The Chronicle Herald Q&A with Atlantic Lighting’s Chris MacQuarrie

Our very own Chris MacQuarrie recently shared her lighting expertise with Lindsey Bunin of The Chronicle Herald. If you didn’t get a chance to read the original article, then take a look at Chris’ fantastic advice on how to make the most of your lighting.

‘In a showroom full of fixtures, one light is bound to stand out from the rest. Chris MacQuarrie is one such star in the local industry. She has been in the lighting business for nearly 20 years, and she’s come a long way from selling fixtures.

“The more I learned about lighting, the more I realized there was a lot more I needed to know,” MacQuarrie explains.

MacQuarrie is a member of the American Lighting Association, through which she and her staff at Atlantic Lighting Studio have been able to take courses to upgrade skills. Lighting technology is rapidly changing and we need to keep on top of what is available, she explains. That is why she took the exam last fall to become a Certified Lighting Consultant – only one of three in Canada (and the only one east of Winnipeg) with this designation.

MacQuarrie recently sat down with Herald Homes to share some insights on how you can maximize the lighting in your own home.

HH: How important a role does lighting play to a room’s décor and overall statement?

CM: Lighting can be a part of the decor as well as be functional. A decorative fixture should blend with the style of the room. You don’t want it to stick out like a sore thumb. Highlighting something in the room such as an architectural feature or a piece of art can really enhance a room’s decor. In this case you want to minimize the appearance of the fixture so the highlighted feature is noticed, not the fixture.

HH: How detrimental is bad lighting to a room?

CM: Poor lighting can make a room feel oppressive and make a person feel “down in the dumps.” Also, if someone is trying to perform certain tasks in a room without appropriate light levels, it can cause eyestrain and frustration. Appropriate lighting can energize a person or raise one’s spirit as well set the mood for different functions within the space.

HH: What is the first thing you look for when you’re considering a room’s lighting?

CM: The first thing a lighting designer should find out is how the room will be used, what activities will be happening in the space and how old are the people using the room. It is also important to know what the finishes are on the floor, walls and ceilings. More light is required for darker finishes.

HH: Are there different types of fixtures we should be using in certain rooms?

CM: There are always choices when it comes to lighting. For example, task lighting can be provided with recessed fixtures, track lighting, pendants or portable lamps. Ambient light could be provided by a ceiling fixture, wall sconces or indirect light bouncing off the wall from adjustable recessed fixtures. One fixture may be used in the kitchen of one home and a powder room in another. A lot depends on the person(s) using the space and what works best for them.

HH: What are your Top 5 tips to readers about adjusting or updating the lighting in their homes?


1. Think about your space and how it is used. What do you want the light to accomplish for you?

2. Plan for lighting at the beginning of the renovation project, not as an afterthought. It will save time and money and you will be happier in the end.

3. Seek advice. Just as you wouldn’t purchase a car without knowing it’s features, don’t purchase a light fixture without knowing what it will provide for you. Will it fit the requirement of what yo want the light to accomplish?

4. “Layer” light. By that I mean, don’t rely on one source of light for every activity. Provide different sources of light within a room so you have options. If your only source of light is rows of recessed fixtures the result will be very flat, uninteresting light that will not fulfill the requirement for all activities that will take place in that space. Each room should have a source for ambient, task and accent light.

5. Use controls (such as dimmers or occupancy/vacancy sensors). Dimmers will allow you to have different light levels for different functions and will lower the amount of watts used so you will save on your power bill. Occupancy/vacancy sensors will make sure the fixtures are off if no one is in the room, thus saving more power.’

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