Talkin’ Closets
April 14, 2009 - 12:00pm

Q: “Randall, I have a question about color-corrective lights in the closet. Will they look harsh or fluorescent-like? Should they be on dimmers? I would like the closets to have a pleasant, boutique feeling.”

A: A boutique feeling? Are you selling something out of your closet? I’m intrigued.

Perhaps I will finally learn Victoria’s secret. You should have two kinds of illumination in the closet. The first is incandescent, which would be general illumination, located along the centerline of the closet ceiling. The second needs to be color-corrected fluorescent. It would be task lighting, located above the clothing. It would be good to mount it to the underside

of the shelf, which is normally situated above the hanging rods.

The incandescent lighting above the clothes in this closet is too amber, shifting the clothing colors toward yellow, turning reds to orange and blues to green.

 I know, every time I mention the word “fluorescent,” people tend to break out in hives. Believe me, color-corrected lighting is essential to the overall lighting of a closet. Daylight fluorescent (5,000 degrees Kelvin) is a really effective way of seeing the true colors of fabrics, leather goods, rubber—or whatever materials your wardrobe comprises. People normally just walk over to the nearest window to see true color. If we always had this option, it would be the right thing to do, but most closets do not have natural light (which would fade clothes). And even if there is natural light, most of us are getting dressed before the sun is up anyway.

 These special full-spectrum daylight fluorescents are very close to the color of natural daylight, which is the color of light you are seen in during the day. They allow you to pick out your clothes as if standing near a window. The subtle differences between white, off-white, bone and cream or black, charcoal and navy blue will be readily apparent. This is not true for incandescent light. It shifts colors dramatically.

 My recommendation is to use the fluorescent lights when pulling outfits together for daytime use, then they can be turned off at night for putting together ensembles for the theater, movies or the International House of Pancakes. You see, at night we are normally going to places lit with incandescent lighting, so you can freely dress while bathed in the amber glow of incandescent illumination—which I know is still your favorite. And please: Let me know when your boutique has a sale.

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