Friday, September 7, 2012

Shop Lighting

Q: I wanted to thank you again for being such an inspiration and responding to e-mails. You are really kind and there are not many retailers out there who go out of the way to help others as you know.

We are moving our store into our new location this fall and I get access to the building on July 1. The photo above is terrible as it is in 'as-is' condition. It is full of junk left behind by previous tenants. As you can see now it has hideous fluorescents that have to be changed to fit the décor. There are tons of windows on three sides of the building so I do get lots of natural light. My husband and I can’t come to an agreement as to what the best choice is. He wants me to keep fluorescents for energy efficiency. I want drop lights similar to yours for ambiance. He says it will raise my electric bill and I will constantly be changing light bulbs. I will also have several chandeliers at different times hanging. OK … my question is this…

When considering changing lighting for your shop, what are the best options and things to consider? Your shop was lit perfectly and really helped create the mood. How important are the overhead lights to figure into the budget? What are your thoughts on costs, etc? Since you were a stylist I would value your professional opinion on lighting in general. Just and idea for you to ponder for a future topic and I will forever be a fan. Thanks again. Amy

A: Amy, First off, the pictures are NOT hideous. This is what spaces look like before we do our magic.

I do not want to come between your marriage but hands down, without question, the fluorescents HAVE to go. Throw them as far away as you can. However, if you are planning on driving a fork lift around the shop they might work for you, otherwise, NO. If you are putting up a dividing wall for workroom, office, etc. they can stay there. But NEVER EVER EVER where a customer can see them. The price of your merchandise just dropped 20% by having them. You are (hopefully) setting a mood, showing your brand, creating your style and my dear, please tell me fluorescents are not among the list! (I know they're not).

Energy costs? Well, sure you'll pay more for bulbs and power but to be honest that NEVER crossed my mind. Really, it didn't. That is how important aesthetics are to me. The bones of your space: Ceiling, lighting, paint, walls and floors need to be the first thing done right because it is the hardest thing, nearly impossible to change once all the stuff comes in. So think it through seriously and be certain. Of course the cost of new lighting is a factor but style does not have to be expensive. Case in point

#1 picture: Lowes for $35 and #2: Home Depot for $47, #3: Home Depot $34


First off, lucky you to have natural light and a lot of it. This has already cut your costs. I have approx. 2,600 sf of showroom space and planned to install my barn style lights (see below) every 6 feet in a perfect grid pattern. I am also using 75w bulbs as that was the most attractive, high wattage bulb I could find.

My particular style has to have a long neck on them so I cannot not use regular bulbs. My 36 fixtures cost about $100 a piece wholesale with all the added caps and rods, etc. I also buy my bulbs from a wholesale lamp parts shop. (Kirks Lane). Which reminds me, my electrician was installing my lights and said, "Ma'am, these lights only take 250 watt bulbs". (Meaning he was used to installing 500 watt bulbs who knows where in other stores and warehouses). I said, "Well that's good because my bulbs are only 75 watts." He thought I was nuts but as I pointed out to him later, "Don't you think 2700 watts of light are enough for this place?" !!! Ugh, these guys.

As the old lights were taken out and new conduit added I showed the electricians where to also install outlets and support hooks so I could hang my chandeliers. Lucky you to have that fabulous wood beam ceiling as you can bang a nail anywhere and hang a chandelier as long as the power is near. Having lots of lighting for sale in the ceiling can be a mess of cords and extensions and the first time the Fire Marshall comes in you're screwed. So do it right. They do not like extension cords much so plan ahead.

Here is what I suggest: Take out the fluorescents in the showroom. Sketch a grid and decide from the existing power where to replace with new fixtures AND where to add your new outlets. Extra lighting outlets should be added to the front windows for display and Xmas decor. Go to Lowes or Home Depot and see what kind of industrial stuff they have. Sometimes they are tons cheaper than a wholesale lighting specialist and they can have really cool stuff in galvanized metal or rust. Ask you electrician to put your overhead lights on dimmers and timers (this might make your husband happy) and to also divide the lighting into separate on/off switches so you can control the front area and not turn them on if a lot of natural light is coming in. Also, keep your ceiling fans. With a space as big as yours this will really help to cool the place. We have a separate switch for overhead, a separate switch for chandeliers for sale and I WISH a separate one for table lamps. We leave window display and lamps on 24/7 as we are in an outdoor shopping center and restaurants and a Starbucks are open until 11:00 and many people walk the center late at night. I consider it advertising to allow them to see inside the store and check us out rather than stare into a black hole.

If hubby insists on keeping the fluorescents, at least paint them the same color as the wood beams to hide them more. Good Luck.

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