Painting with Light
The days of single overhead light fixtures are thankfully behind us. With careful lighting design, you can compose not just what you see, but how you see it. Idlewood Electric Supply helps you step out of the “Dark Ages” and walk into the light.
Mike Witzel and Barbara Lansing of Idlewood Electric Supply (Photograph by Jim Prisching)
As the days get shorter, we prepare for more time indoors, living half our days by artificial light. If that prospect causes you any measure of distress, it’s because you don’t have the right lighting scheme. “One light can never light an entire room,” says Barbara Lansing, CEO of Idlewood Electric Supply. “It’s painting with light, creating layers of light, that can make your room so spectacular.”
Barbara demonstrates exactly what she’s talking about right before my eyes with a bedroom display set up in Idlewood’s Highland Park showroom. In the small bedroom, the only illumination is provided by an elegant decorative floor lamp. With the flick of a switch, recessed ceiling lights highlight the framed paintings hung on the walls. Suddenly, it feels like we’re in a gallery. Another switch activates a separate recessed ceiling spot trained onto the fireplace; it transforms the room into a secluded lodge getaway. As she continues, each new light alters my impression of the bedroom and draws my eye to a different design detail. I had never seen the transformative power of lighting design. You have to see it to believe it. And if you bring your blueprints with you, Idlewood’s lighting design professionals can show you how easily your living space can become a work of art.
The bedroom is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the visual displays the showroom has to offer. Being in business for 52 years has led to a company policy of not just telling you about the different options, but letting you see it for yourself. There are displays for the kitchen, living room, dining room, bathroom, and there’s an indoor mock-up of an outdoor patio and garden path so that even in the middle of winter you can plan your backyard lightscaping for the spring.
The contemporary approach to lighting your home is to install recessed lighting into your ceilings so that no fixtures are visible. But even within that specific arena, there are a staggering amount of options. It helps to see every option side by side to know which look would best suit your environment. You can compare the color tones and output of halogen versus fluorescent versus incandescent. And you can compare them all to the latest and hottest form of light: LED. The buzzword in LED bulbs is energy efficiency. They use 5 percent the amount of energy incandescent bulbs use, and one bulb is meant to last 10 years. Think about that—one bulb will light your children’s room from the end of elementary school until they’re leaving for college. They also come in the traditional colors, from warm golden tones to cool European tones.
However, many people still prefer traditional decorative fixtures. “When you add the decorative, it really warms up the space. It gives it more personality than everything being recessed,” says Barbara. “They’re really pieces of art in themselves.”
The most popular decorative lighting fixture is the hanging chandelier. From the moment you walk into Idlewood, you know that if ever there were a place to find the perfect chandelier, this is it. Almost every square inch of the ceiling hosts a hanging lighting fixture. Everywhere you turn, the suspended tapestry of crystal, glass, and metal draws you in. This is why Idlewood is one of the must-visit locations on the shopping list of every knowledgeable North Shore designer. There are more than 4,000 unique impressions hanging from the ceiling, and something that speaks to everyone. They even carry distinctive decorative accessories from mirrors to clocks.
It’s the industry itself that speaks to Barbara. Her father founded Idlewood, and at the age of 11, she entered the family business, meticulously cleaning the acres of crystal. After working in the design side of the family business, she eventually accepted the position of CEO when her father retired. “It’s truly a part of me. It’s not just because it’s a business, but it’s our business,” she says. “The people that work here are not just employees, they’re part of a family. The customers are, too. We’re not a huge corporation where you’re a number.”
Mike Witzel, Vice President of the Lighting Division, also has the electrics business in his blood. “The story goes that when I was 6 months old with wet diapers, I stuck a screwdriver in an outlet. That was it. I’ve been in it all my life,” he explains. “You have to enjoy what you do for a living. It’s a good feeling. On the showroom end of it, we deal with well over 250 lighting manufacturers. We bring in designs that nobody else has; many of these are exclusive. We aren’t a normal, run-of-the-mill lighting showroom. If you want something different, Idlewood’s got it!”
Idlewood Electric Supply is located at 114 Skokie Valley Road in Highland Park; they also have showrooms in Barrington and Chicago. For more information, call 847-831-3600, or visit them online at idlewoodelectric.com.