Fast Track Lighting + Control

this new-build residence incorporates the latest control and LED lighting technologies


THIS NEW-BUILD RESIDENCE was on a fast track from day one. The homeowners had a vision and they recruited a design-build team who could rise to the challenge – a brand new 18,000 square foot home with sophisticated lighting and year-round outdoor entertainment access, from shovel to move-in in only 12 months.

There was no thought given to technology in the early stages, although the team members knew they were on an accelerated schedule. Unknown at the time, this new home was poised to incorporate the latest in LED lighting and control technology. Therefore, the learning curve for the team members working together on the indoor and outdoor lighting specification was steep.

But they won the day and received the owner’s final mark of approval. “The graphic user interface between the lighting system and the control system allow us to easily manage the lights in our new home. We operate most of the controls through our phones and the consoles. The feature we like most on the consoles is the complete map view of each floor that allows us to control each room. Everything about the system is simple and elegant.”

ILENE CHASE I was brought in at the onset of the architectural blueprints by the architect/builder, who I had worked with previously. I interviewed with the homeowner and presented my vision of having major responsibility for all aspects of design, in collaboration with the other design-build team members. Our goal at Ilene Chase Design is to create interior and exterior environments that are a natural extension of the architecture. We strive to integrate a project’s architectural forms with the residence’s lighting and furnishings. Our clients want an everyday lifestyle inspired by their home and the natural surroundings.

I prepared a complete budget for the furniture and design work 14 months prior to the job being completed. I oversaw the plans as it related to design, including the outside structural design finish, as well as the overall landscaping design plan. I was even involved on small décor decisions, like where electrical outlets and wall switches were to be placed.

This was the largest new-build project our team had ever worked on, and the quickest start to finish project I think I’ve ever been involved in! We all had to work as one team to pull everything together efficiently and effectively.

JIM O’BRIEN The pace of life is accelerating and so if you have the right design-build team you can respond a lot quicker when the customer wants it right now. The residential design-buildbusiness is still a hands-on industry where people actually construct things. I believe a team that gets on the same page and works together is more efficient, the timeline and schedule is going to be quicker, and the quality will be even better than a pure spec home.

I founded O’Brien Landscaping in 1992 and we work primarily in Chicago and the North Shore suburbs. We install structures and plantings that harmonize so well with the home and property, they appear to have always been there. We want our clients to enjoy beautiful outdoor spaces that suit their personalities and lifestyles and are a joy to spend time in year-round.

We were recruited by the architect/builder who we had worked with on several previous projects. I still had to do a formal interview with the client as the landscape architect and outdoor lighting designer. Our biggest challenge was really the speed of the building process. There was no room for mistakes or errors.



STEVE WEBER We were introduced to the homeowner after the project was already well into the framing process and had no smart home technology in the plans. It was on a fast track and at 18,000 sq. ft. it was a big project to take on in such a late stage. And, we had no prior experience with the other design-build team members.

We started with a conversation with the homeowner to learn more about how they live and their experience with smart home technology. They had no real experience but were familiar with and unafraid of technology in general. There main request was “simple to use”.

We spent our first few encounters educating them and answering questions. We had them fill out a questionnaire about how they lived on a daily basis and we made suggestions from there. One of the topics we discussed was lighting control and how that could simplify their daily lives living in such a big house.

Many aspects of the home had energy savings features. Knowing that lighting consumes energy I introduced them to LumaStream. We explored the lighting products and explained the benefits of this company’s product line-up. They chose this brand for all the recessed fixtures (360), while going with high voltage for the specialty lighting fixtures.

At that point, we were introduced to the builder and made a presentation. We were introduced to the electrician, interior designer and lighting designer and made a presentation to them as well. We introduced Ilene and Shauna to LumaStream and they instantly saw the benefits and beauty of the fixtures as well as the light they produce. We worked closely with them on the lighting control to make sure all the high voltage fixtures were compatible with our whole-house control system from Crestron. We went with a centralized lighting control system to tie in the two lighting fixture systems, both high voltage and low voltage.

SHAUNA SCHURMAN I was brought into the project specifically for the lighting aspect of the design. While my title is Senior Designer at Ilene Chase Design, I have over four years of specific lighting design on my resume. Over the years, I’ve gained experience with both Lutron and Crestron control products, so I am familiar with working with a technology designer to automate the lighting fixtures and create scenes based on the family’s expectations.

Steve introduced me to LumaStream and this was my first time using a low-voltage LED system without a driver being in the can, so there was a quick learning curve to bring me up to full speed. LED lighting has many benefits, including energy efficiency and long life. To help keep the LEDs running properly, an LED driver (or power source) is required. LEDs run on DC and don’t require much voltage at all, but they still need a quality driver to provide accurate dimming and to eliminate buzzing or humming anomalies.

JIM O’BRIEN In addition to landscape architecture, I’ve been a lighting enthusiast for over two decades. And what Shauna is describing is exactly the kind of lighting details that go into providing an optimum environment for the homeowner. Both indoors and outdoors.

Here in the upper mid-west, it gets dark early in the late-fall and winter months. And that leads to depression for a lot of people. One of the many benefits of a properly lit environment is that when you get home, you aren’t depressed at all because you have great light in your home! For my design work, my team provides great outdoor light all year round. I equate great light to a luxury lifestyle.

ILENE Part of our team building was a trip to the Crestron in Manhattan and their Experience Center in New Jersey. It was a great time for all of us to collaborate on the project, educate ourselves on smart home technology and lighting control. This solidified a lot of the outstanding decisions that had to be made.

That being said, my team was still being pulled in opposite directions regarding the overall design by the two homeowners. He was very traditional and for example wanted cherry wood paneling in his office/library. She on the other hand was contemporary and liked a bright, airy design. She loved texture and he loved traditional.


SHAUNA For his tastes in lighting we used LumaStream LED downlighting with various beam spread options and for her, we used various chandelier and decorative lighting, paying special attention to lumen output and lighting color temperature.

ILENE Oh, and don’t forget to mention that we had an incredible time helping to design the custom 72″ linear chandelier that is featured in the formal dining room. We also found amazing vintage pendants in Arizona that were used to craft the hanging multi-port fixture in the family room.

STEVE WEBER I think the interior lighting really turned out great and because they had no prior experience with lighting control we initially gave the homeowners a limited number of scenes to choose from, including an All-Off button. After they lived with lighting control for six months and really understood the benefits, we sat down with them and they actually created their own spread sheet with scenes and pathways. And as Jim mentioned with regards to year-round living and entertaining in the great outdoors, one of the challenges was to get the right lighting in addition to outfitting the pool house with audio and video and heating elements so the family could use the space regardless of the weather.

JIM O’BRIEN From the lighting perspective, while I am a licensed landscape architect, I have also been a lighting designer for over 20 years. I was a disciple of Jan Lennox Moyer, who has been recognized internationally for her work, including her Landscape Lighting Book, considered the bible of the industry.

Landscape lighting really enhances the look of your outdoor space during the night and can be quite dramatic when done right. But another benefit is surely that a well-lit landscape is also more secure and safer for the homeowner. The variety of lighting options include area lights, path lights, step lights, deck lights and pool and/or water feature lights.

For the modern estate, outdoor lighting starts at the driveway entry point to the home. It incorporates such a variety of effects that it takes a tremendous amount of knowledge and on-going training to keep up with what is happening in the industry. Especially with the emergence of LED lighting.

O’Brien Landscape was responsible for the outdoor lighting design around the entertainment area and Steve managed the rest of the pool and pool house audio-video set up.

STEVE WEBER That’s right, Jim. I know you also spec outdoor entertainment products and outdoor kitchens, but we had a fairly easy time with this particular part of the job. We used Origin Acoustics landscape speakers for around the pool and other areas guests might walk through, and a SunBrite TV that can withstand the climate variances in the region. There are even speakers in the pool so the homeowner can listen to audiobooks while he does his laps.

While the house is in a residential neighborhood, the back yard is very private and welcoming as far as entertainment spaces go. And this was a major priority for the homeowners.

ILENE When all was said and done, I think we were all amazed that we were able to finish this project on time and onbudget. The homeowner had monthly meetings and he would make key decisions on the spot. Not only that, but he gave each of us free rein to do our jobs. He didn’t try to micro-manage anyone.

JIM And let’s not forget that they never changed their mind once a decision was made. That really kept the project on schedule.

SHAUNA I think the lighting portion of this project was extraordinary because we all got along on a personal level and had confidence that each of us could carry our own weight. From that first meeting in New York, I knew I was going to be able to work with Steve and get the job done.

ILENE Steve was never intimidated by the size of the project, which gave me confidence he was going to be able to produce the right control system to make the house livable for the homeowners. You know, when we want to design something amazing, we need the technology designer there at the beginning to guide us and let us know what is possible. Is the material I’ve chosen for the automated shading system too heavy for the rollers? Things like that which you can’t commit to for the homeowner until you know what the technology guidelines are. So we enjoyed working with Steve and look forward to the next project.

STEVE Gosh, I think I’m blushing! I’m just grateful that the team and the homeowners let me show them the LumaStream products. Too many times someone unqualified is specifying lighting fixtures that are not compatible with the dimming of the control system and we end up getting blamed for flickering and humming issues. And working with qualified lighting designers in Shauna and Jim made everything goquicker and we ended up at the end of the day with an amazing illumination experience.

I think the lighting portion of this project was extraordinary because we all got along on a personal level and had confidence that each of us could carry our own weight.

Fast Track Lighting + Control

Featuing JAMES O’BRIEN Landscape Architect

Steven Weber


Ilene Chase


Shauna Schurman