Expert Nathan Orsman's Best Lighting Tips

Expert Nathan Orsman's Best Lighting Tips

Expert Nathan Orsman’s Best Lighting Tips

abstract, ai, art

When in doubt, what do we do? We leave it to the experts for advice. They’ve seen it all, done it all, and made all the mistakes, so we don’t have to repeat them.

Fortunately, lighting expert Nathan Orsman has some phenomenal lighting tips for general interior and exterior design as well as advice for lighting up pictures and other forms of artwork.

Let’s see what Orsman has to say about illuminating our space.

Opt for several sources of lighting in a room.

Stop for a minute and think of how many sources of lighting you have in each room in your home or yard. Probably not many, right?

According to Orsman,

“We’re currently working with Jean-Louis Deniot and met with him in his apartment in Paris. His living room has 18 sources of light. That includes floor lamps, candles, sconces, chandelier, downlight. All doing their own little thing to create a perfect space to enjoy at night.”

While 18 sources of illumination can be a bit much, Orsman makes a great point that utilizing several types of lighting and different fixtures can make a space the best that it can be.

This is especially important as one of the biggest mistakes people make when illuminating their indoor or outdoor space. People tend to only make use of one type of illumination (e.g., accent, task, or ambient lighting) and/or only use one or one type of fixture (e.g., recessed lighting, lamps, etc.).

Black Metal Frame Clear Glass Store Display Cabinet over Semi Flush Lamp

The idea behind lighting up a space is to make it versatile. Ensure it is plenty filled with different styles of lighting. Don’t make lighting bland and boring. Make it stand out. The only way to allow it stand out is to make use of an array of multiple lights.

Install sconces at eye level, and let light bounce in different 


Nathan Orsman found that when wall sconces are installed at eye level, they produce the best type of lighting. He goes on to say,

“We’re working on a house for Eric Ripert, and he has such an appreciation for lighting. He’s in a business that involves ambience and creating special moments. For his home, he asked to see the sparkle in people’s eyes. If you only have down lighting, you can’t create that. You need sconces at eye level to have the ability to reflect light through the eyes.”

Based on this piece of advice from Orsman, the idea of having illumination at eye level to “see the sparkle in people’s eyes” is interesting. That alone can make for a great design feature in a space, something that doesn’t just light up the room but also the features of people and even other objects in a room.

Let your illumination reflect and bounce, not just shine downwards as Orsman states in his above quote.

Focus on the circadian rhythm when opting for light fixtures.

Did you know that a popular trend in light fixtures nowadays is providing lighting that is better for one’s circadian rhythm? It’s true.

Just like with natural light, artificial light can change the 24-hour clock in our brains, affecting our sleep, mood, and energy levels. Nathan Orsman discusses the importance of ensuring your lights are circadian rhythm-friendly:

“We’re doing more work in regard to circadian rhythm for our health-oriented clients. For a client’s basement-level music studio, we’re creating a sense of day and night. It really affects people’s moods. We also design systems with day and night options for the lighting schemes that are easy for the client to adjust although it affects up to 300 lighting circuits.”

Implementing a balance of whiter, more natural, brighter lights with warmer lights can create a more versatile interior design illumination-wise and provide different types of lighting depending on the time of day and whatever tasks you are completing.

Understand different types of recessed lighting when lighting 


You probably didn’t know all of the technical details about recessed lighting, especially when it comes to ensuring your artwork is well-lit.

Nathan Orsman has good information about recessed lighting when it comes to lighting up pictures:

“In terms of recessed lighting, the bulb or glass lens must be regressed and not at the ceiling plane. The regressed pushes it up and reduces the glare so your pupil dilates correctly and you can see the painting properly.”

So, before installing recessed lighting, replay Orsman’s advice in your head to ensure it is properly installed and best represents a piece you may be trying to light up.

art, fashion, fashionable

Be strategic when picking out color temperature.

Everyone knows that color temperature can make a significant impact in any space, indoor or outdoor. But just how important is it really?

Nathan Orsman knows exactly what’s up:

“The color of light is massively important. You need to pick the perfect temperature. Some people want a cool, contemporary white, but it’s very hard to live in day to day, even though it seems new and fresh. The spaces that attract you long term are warmer spaces that are not overly lit. After all, you don’t want to live in a refrigerator.”

The last sentence in Orsman’s above quote says it perfectly. Do you really want to live in a space that has refrigerator lighting or one that offers attractive illumination that isn’t going to kill your eyes? If you said the latter, you’re already on your way to proper home lighting.

Even if you’re the type of person who is big on cooler-colored lighting, it wouldn’t hurt to add both cooler and warmer colors in the same design. Opt for warmer lights for your main source of lighting, and perhaps throw in some cooler-lighting pieces to switch on when you feel like it.

But nevertheless, when it comes to living or sleeping spaces, warmer illumination overpowers cooler illumination. But balance is integral.

Know the differences between different LED bulbs

Different brands offer different quality LED bulbs. Knowing what to look for is the first major step in selecting the best LED bulbs for your space.

Nathan Orsman makes a great point that there is no “standard” when it comes to LED bulbs; they can vary so drastically from one another:

“Everyone wants to use 2700 Kelvin, which is a soft white, but each LED manufacturer has a different version of that. Incandescent used to show everything in a normal way, but with LED it can go cooler, more pink, or more blues.”

That said, strategically picking out your LED bulbs (or whatever bulb you decide to opt for) is important, especially if you’re picky with the type of illumination you want to offer in your space.

However, if you’re still new to LED, check out one of our blog articles on why you should go the LED route.

Decide what you want to emphasize when highlighting 

outdoor sculptures.

For many, illuminating outdoor sculptures can be much trickier than lighting up a painting. Of course, when you have 360 degrees and potentially a larger work, of course it isn’t going to always be easy-peasy!

angel, art, artwork

But here’s what Orsman has to say about illuminating a sculpture in your exterior design:

“For outdoor light, you’re working in 360 degrees, so you’re going to see the light source. You need to establish a hierarchy of where you’re going to see the sculpture from and then place the lighting. Keep in mind the shadowing and lighting on the ground affects how you look at the piece just as much as the light directly on the art.”

Based on Orsman’s advice, he suggests finding an area of a sculpture or other three-dimensional piece that you love the most and want others to immediately draw their eyes to. Position it correctly before installing a source of light.

Once you’ve got this down, making your sculpture the star of a design with the proper illumination isn’t so hard after all.

Use the right era when picking out art lights for your artwork.

When picking out lights for artwork, it makes sense to keep the age of the lights in sync with the age or style of the work of art you’re trying to light.

As Nathan Orsman states, you have to look at the big picture, literally. See both your art lights and your artwork as one piece that works together as a whole:

“Old-fashioned art lights just blobbed light at the top center of a painting. With more contemporary art, it’s about seeing the whole piece. In modern homes, a traditional art light just doesn’t aesthetically fit.”

Wouldn’t you agree that maintain the era of a piece is important to ensure it is best represented? Otherwise, things will immediately clash. Even if they don’t per say clash, your painting will, however, be viewed in different light (literally but mostly figuratively).

Based on the latter point, use art lights in a way that work with your piece, not against it.

Understand that different art media absorb light differently.

Regardless of the type of art you’re trying to light – sculptures, paintings, drawings, photographs, etc. – understand that materials can make a significant difference in how an artwork appears under a certain light.

But one art light or picture light will not be the same when utilized for a different piece of work, according to Nathan Orsman:

“With Rothkos, it’s all about warming it up and keeping it at a dim level, because they eat the light. An Anish Kapoor disc is the trickiest to light, because you if you have more than one light source you have two reflections. On the other hand, a COR-TEN Serra sculpture absorbs light unlike a shiny aluminum sculpture.”

That said, you might have to play around with different types of illumination to find the best fit for your piece of art. The process may seem long and/or tedious, but installing the right art lights can truly make an artwork pop the way you want it to.


Expert Nathan Orsman is a great go-to for everything pertaining to lighting, can you agree? From his general lighting advice to his witty tips for best illuminating artwork to its best benefit, Orsman knows exactly what he’s talking about.

Why not follow Orsman in his footsteps and try out some of his tips for yourself?

Head on over to for the Web’s best picture lights, barn lights, wall sconces, bulkheads, and other art lights and general fixtures for your interior and exterior space. With a wide selection of colors and styles to pick from, your space will be on the mark soon enough.

4th Jul 2018 Priscilla E

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