LYN FALK, CEO and president of RetailWorks, says that since humans have spent hundreds of thousands of years living under the sun and artificial light is relatively new in the scheme of things, people are drawn to natural light instinctively.
“It’s life-giving, a connection to nature,” she says.
When it comes to retail, day-lighting, as it’s called, keeps a store feeling real and not artificial, sets customers at ease and boosts everyone’s mood. “It’s healthier to have natural light illuminating our built environments as much as possible,” she says.
Although natural light changes color and intensity throughout the day, and extreme sun coming in from east, south, and west windows can be challenging, that’s an issue that can be solved with adjustable window treatments.
“Northern light is best,” says Jay Colombo, a partner at Michael Hsu Office of Architecture in Houston, who designed the Zadok store. “It’s never direct, and there’s a lot of consistency and evenness to it.”
To balance natural and artificial light, Falk suggests multiple levels and types of lights that are similar in color temperature. Natural light would be combined with fixtures that provide ambient light, as well as accent lights and decorative lights.
“My go-to-temperature for retail is 3500K, with 3000K as a second option if 3500 isn’t available,” Falk says. “And all jewelers (should) know the importance of showcase lighting that makes jewels/diamonds sparkle, and that’s a 4100-5000K lamp.
“Of course, if the jeweler is in an enclosed shopping mall, they often don’t have access to natural light, in which case, artificial light has to do the heavy lifting, and then color temp is extremely important to get right.”
Warmth of Home
Zadok, Houston, TX
At Zadok’s 28,000 square foot location in Houston, facades on three sides of the building let natural light wash into the showroom. “You don’t feel like you’re in a fluorescent box,” says Jay Colombo, partner at Michael Hsu Office of Architecture, which designed the project. A two-story window wall faces north and illuminates the grand staircase with consistent, even northern light. Windows line the branded boutiques, too, as well as the offices, a feature appreciated by 40 back-office staffers. Glazing and screens on the building enhance energy efficiency and security.
John Atencio, Lone Tree, CO
In general, mall stores are not known for natural light, let alone an abundance of it, but John Atencio’s location in a Lone Tree, CO, mall near Denver, takes advantage of its space under an atrium with sky lights. Light shines through a 14-foot ceiling designed with natural wood in a grid pattern. The jewelry designer’s newest location also features a sheer glass facade that wraps the storefront from floor to ceiling. “When it was complete, I stood back and said, ‘Wow,’” says Atencio, who opened the renovated store in 2018.
Light as Air
Bere, Pensacola, FL
Bere, which opened in 2017, is across the street from the airport, offering owners Barry and Laura Cole a view of the runway from their conference room. Pensacola is home to naval aviation and the Blue Angels, local themes Cole wanted to tie into the store with plentiful views of the sky. An entire wall anchors a bar, lounge and Breitling watch zone, where panel walls with rivets mimicking old airplane and antique propellers pay homage to the local military and aviation history.
The Diamond Center, Janesville, WI
After 30 years in a huge but windowless space in a mall, the Yeko family moved their operation into a freestanding store with 270-degree views. Designed by Leslie McGwire in 2015, The Diamond Center has more than 2,000 square feet of glass curtain walls, with more than half of that glass tilted out to span a height of 24 feet, floor to ceiling. “When customers come in, the first thing they do is look up at the ceiling,” Steve Yeko Jr. notes. “There are lots of ‘wows.’” The store’s LEDs are all calibrated to simulate natural daylight, too, so daylight is not competing with a different color of light.
Bright and Sunny
Amanda Deer, Austinm, TX
Amanda Deer’s downtown Austin store is the epitome of what’s described as light and airy interior design. Live plants thrive in the natural light and add to the natural, organic feel, which is reinforced by wood floors and bowls filled with black sand that are used as unique display elements. It occupies a historical building in downtown Austin that was built in the late 1800s as a flour warehouse. Owned by Amanda Eddy, the store opened in 2017.
Julz by Alan Rodriguez, Canton, OH
For his newest retail location, Alan Rodriguez purchased a former bank building that was built in 1950 and hadn’t been remodeled in over 40 years. Inspired by the design of an Apple store with a touch of Crate and Barrel, he gutted the structure and built out a two-story glass cube that’s the focal point of the store. This large window structure fills the store with natural light during the day and shows the changing weather background.
Hamilton Butler, Hermosa Beach, CA
Hamilton Butler brings the outdoors in with its peacock motif and the light flooding in two large windows in the front of the store. Owned by Joni Hamilton and Shelia Butler, the store is an inviting, sun-splashed hangout for the beach community that they opened together in 2016. Sea grass carpeting, pale turquoise walls and a view of palm trees reinforces the vibe. “Even when you’re in the store, you feel like you’re outside at the same time,” Butler says.
Revolution Jewelry Works
Colorado Springs, CO
Revolution Jewelry Works, owned by Jennifer Farnes, has a spectacular corner view of the mountains in its recently expanded space.
Jewelry Set in Stone
In 2022, the Jewelry Set in Stone team moved into the Clocktower building in downtown Chelsea, a historic structure that was once a stove factory. The second floor suite is blessed with light, tall ceilings and much more space than their previous location, a perfect setting for a custom-design business, says owner Stephen Kolokithas.
Beverly Hills, CA
JustDesi, owned by siblings Desi Kraiem and Justin Kraiem, stands out from its neighbors with its expansive windows, brilliant lighting and chic design.
King’s Fine Jewellery
Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada
After 38 years in a popular mall, King’s Fine Jewellery faced the decision of closing or relocating during a major mall renovation. Owners Brian and Nancy Nelson decided they weren’t ready to retire and purchased and built out a freestanding store in a new shopping center. In the new space they have two walls of glass windows, providing an abundance of natural light. They aren’t the only ones benefiting from natural light. A large school of cardinals, four varieties of angel fish and a collection of catfish thrive in a naturally planted, 7-foot-long aquarium.
Grand Rapids, MI
Kessler’s location, its eight store, was chosen for its three walls of windows that provide an abundance of natural light. Kesslers Diamonds is employee owned.