In the Lighting Concepts showroom in Portland, you’ll find a bevy of options, from rustic pendants to contemporary chandeliers.
The pieces at Lighting Concepts, showroom manager Danica Jacobson explains, fall into three groups: good, better, and best. To illustrate this, she points toward a corner of the Portland store populated with handblown pendants and chandeliers made by Vermont company Hubbardton Forge. They range from rustic, such as a wall sconce that features distinctive twig-shaped iron tendrils mounted beside a square glass tube (part of the company’s Brindle collection), to sleek, a category that includes hanging, blown-glass orbs enclosed by steel hoops. “The Hubbardton Forge line is very much on the ‘best’ side of things,” Jacobson says. “But on the flip side, we also try to find lines we can stand by, offer a warranty on, and truly enjoy— all at a low price point. Those are the good pieces.” In between, the bulk of their stock falls into the middle “better” category.
Lighting Concepts has a lot in stock, even though you can’t possibly see it all at the Portland showroom. A family-owned business, Lighting Concepts has been selling fixtures of all types to Mainers for over 20 years. Co- owned and operated by brothers Mitch and Ray DeBlois, the company boasts over 4,000 products in their large Lewiston store, while the Forest Avenue shop is smaller and more tightly curated. While the Lewiston store has been around for decades, the Portland design center will celebrate one year in business in October 2017. Here, customers can get expert advice from designers such as Jacobson, who will walk them through the process of choosing the right light for a space—a more complicated proposition than it sounds. “First, we always tell customers to go with their gut,” she says. “But I think the most important question isn’t, ‘What do you like?’ but rather, ‘What don’t you like?’” Sometimes, clients will look at a five-light chandelier and reject it, for example, because they might think it’s too curlicue. “In that case, I will show them something sleek and contemporary—I try and help them find a happy medium, something that speaks to them,” she says.
The pieces at Lighting Concepts tend slightly toward the traditional end of the spectrum—a little more curlicue than contemporary—but they also stock many transitional pieces. Jacobson points to a three-light chandelier with white glass shades and explains, “This one would fit in somebody’s home with a cherry table, claw-foot cabinet, and Queen Anne–style chairs. But in a modern house with a trestle table, it could also work.” Noting a flush-mount wall sconce, she explains that, although it is has a very contemporary feel, “you could sneak it into a more traditional home,” thanks to the dual tones of brass and iron.
As we walk through the store, Jacobson points out dozens of pieces, which range from wrought-iron rustic to glassy and fanciful. “This is like jewelry for your home,” she says as she touches the base of a hanging pendant, which features dozens of prismatic crystals in an elongated cylindrical shape encircling a single bulb. “I would use this one in a powder room,” she adds. Another piece she singles out features a string of LED lights winding around a central metal rod inside a glass bulb, creating a faux Edison light that will last far longer than the trendy (but inefficient) vintage-style bulbs.
Finally, Jacobson walks over to an area populated by “better” pieces. “Check out the finial crystal detail on the bottom of this,” she says, lightly touching a nickel-finished chandelier. Around us, lamps sparkle with tones of gold gilt, burnished bronze, and cracked silver. Notably absent is brass. “I look forward to all those fabulous warm brass tones coming back,” says Jacobson. “In design, everything comes full circle eventually. And I, for one, can’t wait.”
A Practical Guide to Getting Lighting Right
- Plan ahead. “To get the lighting look you really want, give yourself ample time to research options,” Jacobson says. She recommends planning two months before a desired project completion date and working with the design and construction teams to make sure the lighting will work in the space.
- Come prepared. “It’s helpful when customers bring in plans, photographs, and the dimensions of the space,” Jacobson says. “For example, if you’re shopping for new pendants over an island, you need to have the dimensions of the island and the ceiling height so we can recommend the best fixtures for your situation. The more you can share, the more we can help and guide you to things that you like and that will work in your space.”
- Be flexible. “It’s important to keep an open mind when shopping for lighting, as we are going to propose ideas and things you haven’t heard of before,” she says. “Achieving the look you want is about more than just the physical fixture; you also have to consider the actual light a fixture will emit and the larger scheme of the room.”
- Finally, be sure to talk with an electrician before shopping for lights. “People often come to us asking if they can have a chandelier in their bathroom, for example, but we have no idea how the bathroom has been wired,” she explains. “Your electrician can also tell you what your electrical panel can handle; there are codes to follow and electrical constraints.”