The magic of ADAPTIVE’s 8 layers of lighting design


As the lighting category becomes more prevalent among integrators, the ability to provide lighting design expertise can be a major differentiator. Anyone can load a ceiling with 400 recessed lights and on-site arms, but the end result will be a lack of artistry, professional coordination, and it will do the homeowner a disservice with improper lighting.

Renowned lighting designer and creator Glenn Merlin Johnson of Adaptive Design Group developed the ADAPTIVE® method of lighting design which identifies his eight distinct layers of lighting.

Once learned, the methodology can allow an integrator to better communicate to the customer the value of quality lighting design and products associated with integrated dimming controls. Johnson partners with members of the CEDIA channel to offer expertise to take their lighting business to the next level. Important to note, Adaptive Design Group only practices nationwide in luxury residential design and engineering and does not meddle in the supply or distribution of products.

Johnson, whose book “The Art of Illumination” has been used in 25 colleges and universities, has been providing high-end lighting designs to architects, integrators and owners for 38 years.

“I don’t trade…99% of what I do is custom residential lighting design nationwide,” he says. “When I wrote the book in 1998 and 1999, no one even knew what a lighting designer was. To be a lighting designer is to know all about the art of lighting and to be fully engaged with the latest products and technologies.

Johnson laughs, “I love this quote, ‘There are only two kinds of light, the glow that illuminates the glare that obscures.’ Every customer understands this quote because they live primarily in glare. They do not live in beautiful light environments that accentuate architecture, art, colors, furnishings, and finishes. Light overlay is a very serious methodical process.

Johnson believes the best lighting design application is one in which the homeowner doesn’t even realize a lighting designer has been involved. Lighting should be natural rather than something obvious. Too often, when there is no seasoned lighting designer involved, the placement and amount of lighting is determined by the architect’s generic building permit package and the subcontractors offering the product. the cheapest because there were very few or no specifications.

“Poor lighting can destroy the cool architecture of a multi-million dollar home. It can often look like the house is lit up for the holidays. isn’t the one adding the lighting and electrical items into the blueprints for permission purposes they have an intern just throwing circles over the blueprints standard switch symbols and power for the purposes no one asks, ‘Is it correct? Should we do this? Should we tell our customer that these electrical sheets are really disposable sheets?

Instead, the plans simply say “5-inch LED box and decorative lighting symbols”. Placing 400 recessed cans 4 feet apart in the center of a ceiling does not apply light art,” he laments.

Johnson says most large residential projects will definitely have an architect and an interior designer, but “that’s only half the team. You need a designer like Adaptive Design Group for lighting control and electrical, and you need a CEDIA integrator for audio, video, networking, cybersecurity and security physical. This “technical team” is essential to lead the owners and the architect and interior designers on these complex applications. »

ADAPTIVE’s 8 layers of light

The ADAPTIVE Method®, Johnson’s trademark, addresses everything from showcasing architecture and art to revealing interior and exterior views to decorating a home. It also discusses task and aisle lighting and the critical magic created with integrated lighting controls.

Importantly, Johnson’s 8 layers are magically spelled ADAPTIVE.

Layer #1: A = Architecture

The first layer of light is about beautifying the architecture by coordinating ceiling designs with tray and cloud ceilings, and adding coves or other elements that can provide indirect lighting that maximizes the volume of the interior. ‘space. Additionally, ceiling beams, columns and stone walls can be lightly brushed against to create shadows and dimension inside and out.

Layer #2: D = Decorative

The second layer of light in the ADAPTIVE Method is the decorative layer.

“It’s the ‘jewelry’ added to the architecture, like rings, watches and necklaces,” Johnson describes. Decorative light fixtures are not necessarily intended for room lighting, but are primarily decorative “accessories” that are essential to the appearance of the space. Examples could be pendant lights, wall sconces, side table and sofa lamps for reading, etc.

Layer #3: A = Art

Planning the illumination of artwork in a home is essential. Typically, architectural and interior design plans indicate where potential cabinetry, furniture, tile, and flooring will go, but not where owner artwork and potential artwork such as paintings and the sculptures will be placed, according to Johnson. As part of Adaptive Design Group’s design and planning, detailed drawings show all potential art locations, which are coordinated with owners and the design team.

“The first time I see a set of plans, I start working on a house’s artistic program,” says Johnson. “We stimulate artistic opportunities at home, whether it’s flat art or dimensional art.

Layer #4: P = Path

Johnson admits that path lighting is usually the layer of light that architects and contractors are very good at deploying. A lighting designer can take it to the next level by not only providing general lighting throughout the space, but by using strategically placed small aperture fixtures and other techniques to light a path to see moving through the spaces.

Layer #5: T = Task

Task lighting means illuminating all work surfaces including vanities, makeup, shaving, walk-in closets, prep areas in kitchens with under cabinet lighting, kitchen islands, cabinets and laundry rooms . Lighting these work areas with the correct color temperatures and CRI is critical to the success of these functional spaces.

Layer #6: I = Interior Decoration

The key to effectively designing light for a home’s interior design is knowing the types and locations of furniture, colors, finishes, murals, carvings, rugs, stones, tiles, and accessories. . Johnson says, “As seasoned lighting designers, we become the architect’s and interior designers’ best friends because we will never spoil their work, we will only add to their enjoyment.

“One of the big mistakes even professional lighting designers make is lighting people up,” says Johnson. “We never want to light people other than when they’re in front of the vanities or in front of the dressing mirror in the wardrobe. When lighting overhead people in a seating area or dining table, it can be unpleasant, as recessed lights overhead create a dark, eerie look. No one will want to sit there at night, even at low levels. Be sure to light up the conversation area, not the people.

Layer #7: V = View

According to Johnson, illuminating the exterior view from the interior is one of the most overlooked layers of light.

“Judiciously lighting the deck or immediate hard-lined patios outside the house helps draw your eyes through the windows at night to the outside of the house. If you do not illuminate the viewing area appropriately and subtly, every window turns into a mirror and reflects all the interiors of the house at night. You have to direct your eye through the windows,” he says, noting that effective sight lighting will make the exterior of the house an extension of the interior.

An example of architectural lighting design and integrated dimming technology.

Layer #8: E = Exterior

The final layer of light in the ADAPTIVE Method illuminates the exterior. This means illuminating planting areas, pools, gazebos, gazebos, paths, fountains, reflecting pools and other outdoor spaces that extend beyond the harsh landscape. The idea is to direct the eye beyond the view layer, creating depth and further extending the enjoyment of home at night.


Johnson says lighting design is currently focused on educated homeowners, and with CEDIA members now having direct wholesale access to architectural lighting products, integrators are in the perfect position to s associate with the right team.

“The most fun thing about this patented process I created is that everyone understands it, it’s not about lumens or foot candles, reflectances or room cavity ratios , it’s art. When the lighting design is done right, you feel it, when no one pays attention, you get distracted.

“I’ve yet to meet an owner in 38 years who, once they understood our adaptive method and saw the end results, said, ‘No, I don’t want that. Give me rows of recessed cans and toggle switches. In fact, they all say, “I thought that was the artistry we got when we hired an architect and an interior designer.”

The modern design team should include an experienced lighting designer and a CEDIA integrator. This is truly the path to success and a happy customer.

Glenn Merlin Johnson will provide an in-depth review of the 8 layers of lighting design in a CE Pro webcast on April 13 at 2:00 p.m. EDT. Register here for free to attend.

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