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Let the Right Light In

RightLightIn Cover Photo


Soothing overhead and bedside light at a Rockwell Primaries unit

No matter how big, small, or furnished a home, its beauty relies on how it’s seen. “Lighting makes or breaks a space,” says architect Nikki Escalona-Tayag. “If you don’t properly light a space, you highlight the flaws of the architecture—bumps in painting, improper installation of wallpaper. At the same time, there’s a decorative aspect where you can create moods and draw eyes to what you feel needs to be highlighted.”



Architect and interior lighting designer Nikki Escalona-Tayag

Earning a master’s from Parsons in lighting design, Nikki returned from New York last year to put up WE Design, a lighting-centered architecture and interiors firm. From brightening boutiques to spotlighting art, she and partner Mark Wilson get creative in illuminating interiors.

While lighting should correspond to lifestyle, Nikki shares a primer on how to keep any living space well lit.



As a living room welcomes a variety of people into your home, it helps to match lighting to scenario. “If you like to entertain, it’s usually best to have two scenes: a bright scene and a dim scene,” says Nikki.

With a dimmer, different scenes can be achieved. Otherwise, consider kelvin or color temperature: 2,700 K and lower makes for a warm tone; 3,000-3,500 K is neutral; and higher than that is the coolest, similar to daylight. A brighter mood keeps visiting parents or in-laws from squinting and a muted and lounge-inspired setting is perfect for when friends are over.


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Foscarini table lamp from Dimensione

“I would also recommend portable lamps for the living room, whether tall or short, so that you have the flexibility to move them around,” adds Nikki. “Especially if you’re the type of person to buy a new sofa or armchair every now and then and you want to redecorate and move some pieces.”

The Bedroom

“A bedroom really is a place of rest so you should never over-light it,” says Nikki. Besides overhead lights, she recommends portable bedside lamps that cast warmer tones “so you don’t feel like you’re in a hospital or airport lounge.” Bedroom lighting is also an opportunity to highlight statement pieces: a painting illuminated by a clasp light or furniture spotlit by a wall mount.


Sticky lamps from Dimensione

Sticky lamp from Dimensione

Dining Area

It’s not only important to highlight what’s on the table but those gathered around it. “You never put light behind the person’s head because it’s going to look like Halloween,” says Nikki, who recommends a centerpiece or pendant light in the middle of the dining table. This illuminates guests’ faces, especially combating the unflattering tone caused by perimeter cove lighting in many condominiums.

The Kitchen

In an area as task-driven as a kitchen, go for two layers of light. “You don’t want to cut yourself,” says Nikki, who recommends bright fluorescent or LED lighting overhead. To reduce the shock of light, a diffuser can be attached to the light fixture. And when the kitchen isn’t in use, an LED or fluorescent strip under kitchen cabinets can be kept on as a guiding light when the household is asleep.


“You always have to think Hollywood,” Nikki says of lavatory lighting, which is best when mounted on the mirror or recessed at its sides. “Make sure your face is directly lit so you can eliminate shadows from overhead lights.”

Beauty-conscious bulbs have a high CRI (Color Rendering Index). “If your bulb’s CRI is high, it stays true to the color,” says Nikki. “If you’re lighting your face, true undertones really pop so you can see both your flaws and your beauty. Especially good for women who like to do their face in the bathroom.”


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 Photo by Ina Jacobe


Unlike high-maintenance halogen lights, LED lights can complement a space (and your face) without using up too much energy. Nikki notes the advancement in technology and the variety of LEDs that have become available in the past three years, allowing you to pick a bulb that works for your lighting purposes. “There are different levels of LEDs now that are very affordable and still at par with high-end ones,” says Nikki, citing G.E. and Philips’s middle range of LEDs that come with warranties and pack six years of power in them—even when used 24 hours a day.

“What I love is a chandelier bulb that’s 2,200 K with a warm, white color,” says Nikki. “It’s made in Taiwan, reasonably priced, and gives a beautiful candlelight glow. When I have a massage at home, I just turn it on and that’s it: I feel like I’m at a spa. For me, the lamps and fixtures are all secondary. It’s the bulb that’s important.”


turtle lamp

Artisan turtle lamps from Kultura


Where to find standout lights? Nikki points toward Pasong Tamo Extension or Reposo in Makati. “There are a lot of industrial designers along those streets who also sell lights and lamps from Cebu, Pampanga, and from around the Philippines—very artisan Filipino designers.”




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