Well-placed flourescent lighting can create the illusion of a skylight, bringing light to the interior of the showroom.

Lighting is a vital showroom tool. And it’s particularly important for the role it plays in color rendition. You want to make sure that your products look appealing and saleable!

With more than 3,500 electric light sources to choose from, lamp selection can be quite a challenge. While color is among the most important considerations, efficiency, life and price also are important factors. The selection process generally involves accepting compromises on some lamp features in order to optimize others.

I’ve put together some general information about lamps to help you in your selection process. Even so, obtaining help from a lighting professional may be your best route to success. Most lighting suppliers employ experts who are more than willing to help you choose the best lighting for what you want to accomplish.

Track lighting can "wash" a wall with light. Track lights can emit warm light that enhances product presentation and draw consumer attention to specific areas of your showroom.

Types of electrical light sources

The three basic sources of electrical light are classified asincandescent, fluorescentandhigh-intensity discharge(HID). Each type has different color rendition effects.

Incandescent lamps generate what is called “white” light. The spectrum of light they emit is continuous, with no gaps or spikes in the entire range of visible energy. Therefore, a smooth curve with more light in the red and orange part of the spectrum, and less in the blue and green wavelengths, is the visual result. Incandescent lamps most often found in the home produce “yellow-white” light.

Halogen lamps are a special category of incandescent lamps that produce a “whiter” or “crisper” light than a standard incandescent. Halogen lamps become more appealing when dimmed, as they tend to reinforce the impression of relaxation or intimacy.

Because they generate light in all parts of the visible spectrum, incandescent lamps are the best light sources for color rendition. They render all object colors well, although red and orange object colors are rendered more vividly than blue and violet.

Incandescent lamp color is very well suited for applications where a warm environment with good color rendering is desired. Examples of these areas would include retail, hospitality, beauty salons, and residential environments.

Fluorescent lamps are the most universally accepted lighting types for commercial applications because they are economical to buy and operate. However, they destroy or distort the color of most products in their cool ranges. More than 35 types of “white” fluorescent lamps are available. Choose a warm lamp at 3,200K (Kelvin), or less, to reinforce impressions of relaxation. Lamps in the range of 4,100K, tend to reinforce visual clarity and efficiency. Look for bulbs with CRI (color rendering index) values greater than 90 for good object color.

High-intensity discharge (HID) lighting was designed largely for roadway illumination, industrial lighting, building flood lighting and security lighting. Happily, things progress. From a color standpoint, the largest variety of new products falls within the HID family of lamps. MasterColor from Philips, Constant Color from General Electric and Metalarc® Pro-Tech from Osram-Sylvania are metal halide light sources with high CRI values.

Metal halide lamps consume only 22 watts, yet produce illumination equal to that of a 90-watt halogen or 120-watt incandescent lamp. They are especially well suited for retail lighting and architectural interiors. One step better for object color is the White SON® HPS lamps from Philips. With a CRI of 85 and an appearance similar to incandescent, it work particularly well for retail lighting.

Looking for theatrical? Check into Venture Lighting Designer Color lamps that generate light of saturated colors.

Planning the system

You’ll want to plan the lighting system in your showroom to accommodate general illumination, localized lighting and accent lighting. Lighting can help you to draw attention to various products or areas. In fact, it can actually direct people through your showroom and act as a silent salesman of sorts. A system can be constructed to make a design statement, or it can be completely hidden from view.

Permanence vs. changeability

Some showroom owners and managers believe in changing the scenery often to promote a fresh look. This can play havoc with a lighting system, so consider change from the outset of your system planning process.

I’ve seen showrooms where the lighting is wired for maximum flexibility so that it can be reconfigured to accommodate constantly changing displays. None of the light placements are permanent, and the showroom owner can redesign and reposition all of the lighting. There’s a theatrical-style lighting system by the German manufacturer Erco that sets the lights on tracks that are equally spaced and run back-to-front in the room. This way, each display can be lit differently and adjusted to suit the display.

Be sure to join me again next month for the next installment of Showroom Management. I’ll discuss how to go about hiring a showroom attendant — potentially one of the most important decisions you can make to ensure the success of your floor covering operation.