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Remodeling 101: Closet Lighting Part 2

Last week, we published Remodeling 101: Closet Lighting Part 1 in which we shared lighting guru Thomas Paterson’s tips for adding diffuse light to amply illuminate a clothes closet. This week, we share his secrets for adding romance back into the closet and dressing room.

Review: What is the goal when lighting a closet?

The goal is to eliminate shadows by getting a lot of diffuse light into the space.

Must all closet lighting be so lifeless?

No. Once you’ve achieved ample diffuse light so you can see your clothes, then it’s time to add back intimacy and glamour.

Above L: Your jewelry is easiest to see in flat lighting on white walls, as on this powder-coated Jewelry Rack. R: But it looks prettier when dimly lit, as in these pieces by jewelers Fay Andrada and Mikkel Brogger at Mouki in London. (See A New Under-the-Radar Concept Shop in London for more.)

How Can I Add Romantic Light Back Into the Closet?

Above: In Ilse Crawford’s temporary home–called The Apartment–a Snoopy Table Lamp by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni sits on a small desk in the bedroom. (For more, see Mastering Warm Minimalism: Ilse Crawford in Copenhagen.)

Paterson suggests adding a banker’s lamp to a little dresser in your closet on which to hold makeup and jewelry (if you have room, of course). “The warm light is flattering to your skin and makes the jewelry look magnificent,” says Paterson.

Above: Closet shelving with strip lighting in a Belgian home by architects Daskal & Laperre. (See more in Architect Visit: Daskal & Laperre in Brussels.)

Alternatively, Paterson suggests, you could add a warm LED strip beneath an overhanging shelf for powerful (and cheap) contrast lighting.

What If I Don’t Have Room in My Closet?

Above: A mirrored vanity at the Hotel Amour in Paris dates from the middle of the last century. (For more, see Escape to Love: Hotel Amour in Paris.)

If you have a truly tiny closet and no room for a dresser with a light, Paterson loves the idea of setting up a vanity space with a small desk, mirror, and a sconce or pendant. The lighting needn’t be expensive or require any wiring, he emphasizes: just plug a pendant into the wall and drape it over the top of the mirror. “Adding one thing like this to bring intimacy and contrast back to the flat closet lighting can be wonderful.”

DIY: Backlit Dressing Mirror

Above: In the Hamptons family home of New York designer Robert Stilin, a member of the Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory, a light-box sculpture in the hallway also functions as a romantically lit mirror. (For more, see The Designer Is In: Layering History in the Hamptons.)

For an easy and affordable project at home, Paterson suggests mounting a mirror on the wall and lighting it from behind. “A big floor-to-ceiling mirror should cost $100-$150,” he says, “then mount it on French cleats and add two fluorescent strips running floor to ceiling behind it.” You could do this inside your closet or out, says Paterson.

Above: A sketch of Paterson’s mirror plan.

What about spotlighting, and lighting individual shelves and drawers?

Above: The Storage Giorno system from high-end Italian manufacturer Porro, featured in 10 Easy Pieces: Modular Closet Systems, High to Low.

In high-end systems, individual items and groups of items can be highlighted, rather than all light needing to be diffuse. After becoming smitten by the Porro closet system below, I asked Kurt Zimmerer of LA-based Porro showroom Graye about the elements that go into their highest-end designs, all of which are custom to client specifications. He said the overarching goal of architect Piero Lissoni is to make a “silent” closet system, both in the literal sense and in lighting “that is soothing and never glaring or jarring.” To that end, Porro makes a “bright” shelf using diffused LED strips embedded in the metal structure of the shelves. Porro also makes lighted drawers with clear-glass “windows” through which to see the contents below. He also said that the use of LED in internal closet cabinetry is replacing the use of puck lights attached to the underside of a shelf, “which was never all that nice to look at.”

Browse our Remodeling 101 posts for more home project ideas:

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