A Well Lighted Place
Lighting designer Sean O'Connor shared his unusual lighting solutions for the San Francisco House.
This Old House TV: San Francisco house project
Most residential projects are fairly predictable. This certainly could not be said of Mark Dvorak and Laurie Ann Bishop's conversion of a defunct church into a great house. Rooms like the 1,075-square-foot living room with its 24-foot-high ceiling and the huge kitchen with cabinets reaching up 14 feet required some unusual lighting solutions.
Variety was key in this house. The different sizes and volumes of space meant that a variety of lighting techniques, light fixtures and lamp types would be required to illuminate surfaces and rooms. Large industrial outdoor halogen floodlights warmed up and showed off the living room's restored scissor trusses and ceiling—they also bounced light indirectly back down into the sitting area. I hid small low-voltage halogen fixtures in the truss work above to wash walls and accent Mark and Laurie Ann's collection of black-and-white photography. Mixing with this was incandescent light from sconces flanking the fireplace—inexpensive aluminum fixtures stripped of their paint and given a modern brushed finish with a Scotch-Brite pad. I placed Mark and Laurie Ann's own floor and table lamps throughout the room to take shadows off faces and create a homey ambiance.
In the kitchen, a pair of custom-made nickel and mouth-blown glass pendants over the marble island countertop provided general illumination. Multilamp recessed low-voltage halogen fixtures with linear spread lenses bent light and distributed it across the length of the butcher-block countertop. Mark and Laurie Ann's chalkboard shopping list stayed bright with a modified industrial billboard light. A nickel-plated antique picture light shined on the kitchen's desk for sorting mail and paying bills.
Along the stairs, round cast-aluminum lights mounted in the wall 3 1/2" above every third step lit the way to the second floor. A pair of simple halogen up-lights provided a soft glow on the ceiling overhead, turning a potential dark tunnel into a comfortable passage from public to private space.
Wall-mounted swing-arm lamps in brushed nickel provided vanity lighting in the master bath, while stainless steel outdoor downlights with a nautical feel lit the room, shower, and toilet stall.
To accommodate the many activities in Mark and Laurie Ann's new house, I installed preset dimming controls
throughout. Whether sitting on the sofa, entering a room, or sitting at a desk, they need but one touch of a button to recall a pre-programmed lighting scene for watching television, entertaining, or reading. This preset multi-scene control eliminates the need for a series of ganged dimmers and switches and integrates them into a small simple package.
Sean O'Connor, of O'Connor Associates, was the lighting designer for the San Francisco project.