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Lighting up Custom Shelving

Turning a Family Room into a T.V. Room
Designing Dilemmas September 2005

Lighting up Custom Shelving

Dear Designing Solutions: My wife and I are having floor to ceiling bookshelves made. Where is the best place to have the lighting strip placed? In the front of the bookshelves, under each shelf or in the back of each shelf? We going for the dramatic effect rather than necessarily trying to highlight the things on the shelves like photos, vases, etc. E Clark

Dear E Clark: You will not achieve dramatic lighting with the small lighting strips that are installed inside the shelving unit itself. Think about it and weigh the pros and cons for yourself- these are small lights that are intended to bring life to the objects placed on each shelf. Whether to install them in the front or back of the shelf depends on what is going on the shelf. If you are placing books, keep the lighting in front. Small decorative objects will look good with lighting placed further back.

Another, more dramatic option is to install 3 3/4 inch low voltage recessed lights in the ceiling JUST IN FRONT of the bookshelf units. This lighting will wash the bookshelves in bright light and give a more dramatic, architectural effect. We like to use "pinholes" from Lightolier. The light will be well concealed in the ceiling so that no stray light escapes from the fixture, but the beam is bright and focused and will "pop" your bookshelves. Install one fixture about six inches out from each unit for the best effect.

You can always visit a local lighting design store- most will have these kind of recessed lights on display so that you can see them in action before installing them in your own home.

Turning a Family Room into a T.V. Room

Dear Designing Solutions: My husband wants to turn our family room into a TV room, which I've agreed to. He wants to prepare for the time we can afford a big screen TV. We need new furniture now. I don't want to lose my breakfront with storage space and would like seating and reading space in the room. He is thinking of stadium seating. I have no clue where to begin. Diane

Dear Diane: You can easily combine big screen TV. seating with something comfortable enough for reading and entertaining. Take a look at manufacturers like American Leather (www.AmericanLeather.com) who offer both traditional and contemporary seating styles in leather and in ultra suede. You can choose seating configurations that include 90 degree sectionals (with a curved or an angled corner unit), 45 degree wedges (these have half-corner units on each end of a centered seating unit) sofas and separate chairs. Many of these pieces offer manual or electronic recliners on some or all of the individual seats- making them the best seat in the house for TV. viewing- while still stylish enough for entertaining. And of course you can add on floor lamps, table lamps and recessed lighting to accommodate reading, arts & crafts or conversation. Just make sure that any recessed lighting is on a dimmer so that you can adjust the lighting according to the room's use.

About that breakfront- depending on the room's size and wall space- you may need to re-think storage and book space. When you are ready to purchase that big screen TV. ask yourself how it will be housed. You may want to consider a new wall unit that fits the big screen TV. and its many components in a center unit with storage and display shelves on the side. Many furniture stores, including Ethan Allen, offer such wall units and it's worth a trip to the store just to learn about your options for storage and display once that new TV. arrives. Better yet, you can custom design a wall unit that provides all the storage you need, in a style that you choose and have it built and installed in you family room.

Think compromise! Your seating and storage options are virtually endless and there's no reason not to combine reading space with great storage and display in a new home theater room.

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