Got a lighting problem? Give it to a college student learning about lighting design, and you’re sure to get a creative solution.
At least that’s what happened when Chatsworth, CA-based Lamps Plus Professionals and the National Kitchen and Bath Association  (NKBA) challenged students at 54 NKBA-accredited institutions to develop innovative lighting solutions for the kitchen and bath. Lamps Plus Professionals, the online program for builders and designers of lighting retailer LAMPS PLUS, gave the students access to its extensive offering of products.
“We really did get a lot of diverse solutions,” says Sherylin Doyle, Manager of Academic Relations for the NKBA.
As part of the first-ever Lighting for Life Design Challenge, students were required to use at least two Lamps Plus Professionals  products as part of their solution, and they had to include a drawing or floor plan to illustrate their concept.
Instructors at each school were allowed to submit up to three student projects, and the judges selected three finalists, each of whom will win a $500 scholarship and a $1,000 travel stipend to attend the awards ceremony at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show  in Chicago on April 10.
According to Doyle, the most common problems that students tried to address were how to increase daylighting in a home and how to use lighting to improve a home’s universal design. Competition judges were especially impressed with the originality of the three finalists.
Briana Bjerke, a student at Alexandria Technical College in Alexandria, MN, was crowned this year’s winner for her outdoor kitchen project.
In her design statement, Bjerke references homeowners’ desire to grill and entertain outdoors. But, as she explains, it’s often hard to see near the grill in the dark. To solve the design problem, Bjerke installed three wall sconces behind the grill, two floor posts on either side of the cooking area and deck sconces along the toe kick underneath the cabinets to light the area from below.
Lacey Madsen, a junior majoring in interior design at Brigham Young University in Rexburg, ID, used real-life couple as inspiration for her project. The couple has very specific needs as the wife suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder and the husband is an art collector. Madsen created a lighting scheme for their top-floor apartment that would appease both of them.
Madsen’s design featured a dramatic chandelier hanging over the central table in the kitchen— a focal point for the Art Nouveau home. “It’s very organic,” explains Madsen. “People around here like to call it the seaweed chandelier.”
In the kitchen, Madsen used recessed cans, undercabinet lighting and overhead lighting that reflected up to the ceiling to increase the ambient light in the space. Madsen also recommended using full-spectrum lighting throughout the house, which emits light that’s more similar to daylight and better for people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
To light the artwork throughout the couple’s home, Madsen chose wall-mounted fixtures that would showcase the paintings. She also suggested installing a glass dome skylight to increase daylight in the home, which would help bring out the true colors in the paintings.
Theresa Croyle, a student from Century College in Minneapolis, MN, came in third place for her design that illustrated how a homeowner could add undercabinet lighting in the kitchen without hiring an electrician. Croyle suggested using rope lighting, which can be easily and economically installed, to line the underside of a row of cabinets.
In addition to donating money to the winners, Lamps Plus Professionals also agreed to pay for each of the winners’ instructors to attend the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show—something Doyle says is important in making sure that those who teach lighting design are kept up-to-date with changes going on in the kitchen and bath industry.
The goal of the contest was to raise awareness about lighting among future interior designers, said a Lamps Plus Professionals spokesperson. Of course, the retailer hopes those students will end up becoming loyal Lamps Plus Professionals customers.
“We were very impressed by all of the students’ submissions,” says Angela Hsu, Vice President of Internet Marketing at LampsPlus.com . “It’s a wonderful way for us to reach out to future designers and help inspire their work.”