For architects, interior designers, and home automation professionals — as well as their clients — the Decoration & Design (D&D) Building in Manhattan is a godsend. There you will find over 130 showrooms (including CI stalwarts Lutron and Crestron) representing over 3000 manufacturers in the residential and commercial interior design businesses. It is where those trades take their clients to communicate and demonstrate the possibilities that can exist in their homes; where they go for training; and where they can experience the latest trends and technologies for themselves.
Lutron opened its NYC Residential Experience Center there two years ago, and late last year introduced a revamped version to keep up their evolving product lines and offerings. “We’re in a really great location, here in the D&D domain, because this is a hub for architects and designers, and they spend a lot their time here,” says Brittany Milz, associate sales representative – NYC Residential Experience Center for Lutron. “It’s a one-stop shop. For decoration and design work, you can be really well educated here.”
Related: A practical guide to adding lighting to your offered services.
Take the Tour
Once arriving at the D&D Building, getting to the Lutron Experience Center is easy — in fact, they entertain a number of walk-ins each day. The Center is designed to take customers on a logical tour of what Lutron can do in their homes, so adjacent to the reception desk is the Caséta display.
“The big things we focus on at the beginning of the tours are our entry-level Caséta and then we also talk about zone control,” says Milz. “We give people an understanding on how those parts and pieces are linked together. Then we give an overarching story that goes into more of our systems, as well as how we create solutions.” And, as they explain how it works, the customer sees it in action.
The wire-free Caséta system gets plenty of attention from NYC apartment dwellers — many of whom can’t easily add a wired system to their homes. With Caséta, they see the opportunities to have lights wherever they want them, and are introduced to scene control, which can also include shades and audio.
Moving to the back of the space, there is a bank of windows that cleverly conceal three different types of motorized Lutron shades, in various shades of transparency. As the shades silently raise and lower in unison, you can see them gradually get darker as you look from left to right, but even in the darkest setting, you can still see a portion of the outside world, though it is obscured.
“The common misconception that a lot of people have is that you have to use lighter fabrics if you want to see more of what’s outside and not feel as though you are in box,” says Milz. “With this display, customers realize they can still see out even if the shades are darker.”
Of course, if you are looking for that kind of total blackout darkness that people like for bedrooms and home theaters, Lutron can handle that as well.
Moving beyond the windows, there is a lifestyle area that includes kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom demos. The kitchen and bedroom feature Lumaris LED lighting under the counter in the kitchen and around the base of the bed in the bedroom, providing a safe walk at night for a midnight snack or late-night restroom break.
The bedroom features Palladiom keypads on either side of the bed, one slightly more advanced than the other, so hopefully the clients can peacefully decide among themselves who gets more buttons. Each panel offers individual lighting control, including the ability for one partner to sleep while the other reads, so that should keep the peace. One button press invokes a nighttime scene that draws long curtains along the wall and lowers the lights to off, leaving only the soft glow of the track lighting beneath the bed. Another push sets the room back to where it was.
The bathroom features the company’s automated horizontal sheer and Venetian blinds. These two solutions offer different privacy and light blocking features to meet individual needs and styles. A skylight in the bathroom is covered by a solid, blackout automated tension screen.
“Bottom-up shades are a growing trend, and we find our customers want to see how that solution works,” says Milz. “Although we don’t display a bottom-up shade in this space our skylight, a tensioned shade, uses the same design.”
Once they see all that can be done with shades and automation, Milz states that clients typically wonder how all of it is going to be powered, so the Experience Center has set up a mock HomeWorks control panel tucked away behind what would be the bedroom closet. It is not actually running the space, but provides a good example of what a sophisticated home system would entail, and gives them renewed appreciation for their integrator.
The Ketra Experience
As you leave the bedroom area, there is a bookcase and painting on the wall that gives visitors their first taste of Ketra in action. Using the painting, Milz shows how Ketra can be used to saturate the colors in the painting, calling attention to different attributes of the picture as she does so. Though a simple demo, it really shows the power a lighting system can have to enhance the space.
Moving through the bedroom, visitors enter a living room area where the Ketra system is put through its paces, including pulling out the vibrancy of a plant on the coffee table, and going through an entire day’s circadian rhythm in the space of a few minutes. Additionally, the space shows how Ketra can automatically match the interior lighting to the light that is coming in through the windows.
Ketra has the ability to create over 16 million colors, so there are myriad possibilities, and the control app is easy enough for a child to use. “We had clients come in with their son, and we gave him the tablet that controls the Ketra system to keep him occupied while we took the parents on the tour,” says Milz. “And once the dad saw what his son was doing with Ketra, he told his interior designer that he had to have it.”
The Ketra system usually leads to a deeper conversation on lighting and the impact it has in the home. “We’re seeing a lot more dealers and designers bringing in their clients to show the difference between 2700K and 3000K Kelvin,” adds Milz. “We’re able to demo that and change the intensity. A lot of people don’t understand that lighting is the most powerful tool to being able to pinpoint objects, and that demonstration is unique to this space.”
In fact, the Ketra system has been such a highlight at the Experience Center that they are expanding its use throughout the facility. The back portion of the room, where the roller shade demos are, has already added Ketra lighting, and Lutron will soon install blackout blinds on the windows and a blackout drapery in front of the space to create a home theater–like area that will show the full power of the versatile system.
Samples and Training
That completes the Experience Center Tour, but there are two more areas of note. The first is sample wall, where customers can see hundreds of different panel styles and shade fabrics. They provide samples that can be taken home to help in the decision process.
The final area is a training room that sits in its own space next to the mock living room. There, Lutron holds regular classes for integrators, designers, and architects.
“We host a lot of international groups in here — a lot of specifiers and integrators,” says Milz. “We sometimes have groups of lighting designers, architects, and sales professionals coming from around the country to be educated on our products. We get two to three training groups in here each week. We’re always busy.”
Always hosting and walk-ins welcome…that sums it up pretty well. If you are in the New York City-area, the Lutron Experience Center is a resource that you and your clients need to see to believe.
Related: Lighting Showcase
First Light: Getting to Know Ketra
For many trades and clients, the Ketra demonstration at the Lutron Experience Center is their first interaction with smart lighting and the many variations it offers. Michael Smith, vice president and general manager of residential sales-USA at Lutron, answers a few questions about the reactions to the technology, and how quickly they can learn to implement and use the system.
Resi: Is there a steep learning curve for Ketra with architects, integrators, lighting designers, and end users?
Michael Smith: Lighting has taken center stage around the topic of personal wellness in the home, so interest levels among all these groups are high – particularly for the integrator community who see Ketra lighting solutions as the next growth opportunity for their business. Natively integrating Ketra lighting solutions into a Lutron HomeWorks lighting control system makes this a powerful “bulb to button” offering that transforms the look of any home and differentiates them in the market.
For lighting designers, there’s little to no learning curve with a Ketra lighting system. Lighting designers already understand the power of light and the importance of balancing it in the home, but what’s likely new to them are the patented innovations that power a Ketra system. Things like proprietary color mixing and driver technology that enables Ketra systems to generate very high-quality white light with a high degree of precision, or Ketra Vibrancy — Ketra’s unique ability to tune only the individual colors that make white light at a given white-correlated color temperature (CCT).
Combining their existing lighting knowledge with a Ketra system’s innovative ability to create unique lighting experiences that mimic daylight and connect clients seamlessly with the outdoors creates a whole new world of lighting opportunities.
For interior designers and homeowners, the advanced Ketra lighting system opens up a whole new world for people who may or may not have a strong familiarity with lighting. An immersive Ketra demonstration will get them thinking about lighting in ways they never thought possible in a home. For us, that’s the magic of a Ketra lighting system — creating an immersive, transformative home with the press of a button.
The classroom at the Experience Center seems to be an ideal place for meet and greets for architects and integrators. Do you ever hold them there? How would an integrator know when they occur?
Lutron frequently hosts third-party events at its experience centers. Events include local chapter meetings for groups like AIA and ASID, as well as dealer-hosted events geared toward educating local specifiers. The local salesforce is in frequent contact with our customers and lets them know about opportunities. Lutron integrators are always welcome to use these facilities for their own customer events.
What has been the conversion rate of visitors to the Center to Ketra systems?
The Ketra demonstration allows you to experience high-quality, dynamic light that shifts in accordance with sunlight, your mood or the task at hand. Ketra lighting systems will expose specifiers, designers, and homeowners to new uses for lighting in the home. For some, the killer app will be highlighting a vibrant piece of artwork or ensuring the perfect lighting for applying makeup and readying for the day. To others, it’s about creating the perfect lighting environment for entertaining and relaxing or feeling seamlessly connected to the outdoors.
Lutron integrators are excited about this new approach to lighting and the benefits to their clients. So much so, Lutron integrators are creating their own immersive Ketra demonstrations in their showrooms that showcase the power of integrating high-quality LED light with a HomeWorks control system. We expect to see continued, sustainable growth in this area of our business.
Have there been any studies that connect Ketra’s abilities to home wellness?
Though third-party studies exist connecting lighting to wellness, Lutron does not make any health-related claims for its products.