Lighting your Home: Brilliant Tips from Chicago Lighting Experts

Interior design In the right light

Lighting Photo Lightology Chicago
Photo by Lightology Chicago

Lighting your home properly can make all the difference in your living environment. Your rooms will have a warm glow, your home accessories and artwork will be highlighted, and you and your guests will be cast in the best possible light. Read on for tips from Chicago lighting experts, who shared with us everything you need to know to become enlightened.

Xavier Yager, certified lighting consultant at Lightology

Shed some light: Yager has been certified as a consultant by the American Lighting Association. He works in conjunction with Lightology (215 W. Chicago Ave., 312.944.1000,, where he says the unique selection is like “painting with a whole new palette of colors.” Lightology specializes in European-influenced fixtures, known for their clean lines and contemporary feel.

Everything is illuminated: Lightology’s “transitional” fixtures bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary style. “Antique or vintage furniture can be complemented by more modern lighting systems,” says Yager. “Throw the rules out the window, and create something fresh, different, unique.” Yager thrives on what he calls “true design.” “True design reflects what the customer wants, but it also expands their horizons,” he explains. “It’s a symbiotic relationship.”

Flip the switch: Yager works with five different types of lighting: accent (spotlights for highlighting artwork, for example), general (track systems, recessed cans), floor (small spotlights, backlights), decorative (sconces, table and floor lamps) and illumination that is art in itself (LED panels, incandescent tubes). Using a balance of several types of lighting is what makes a room glow, making it warm yet dramatic. He is also a fan of dimmers. “Having lights without dimmers is like owning a car without a gas pedal or brake,” Yager asserts. “Not only do your requirements change from day to day, but dimmers can extend the life of bulbs exponentially.”

(Yager can be contacted directly at 773.469.7283 or

Austin Kamm, of Remains Lighting in the Merchandise Mart

Shed some light: Remains Lighting (103 Merchandise Mart, 312.527.1300) is part of the Merchandise Mart’s LuxeHome collection, which is open to the public. The showroom shares space with the Nanz Company, which creates premium door hardware. Austin Kamm helps run the Remains Lighting showroom, which also has locations in New York and Los Angeles.

Everything is illuminated: Remains has two collections of lighting: the Antique Collection, which is made up of restored pieces by the foremost lighting designers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries; and the Permanent Collection, which consists of reproductions and designs based on the early 20th century. These pieces are made to order with custom finishes in the Remains New York factory.

Flip the switch: Kamm cites several trends that are emerging in home lighting. He is seeing a lot of nickel and silver finishes, as well as unlacquered polished brass. “Brass is a living metal that will, over time, develop its own individual patina,” Kamm explains. He is also witnessing an increased interest in compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), which are environmentally friendly lighting sources that are getting better with time. “Remains has a high eco-standard,” Kamm says.

“Everything we make is done in the U.S.A. We believe in fine craftsmanship and keeping traditions alive.”

Kevin Baldwin, owner of Source of Light

Shed some light: Source of Light (229 N. Damen Ave., 312.421.5841) consults with numerous architects and designers, but the showroom also works with the public and even offers onsite lighting consultations, with a portion of the cost credited when ordering through the showroom. The high-end, contemporary fixtures include track systems, recessed lighting, decorative pieces, ceiling fans and landscape and exterior lighting.

Everything is illuminated: The showroom carries fixtures by such in-demand lighting manufacturers as Louis Poulsen, Tech Lighting, Artemide, Flos, Santa & Cole, Royal Craftsman and Modern Fan Company.

Flip the switch: Some of the new trends to look out for, Baldwin says, highlight the most important room of the house – the kitchen. “Use white halogen lights to spotlight elements of your kitchen, and, if you have a lot of wood, xenon lights cast an ambient glow,” he advises. “Under cabinet lighting can make quite a difference, as well, plus recessed cans centering over the cabinets and pendant lamps over an island for light exactly where you need it.” And his expert tips? Baldwin likes to “layer” lighting, with a mix of overhead, wall, table, floor and even cove light sources. He also likes to use various lenses to change lighting.

Dyan Lalley, design manager at Designs of the Interior, Winnetka

Shed some light: Designs of the Interior (DOTI) cultivates a graceful, traditional aesthetic, perfect for the North Shore homes it helps decorate. Discerning homeowners have relied on DOTI’s interior decorating resources since 1997, when it was a small design studio in Kenilworth. The showroom is now located in the Winnetka Galleria (572 Lincoln Ave., 847.446.3684).

Everything is illuminated: Lalley shared with us her clientele’s latest passions. “Animal and botanic motifs are very popular right now, as is anything Asian inspired,” she says. “We use a lot of decorative lamps in porcelain with silk shades.” The use of color is also important, and Lalley is seeing a lot of classic hues like black, green, red and yellow. And, of course, crystal embellished chandeliers remain a design constant.

Flip the switch: Lalley advocates the use of an industry expert when illuminating one’s home. “Everything should be to scale,” she explains. “An expert will take into consideration the height of the ceiling, the size of the room and the room’s purpose to create the perfect lighting arrangement.”