Q: I manage a retail gallery, and we’ll be updating over the next few months. We want to light it in a way where we can rearrange the pieces and be able to either move the lights or have the lights work with every arrangement. Right now we mostly stock wall art and ceramic pieces (pots, vases, etc.). What types of lights do you recommend? We’ve left a fair-sized portion of the budget for this.
—Sophia Barthow, Lexington, Kentucky
A: Since electrical matters are best handled by experts your electrician or a sales associate at a good area lighting store will be your best advisors here. I can give some general comments and pieces of advice. Good that you’ve planned to invest in quality lighting, the old saying they can’t buy it if they can’t see was never truer. Nearly all lighting in retail spaces these days uses a network of electrical track attached to the ceiling that in turn holds the heads that hold the light bulbs. This system allows you to distribute lighting to every corner of the space, and to redistribute it as needed. An important factor that will impact your lighting decisions is the height of the ceilings in your gallery. Since it’s important that the light heads not affect the viewer’s sight lines higher ceilings will allow many more options.
Let your advisor show and explain the numerous track systems available today. Typically the heads are not interchangeable from system to system so you’ll want to choose the one that offers you the most choices. The first choice is the heads you’ll use; ceiling height comes in here, the lower the ceilings the smaller the heads you’ll want to choose. Then you’ll want to purchase bulbs that provide the most natural full spectrum light. To light a show without creating hot spots you’ll need to have both spot and flood bulbs.
I also find wall washers very helpful. These are larger rectangular heads that hold high intensity bulbs that cast even light over a large area. The ones I use have 4 doors that can be opened and closed to direct the light just where you want it. A last bit of advice be sure you have adequate power in each track to support the total number of watts the bulbs you plan to use will require.