This week I want to address the subject of using working lighting samples.  I have two meetings booked in over the next couple of weeks where I will be trouble-shooting lighting that both of my new clients are extremely unhappy with.  What stunned me was that they both had no idea of what lights they were getting until after they were installed.  And then they didn’t like them…

Even when I worked with halogen and incandescent light sources, which didn’t differ a lot in performance or in the colour of the light that they produced I felt the need to show my clients the actual downlights, groundlights, recessed floor washers, recessed step washers, etc. that I was proposing.  LED Light sources vary so massively in the amount and colour of the light they create so I feel showing samples has become an essential part of the design process.  My clients will have these lights in their homes for the next 5, 10, 15 or more years so I ensure that they can “try before they buy”.  I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing that someone had committed to 150 downlights, for example, sight unseen.  I can’t think of a single client who when offered the opportunity to view working samples hasn’t taken me up on it.  I am amazed that this isn’t standard practise by anyone supplying lights, but it seems to be far rarer than I expected.

I know that I can hire people who can guesstimate the look with Photoshop or some of the other 3D visualising programs like Revit (AKA creating CGIs).  I know that there’s software out there that models the lighting effects and amount of light created by a lot of the different types of lights around – I’ve used both of the market leaders myself.  I now have people who do this for me much quicker than I can because it’s what they do day in day out.

So, I want to tell you now that there is absolutely no shame at all in using samples.  Sam Coles Lighting couldn’t function as a business without our working samples.  Here’s one of the crates of samples that I regularly pack into the boot of the car to show to my clients all wired up ready to show:

Light samples in a cardboard box

This is because even after being in lighting for more than 17 years I still believe there’s absolutely nothing like the real thing.  If I like and need to see the real thing with all of my experience, then is there really anything wrong with you doing the same for your project?  My recommendation is that if you’re doing your own specifying and/or buying, don’t be embarrassed at the thought of buying some samples, even if you have to pay your electrician to turn them into wire them up for you.  You may be lucky and may be able to get some on a sale or return basis.  But, if you can only see it as an unnecessary cost and hassle try to see it as protecting yourself from potentially wasting what could be an awful lot of time and money.  And, if you’re being advised by someone else who’s supplying your lighting to you shouldn’t you be prompting them for samples if they haven’t already offered them to you?

Please pass this advice on to anyone that you think might need it.  What are your thoughts on samples – are they worth it or not?

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