The News & Observer, By Iris June Vinegar


Gone is the depressing, lethargic mood that clung during the long dark winter and made it tough to get up and face the world each morning. Known to therapists as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), aka winter blahs, it usually disappears with the onset of spring and daylight-saving time.

But SAD doesn’t have to be an annual winter occurrence. The disorder is treatable with light—artificial or sunlight—that can brighten your mood as well as your surroundings. And whether the lighting is decorative or strictly functional, when designed creatively it can bring your home to life.

“Creative lighting is achieved by accessing each area of the home,” explains interior designer Pat Cashman. Decisions, she adds, are made on proper room lighting, creation of moods, decorative accenting, as well as the furniture or art pieces to be accented.

Cashman’s Raleigh-based company, Today’s Interiors, designed the lighting and interior of Bella Casa, an 8,200 square-foot masonry house in the Hills of Rosemont community of Chatham County. The $2.3 million Mediterranean-style home built by Bost Custom Homes garnered four MAME awards from the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County and was featured in a recent charity event.

“Light done right can make a world of difference in the home,” notes Cashman. “It can create atmosphere and beauty way beyond just decorating and furnishing.” The Bella Casa features curvilinear lighting that creates a moonlit effect.

Over the staircase, for example, the green, gold and blue colors in the stained-glass skylight dome sparkle from natural light. But at night, when the skylight is backlit with incandescent lights, the colors are even bolder.

The living room features a double backlit tray ceiling that reflects off the white limestone fireplace. The massive contrasting beams in the room were made from reclaimed cypress trees along the Cape Fear River.

In the dining room, three black southwestern-style chandeliers hang from the ceiling at different heights and intertwine as one to illuminate the table below. The foyer features decorative alabaster glass sconces in iron bases while “eyeball” lighting in the library spotlights the bookcases.

In the master bedroom, rope walking has been installed along the inside of the tray ceiling and hidden lighting installed inside the bed canopy. An exterior floodlight illuminates the glass block around the hot tub in the master bath and there’s a recessed light in the shower.

In addition to the recessed lighting in the theater, other lights connected to the audio-video system dim when the picture comes on.

Throughout the home, Cashman notes, the lighting was chosen by the designer to make a statement for each specific room.

The owners of the Bella Casa, Connie and Bob McKenna, moved from Atlanta to the Triangle area where Bob McKenna is president and CEO of MEMA. The couple bought the Mediterranean-style home after the interior was designed.

“There are things I may not have chosen,” said Connie McKenna, “but they look great where they are. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Even if Paula and Robert Underwood weren’t selling their four-year-old English country home in North Raleigh’s Faircroft community, the couple wouldn’t change a thing either. The stunning 5,537 square-foot home with detached studio/office is listed with Bonnie Dyer of Signature Properties for $1.4 million.

Lighting, notes Paula Underwood, is one of the most important features of their home because of the warmth it evokes. “On a dark day I like the indoors to feel like the outdoors.”

The interior lighting of the Underwoods’ home was designed by Greg Spigner of House of Lights of Cary. He installed cove lighting—a light source tucked behind crown molding, on beams or in a cove. “Just another way to add light discreetly to a room,” says Spigner who designed lighting for many of the Triangle’s well-known builders.

In the kitchen, for example, strip lights hidden below the custom cabinets reflect off the tile backsplash and brighten the entire room. “This type of light gives you the true white light just like halogen but with approximately 40 percent less heat and a lamp life five times greater,” Spigner explains.

The cozy feeling in the dining and living rooms is created with nsl brite strips, which add another layer of light to the cove. It is fully dimmable, notes Spigner, “so you can create subtle ambience for an intimate dinner party or full brightness for a family celebration.” Above the dining table is an English country house chandelier with six lamps. “I like them,” notes Underwood, the owner, “because they are less formal and create a more relaxed atmosphere.”

In the media room, the recessed lights with decorative pendants over the bar can be used for back lighting. But when entertaining, they can be dimmed for a more subtle glow to the bar. Although the pendants could have been used as the only source of light over the bar, Spigner explains, they were really put there for decoration.

“Nothing adds ambience to a room more than layering the lighting,” he notes. And to enhance the architecture of a room, the designer suggests wall sconces, recessed lighting and cove lighting, as well as a chandelier with dimmers to set the mood.

Of course, all that ambience doesn’t come cheap—lighting for a 3,000 square-foot home, according to Spigner, could cost anywhere from $4,500 to $6,000.

But listen! You wouldn’t have to escape to Florida or Tahiti for sunshine and you could save another bundle next winter without the shrink.