By BUILDER Magazine Staff. In the competitive world of home building, builders need products that will help them stand out from the crowd. While buyers are certainly attracted by better location and better layouts, other features can make a big impression. And specialty lighting--such as for art and landscape--is proving to be a big hit.
Such fixtures are a hot category for Atlanta-based Georgia Lighting. Mike Oberest, a consultant and sales associate at the lighting design and manufacturing company, says clients often walk into Georgia's showrooms seeking to illuminate their bookcases, art, and kitchen cabinets. This is due in part to the proliferation of shelter magazines, television home shows, and the Internet, which have resulted in educated consumers who want the latest products and features they see. As a result, "People's exposure to products is much different so they expect something more from builders," Oberest says.
Despite this trend, says Oberest, most builders offer only limited specialty lighting either because they think it's too expensive or they feel clients will not want it. "You would see specialty products in smaller degrees like a recessed fixture over the fireplace to light art," he says, but little else.
Spectrum Communities in Valhalla, N.Y., is different, however. "As the market has expanded, our buyers' requests have changed," says Gabe Pasquale, vice president and chief marketing officer. Buyers are expecting more, he says. Spectrum, as a result, tries to offer its buyers more variety in its lighting packages. For example, a basic under-cabinet fixture is standard, but buyers may opt to upgrade to a more expensive product, he explains. Landscape lighting, he adds, is becoming much more popular too, especially in upper-end homes, from $700,000. It is more of a custom feature, so the buyer handles it with the landscape designer. Spectrum still installs exterior conduits to facilitate the process.
Whether it's landscape lighting or special safety lights, manufacturers are working hard to introduce new products. One area for Progress Lighting in Spartanburg, S.C., is landscape lighting. "Landscape lighting is one of the things that builders often overlook because they feel it is too costly," says James E. Decker, Progress' vice president of brand management. But Progress believes homeowners will continue to extend their interior with outdoor living areas and will want to enhance the exterior with outdoor lighting.
As a result, Progress has added new light posts and hanging fixtures to its outdoors collections. It has also added a new Linear Path light that is smaller and less prominent. "A lot of people don't want something that's visibly sticking out from the ground," Decker says. "This light does a better job of lighting a path and has a low profile so it cannot be seen."
Louis Poulsen, the high-end Danish lighting manufacturer, also has introduced new in-ground and accent landscape lighting, from mini-spot lights to mini-wall washers. The Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based company's products shy away from typical landscape fixtures toward the more sleek designs the company's interior fixtures are known for.
As more people collect art, they want special lighting to accentuate it, so more manufacturers are offering more than the traditional recessed-can fixture. W.A.C. Lighting in Garden City, N.Y., for example, recently introduced a new, flexible, low-voltage track system that can be bent and shaped in the field for applications such as challenging corners and ceilings.
The industry is changing, says Oberest, so what used to be rare in the average home is now commonplace. Builders don't have to offer much--a simple under-cabinet or over-cabinet rope light has an impact. Even if you do not offer the products, you can at least pre-wire a home to give buyers the option of adding fixtures later, Oberest explains.
"Doing things of a preparatory nature is a good concept," Oberest notes. "It's minimal investment but a good advertising feature."
Light pod: With diffused marker illumination, the Tripos light fixture is ideal for pathways. It features a marine-grade, stainless steel top plate, an acrylic diffuser, and a die-cast aluminum body that has a powder-coat finish. The unit projects 5 1/2 inches above ground, and the top plate measures almost 6 inches across. It can be buried in the earth or cast into concrete. Louis Poulsen Lighting. 954-349-2525. www.louispoulsen.com.
Float on: This recessed pendant is designed for architectural spaces that are too small for full-size pendants but require a light that offers energy efficiency and high lumen output, the maker says. The product combines an architectural-grade recessed downlight with a floating element that suspends just 9 inches below the ceiling. It comes with two 26-, 32-, or 42-watt fluorescent lamps. Cooper Lighting. 510-234-2370. www.cooperlighting.com.
Low profile: At 7 inches wide and 1 7/8 inches high, the new low-profile Linear Light throws a soft glow over a landscape area without the obtrusive projection from the curb. It has a cast bronze body, a prismatic glass lens, and a weatherproof antique bronze finish. Progress Lighting. 864-599-6000. www.progresslighting.com.
Off the track: The Monorail track is a low-voltage system that can be customized to provide specialty lighting for art or other applications. The rail can be bent in the field to adapt to a broad range of installations like corners or varying ceiling heights, and can be outfitted with the company's 150-plus track heads and pendants. W.A.C. Lighting. 800-526-2588. www.waclighting.com.
Step up: Measuring 8 1/2 inches long by 3 inches wide, this rectangular fixture provides a soft light for step landings and staircases. The fixture has a white-painted, die-cast aluminum housing that has a gasket for wet areas and a black or white baked enamel aluminum trim with an opal polyethylene diffuser. It uses a 7- or 9-watt compact fluorescent lamp. Juno Lighting. 847-827-9880. www.junolighting.com.
For more product information, search Hanley-Wood's ebuild catalog.