Sometimes when I walk into a home, I really wonder what the architect was thinking.  I would take a guess that at least 30% of American homes have the awkward situation of a hall that ends with a bathroom.  If you’re fortunate, the view is of a towel bar or blank wall.  If you are unfortunate, the view is of a toilet.  Many of us choose to ignore and accept this vision, or we leave the door closed.

 I remember one home we worked on about ten years ago, as you walked up the stairs to the second floor the first thing that welcomed you was the commode in the bathroom across from the landing.  When we remodeled that bathroom, one of the things we did was move the toilet across the room to a more private location.  Suddenly the view of the trees through the window took precedence.

 Not everyone has the option to move a toilet.  It can be very expensive or even architecturally impossible to relocate a toilet.  So what other alternatives are available besides closing the door?

 First off, think of the doorway as a frame.  What are you framing?  Many times, towels and towel bars are a part of the picture.  While we try to make them look as pretty as we can, towels are just not interesting.  Something needs to pull focus.

 If you aren’t dealing with a view of the commode, place art work within the space – preferably something long and narrow that will fill the door frame.  Since the doorway is your “frame,” I recommend something on canvas without a frame.  The surrounding wall area becomes your “matting.”  If you want to draw attention to this space, then paint the wall a dynamic color that contrasts the walls of the hallway.  If you want this space to blend with the surrounding hall, then paint the wall a color similar to hall color.  I would not recommend wallpapering this wall, most “mattes” around paintings and photos are solid colors, not patterns.

 Take this a step further by adding an “Art light” to showcase the artwork.  (This is great if you entertain and you find people asking where your powder room is.)  A low-voltage MR-11 or MR-16 placed in the ceiling typically works best.  Housings with an adjustable socket allow for maximum control in illuminating the artwork.  For added drama, put the light on a dimmer instead of a switch.

 The same applies, if you have a view of the toilet through the doorway.  This time, hang a framed piece of art above the commode.  The “Art light” should be aimed so that no light spills on the toilet.  The sought-over effect is to draw attention away from the fixture.

 You may be tempted to install the lighting yourself.  However, I would recommend you find a contractor or electrician who has a history of installing these lights.  The size of your artwork and the angle of light along with its beam spread will determine the type and placement of the housing.  An incorrect housing and/or placement could result in a less than desirable result.

Written by Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc. designer, Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD.

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LED Lighting

July 15, 2009

The first time I saw real LED lighting for the home, I was in IKEA.  This was about 4 years ago.  I was very impressed.  These small lights meant to be installed under walls cabinets or in display shelving emitted cold, blue light – just like the inside of a refrigerator.  All the same, I was impressed.  I thought to myself that it is just a matter of time, this will either fizzle out  leaving LEDs to flashlights and kids carnival toys… or this will be brought into the mainstream.  The latter is happening.

One of the reasons that LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting is entering the marketplace so slowly is partly due to our own US government – it can take years for fixtures to become UL approved.  There is however, the ETL certification from Intertek which allows safe products to enter the marketplace quickly and on a global level. 

ETL Safety Mark

ETL Safety Mark

LED lights entering the marketplace now are categorized as low-voltage.  What this means is that the fixtures are not directly connected to your household electricity, but rather “Plug and Play”.   A transformer is necessary to “step-down” the voltage to a lower level like 12-volts.  This transformer is either plugged directly into a switched outlet or hardwired into the home’s electricial system.  Then the individual LED fixtures are plugged into the transformer.

The Low Voltage lighting family includes Xenon and Halogen.  These lights, like LEDs, are very intense; Xenon lighting is often found in jewelry stores where diamonds are made to sparkle as if on fire.  And on fire it could be – these lights are very hot.  But LED lights stay comfortable to the touch for hours on end.

LED Surface Mounted Spot

LED Surface Mounted Spot by Hafele

LED lights are more expensive than traditional lighting.  However, in the long run – they could save you money.  An LED fixture and transformer is expected to give 20,000 to 30,000 hours of light.  If you break this down to 4 hours a night, every night, 365 days a year – you would get approximately 13 years out of your LED lighting system.

LED lights come in 6 colors  – cool white, warm white (like an incandescent bulb), orange, red, green and blue.  For those of us who can’t make up their mind, there is a rotating effect available that slowly fades between colors.  I can only think of commercial applications for this – or if you like to have your Christmas decorations up year round.

While LEDs are still used mainly for decorative and task lighting – general room lighting may be in the future for Americans.  It will just take a little more time as we wait and see.

Written by Imperial Kitchens and Baths Designer, Stephanie Bullwinkel (CBD).