Home Puts Spotlight on Stage Lighting

These homeowners worked with a CE pro to highlight their art and architecture with lighting, without singing the blues.


Credit: Chuck Gee

Some people have collections because they’re fans or aficionados. But only a select few own collections because they’re insiders. Their possessions are infused with riveting stories and rich experiences.

The owner of this coastal South Carolina home collects photographs of blues artists. There are some famous ones, like B.B. King and Ray Charles. And some not-so-famous ones. “He has one-of-a kind photos of the greats and the great unknowns who influenced everyone,” says Scott Varn of home systems installer Harmony Interiors, based in Asheville, N.C. “He realized the value of good lighting to highlight his blues photography collection and the architecture of the house.”

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Harmony Interiors picked the light fixtures, located them, and determined how they were going to be controlled. About 100 lighting loads are in the house, with each lamp individually numbered—and often individually controlled. “With this much lighting design, there needs to be a lot of loads, because a lot of individual lights need to be controlled on their own,” says Varn.

A Control4 home and lighting control system handled that task, allowing Harmony to program lighting scenes to create a variety of stunning effects such as that from the gridwork ceiling over the living room—and, of course, to highlight the prominent blues photography throughout.

“In general, people don’t know you can do lighting design,” says Varn. “It’s not just picking a decorative fixture. It’s more like stage lighting.” In other words, you’re not lighting a room, you’re lighting a scene.

“We used a lot of gimbaled lights to focus the light, because we were sometimes battling joists for positioning,” says Varn “We used some very low profile, bright LEDs. Some early-model LEDs failed, so the owner switched to halogens and plans on switching back to LEDs as their quality improves.”

Simple keypads in each room allow the homeowner to enact scenes specifically for that space. For example, if the owner is showing off his blues photography, he hits a button on a keypad, and the artwork is illuminated. There are also some variables to think of when designing a lighting system to highlight art or architecture.

Being a blues guys, the owner also wanted a good, 14-zone audio system. He listens to Rhapsody and Roku, the latter for streaming remote radio stations when he’s at his coastal home—and they sound through Tannoy dual-concentric in-ceiling speakers with backboxes so the sound doesn’t bleed into upstairs bedrooms.

“We picked [Tannoys] large enough to go into the bass range. And Tannoy does vocals better than most speakers; that’s very important in blues,” Varn says. … And so is the lighting.


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