design lesson: lighting, an interview with Matt Leslie

Every project needs good lighting and probably none more than the bathroom. We all want our bathroom lighting to do little miracles for us; flatter us each morning, give us good light for grooming and low light for soothing baths. Lighting considerations include function, safety and of course, aesthetics. To get the scoop on the ins and outs of lighting options we asked Matt Leslie from Copperline Electric (who is working on the electrical for our bathroom) to weigh in on some of the most interesting and concerning lighting issues of the moment. (Note: ‘lamps’ are the industry term for light bulbs)

 urban farm girl: What is the most significant change in the lighting world today?

Matt: That would have to be LED lamps. Light Emitting Diodes (LED’s) are a very efficient form of lighting. These lamps normally aren’t much bigger that 11 watts, yet can produce more light than that of an old fashioned (incandescent) 100 watt light bulb. LED’s have a large color range, which provides many options along the color spectrum, from warm yellow to cool blue-white as conventional lamps do, but are also available in virtually any color. Due to their large blanketing flood, LED’s are often able to replace existing lamps and light that same area much more effectively for a fraction of the cost in hydro.

urban farm girl: For those gadget minded folks, what are some high-tech lighting options?

Matt: One of the most exciting items we are installing right now is Caseta, by Lutron. This is a wireless switching system that can be controlled by your smart phone and the use of a hub via your internet router. Once a switch is installed to control a light you can then use wireless switches to control it from multiple locations. You can set timers with your smart phone for any time of the day, or to follow sunrise or sunset. Imagine pulling out your phone and telling Siri to “turn on the kitchen lights”. The system also offers an event mode. For example, you could have a party mode that would dim the chandelier in the dining room, turn on the kitchen overhead and valance lights and softly light the hallways all from one touch on your smartphone. Another option that I really like is geo fencing. You’re able to set a “bubble” around your house. When you come home, and your smart phone crosses the perimeter of this bubble, any lights that you have programmed will turn on. So you’re never coming home to a dark house outside or inside. One other great feature of this product is that it can be tied in with Nest products such as thermostats and smoke/CO detectors. In the event of an alarm the smoke/CO detectors will tell the thermostat to shut the furnace off as it could be causing the problem or feeding air to a fire. Any lights programmed will also be told to turn on so that you can see when trying to leave the house. So as you can see, this product has many benefits.

urban farm girl: There is a lot of press lately about the dangers of CFL’s. Why is it important to get rid of them and how do we dispose of them properly?

Matt: The big concern with compact florescent lamps is the mercury gas used in the process of illuminating the coating on the lamp. When these lamps are broken, which can happen quite easily, the mercury gas is then released into the air. This is not good because mercury gas is toxic. In the event of a broken lamp you should open the window and leave the area for a while to let the gas dissipate, before cleaning it up. To dispose of a CFL properly it must be taken to a recycling depot while the lamp is still intact. Do not throw them into the garbage.

urban farm girl: What are some of the basics of good lighting?

Matt: Good lighting to me means having a lot of it. I like to be able to put the room a little too bright and then dim it down to the right level. The big thing to avoid is shadowing. You could have enough lights to light up a stadium in your bathroom, but if you look in the mirror and your face is covered in shadow, they are useless. Function must work with design.

urban farm girl: We have all heard of folks who try to do their electrical work themselves. Why is it important to hire a licensed electrical contractor? I recommend homeowners meet with and check references for any tradesperson working on their home. What are the most important questions for a homeowner to ask before hiring a licensed electrical contractor?

Matt: It is important to hire a licensed electrical contractor for a few reasons. Wiring can be complicated and if done wrong, not only could it cause a fire or kill someone, there are also legal regulations that guide electrical work. What homeowners may not realize is there are many steps to becoming a licensed electrical contractor; starting with apprentice, licensed electrician, master electrician and finally licensed electrical contractor. Licensed electrical contractors, in addition to the homeowner, are the only ones that can take out a permit for electrical work on a house and all electrical work requires a permit and inspection from the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA). So when hiring, the most important thing homeowners need to ask for would be their ESA/ECRA number. This is the number issued to an electrical contractor by ESA. You can also go on ESA’s website to find a list of electrical contractors in your area.

Matt Leslie is a licensed electrical contractor and the owner of Copperline Electric. Since 2011, Matt has been a leader in the industry providing high quality, licensed residential and commercial electrical service in London and Southwestern Ontario. With proper electrical permits, you’ll feel safe in your home knowing your electrical work was completed with the highest quality, and is up to local code requirements. All that, and, in this humble urban farm girl’s opinion, one heck of a nice guy to work with. xo


  1. Gabrielle

    The title peeked my interest to hear about basic lighting for bathroom… Such as what type and how many for each a rule of thumb…sink,shower, bath, general overhead etc. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rachel

      Thanks for the great question! There are so many variables to consider; the size of the room, any natural lighting sources (window/skylight), free standing tub or tub/shower combo… Overall, to ensure your bathroom lighting creates the little miracles I spoke of: 1) make sure there is enough general lighting (overhead) which could be a central ceiling fixture or a few pot lights and 2) task lighting at the vanity mirror. I prefer two wall sconces flanking the mirror because the sideways flood of light is more flattering than overhead. Just make sure they aren’t placed too far apart, if they are (due to an oversized vanity or mirror), go for a combination of overhead and wall sconces. Put all lights on dimmers, it makes getting just the right mood for a bath super easy. If you decide to use LED’s, choose those at the warmer end of the spectrum, 2700K or even 3000K will produce beautiful warm light that will flatter any skin tone – stay away from the cool white-blue tones. If you have a stand alone shower, make sure you include an overhead or pot light that is rated for wet areas. For a small bathroom, one large overhead light and two wall sconces at the vanity might be all you need. xo


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