lights, lanterns, ceiling lights or pendants?
Depending on the architecture of your home it might be possible to use wall sconces or lanterns flanking the doorway or lights mounted to or recessed into the ceiling – or a combination of both.

With some minimal, clean, contemporary home designs it might be tempting to choose only recessed overhead lights. But keep the “flashlight-under-the-chin” effect in mind: Illumination directly from above is almost as ghastly as from below – and it can be almost impossible to see the facial features of a visitor with this choice of lighting.

If this is still the lighting of choice, consider combining it with indirect illumination of landscape features or architectural details nearby.


The Aspen collection of outdoor lights by Troy Lighting includes wall sconces, pendants and post lights.

The same principle goes for the must-have decorative fixture that looks wonderful at the front door, but does not shed sufficient light. It just needs a little help and can work well if you augment it with other less visible light sources.
One of the most important considerations when choosing wall sconces to flank a doorway is size and proportions.


Size matters!
In our experience most home owners tend to choose entry lights that are too small for the scale of the door and the wall they are attached to.
With larger homes and taller ceilings, be bold!

As for size: look at the proportions of your front entryway.
Those Jelly-jar wall lights we all know all too well might look out of place next to the door in your new home, even if your parents also had them “and they worked just fine.”
By the same token, no matter how much you admire those wrought iron lanterns that would be suited for a grand entrance they might very well seem overwhelming flanking your cottage door.
The wall fixtures should be anywhere from 1/4 to 1/3 the height of the door.

If you are using two sizes of sconces for your front door as well as your garage you’ll want to use the larger sconces at the front door, since this is where you want to create the focal point.   The smaller sconces that flank the garage door shouldn’t draw too much attention to this less attractive area of your home.

As a rule of thumb, outdoor sconces or lanterns should be mounted with the center of the light source about 5’6″ to 6′ from the ground and 8’ – 10’ apart.


Troy Lighting Copper Mountain

Copper Mountain from Troy Lighting is inspired by the rugged slopes of the Colorado Rockies

Patio Lighting creates a mood for relaxing and entertaining.

Our decks and patios have become important extensions of our living rooms, kitchens and dining rooms.
As we add state-of-the-art barbecues, outdoor kitchens, comfortable dining areas we want to add the comforts and feel of home we have become used to indoors.
Whether enjoying a romantic al fresco meal for two or entertaining a crowd, we want to see the food on our plate, look good, maybe feel romantic and also be able to move around without danger of tripping.


The Access Lighting Ariel Outdoor Light puts the light exactly where it is needed

Create a safe environment with atmosphere.
One tip is to avoid glare and use as much indirect light as possible.
Inconspicuous step lights and small light fixtures positioned under a railing or a banister can help you put the light exactly where it is needed to safely negotiate stairs and dark areas on the patio.
Try to avoid the “runway-effect” of light sources lined up in a straight row unless. The trick is to illuminate an area without the light sources being the center of attention.


Patio lights don’t have to be fancy or expensive to be effective. Try a combination of wall sconces next to the entryway, some lights for areas that need special attention like changes in terrain and compliment these with twinkling strands of lights in nearby trees or indirect light sources that add atmosphere by accenting architectural features or parts of the surrounding landscape.

Patio String Lights


A little light goes a long way outdoors. 25W or 40W are sufficient in most exterior fixtures. In order to avoid glare and create atmosphere it is always preferable to use several light sources with a low wattage instead of a single one that will keep your neighbors awake.
With LED bulbs, look for some that are equivalent to 40W and 60W and choose a color temperature of around 2700K or lower, since they feel more like incandescent bulbs.


Compact Fluorescent bulbs Outdoors? YES!
Outdoor lights tend to be on for longer periods of time and are sometimes hard to reach. Both good reasons for switching to compact fluorescent lamps.
Since not all compact fluorescents are suitable for cold temperatures check the description on the package to make sure that you choose CFLs rated for outdoors.


Take Control!
It might be practical for a variety of reasons to have the flexibility to choose the levels of light, so plan on installing dimmers to control the light levels of your outdoor lights!
This way you can go from security lights to mood lighting at the touch of a switch.
Just keep in might that dimming incandescent lights cause them to shift to a warmer, more yellow tone. I love this effect around my deck because it adds warmth and the feel of flickering candles.
Plants, however, take on a sickly look in yellow light, so dimming is not for landscape lighting!

Some manufacturers like Kichler Lighting have come out with chandeliers as well as floor and table lamps rated for exterior use. This makes it possible to bring a feeling of “home” outdoors and extend the hours you can enjoy your patio or deck.

Kichler Lighting Alameda Chandelier

Form + Function represents the outdoor lights by a large number of manufacturers. We offer choices from cutting-edge Contemporary to Craftsman style or Traditional. Our criteria for choosing the fixtures is quality, integrity and form as well as function.


Motion Sensors are great! -If you aim the sensor right, so the lights turn on from a sufficient distance.
(I am embarrassed to confess that I am speaking from painful experience: for way too long I have dealt with a hard-to-reach garage light that doesn’t turns on until I am directly under it after having stumbled my way through the dark. I’ll fix it next weekend. I think.)
Again, please don’t even think about blinding your innocent guests with a spotlight with a motion detector! It is cruel!
Motion detectors can be used in combination with regular wall lights, not only as part of a security light system.


Landscape and path lighting looks the best if the light source is is not glaring in your eyes, blinding you. That translates to: No runway lights flanking the driveway, but subtle illumination of rocks, bushes and other natural features along the way. Works just as well, but what a difference!





Mason Jar Lantern

Looking for inexpensive, yet festive party lights? These mason jar lanterns might be the ticket.

These warm evenings invite us to linger outdoors and there is nothing more attractive I think than the glow from live fire or candlelight.
I came across these mason jar lanterns on Re-Nest, one of my favorite blogs. Easy to make (my kind of project!) and they really work, spreading a cozy, flickering light while cutting down on the fire hazard of a completely exposed flame.
(Living in New Mexico, where the largest wildfire in history is gobbling up new acres by the minute, this is a real point to consider.)


DIY Woven Wood Veneer Pendant

Another inspiring DIY lighting project found on the site Poppytalk. Like it a lot, but I’d definitely try to hide the staples a bit, like at the very top of the pendant. Otherwise my kind of project: Quick and easy.


Whirl-It String Pendant

I have seen a few ways of making this elegant and intriguing pendant light.
This “Whirl-It” pendant  from the Norwegian site Pickles is a bit oval shaped since they used an oversized balloon. For a perfectly round shape an exercise ball works great.


DYI Wire Globe Pendant Light

I love the Random Light by Moooi and usually I cringe when I see all kinds of knock-offs, but this is just such a fun project, and kind of just “inspired” by the real thing.

Find the instructions on Curbly


MonoRail is made for mixing and matching heads and pendants on one rail, getting the light where it’s needed.
It doesn’t always have to be used over a kitchen island, as you see in this photo. In this photo two Tech Lighting Savoy pendant lights  act as a bedside reading lamp, saving valuable table space .