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One often-underestimated interior design element is actually one of the most impactful: lighting. It’s an easy way to spruce up a space while also boosting its function. We spoke with Morgan Brubaker, in-house designer at local design/build firm Merrill Construction Group, about how she used lighting to further upgrade a home during a recent renovation project.

The overall goal of this project was to add extra square footage to a contemporary-style ranch home. With Japanese and mid-century influences, the home features clean lines, simplistic details, and natural tones and textures throughout. This led to the use of cultural light fixtures made from natural, honest materials.

“When speaking with the homeowners [about] what they envisioned when adding lighting to the space, we agreed that this was the opportunity to really get creative and bring in some unexpected unique elements — the icing on top that really elevates the overall design,” Morgan explains. “We focused on bringing in influences of Japanese and mid-century styles while sourcing locally where we could.”

One of the major components of this project included the addition of a spacious kitchen and dining area. The large, wood-stained island is undoubtedly a focal point of this space, thanks to a stunning walnut butcher block that sits on top. With these already warm wood tones, Merrill Construction Group set out to add more contrast and character to the space. They did just that with two large diamond-shaped fixtures with black finishes on the top and white glass on the bottom. “The goal here was really to add character,” says Morgan. “The husband even said, ‘These are my favorite [fixtures] because they remind me of those more origami, geometric, kind of playful shapes.’”

Two Visual Comfort Sarnen Small Pendant lights above kitchen island

These Visual Comfort Sarnen small pendants add contrast to the kitchen and stand out against the warm wood finishes.

In that same area is a dining space that Merrill Construction Group approached a bit differently, using four Nodes tall pendants by Generation Lighting above the dining room table. “What I like is that it is multiple pieces, but it reads as one whole fixture,” explains Morgan. “It’s very simplistic but creates a statement. [The homeowners] have a lot of really unique, kind of eclectic furniture, so it really brings that whole elevation together as a whole and creates a statement without being over the top.”

Four Nodes Tall Pendant lights by Generation Lighting above dining room table

“A lot of people don’t think to use multiple pendants to create a chandelier approach,” says Morgan of the dining space’s light fixtures. “A lot of times, you’ll pick one fixture or you’ll pick two pendants to drop over the island, but there’s opportunity to combine multiple fixtures together to create an overall impact.”


Dining space and kitchen in Nashville, TN, home

Here you can see both light fixtures in the dining room and kitchen, plus the large pane windows that allow natural light to flood the space.

Another unique light fixture sits above the coffee bar. Made by one of the homeowners’ dads, who is a woodworker and owner at Shaker Sawdust, you would never guess this fixture is made of cherry wood at first glance. The fixture was bent to form an oblong shape and is painted black, using metal fasteners to connect the wood in a unique pattern. “[This fixture] embraces those natural materials — just pure, honest forms — and it creates curiosity because you don’t realize it’s wood until you get up close to it and actually see those details,” says Morgan. “It pushes the limits of materials because how often do you think about light fixtures being formed out of wood?”

Wood light fixture made by Shaker Sawdust hanging above coffee bar

With a goal to source locally, the homeowners recruited Shaker Sawdust to create this unique light fixture above their coffee bar.

In theme with locally sourced materials and suppliers, the master bathroom features two Baton II fixtures from Southern Lights Electric. Rather than incorporating a single overhead vanity light, these two pendants hang on either side of the mirror, creating significant vertical visual interest. “These fixtures are simplistic in form with aged steel and rope-like material that contrast against a concrete wall tile,” says Morgan. “I like the approach of using mixed materials in this sleek form that really highlight the architectural elements while adding functional task lighting.”

Master bathroom with Batton II light fixtures

The Batton II light fixtures from Southern Lights Electric and the barn door create an industrial feel in the master bathroom.

Sleek master bathroom with skyligh above shower

The master bathroom also includes a skylight above the shower, which adds natural light to the space.

In addition to light fixtures, Morgan also notes the importance of natural lighting. Merrill Construction Group replaced all of the home’s windows, allowing them to bring the outdoors in — which was one of the homeowners’ goals when renovating. “Natural lighting is so important, no matter what style approach you’re taking,” Morgan tells us. “It really connected the room to nature and brought the outdoors in. It was almost like a seamless transition between the two, and it really created the overall atmosphere of the house.”

Large fiber glass window from Marvin Essential Collection at Dale Inc.

The homeowners love plants and greenery, so Merrill Construction Group helped bring the outdoors in with these large fiber windows from the Marvin Essential collection at Dale Inc.

As far as the overall aesthetic of the home, Morgan says Merrill Construction Group took a minimalistic, clean line approach. They were able to open up spaces while seamlessly adding both style and function. The result is a home with plenty of character and visual interest.

Merrill Construction Group is located at 4535 Harding Pike, Ste. 300, Nashville, TN 37205. To learn more, visit or call (615) 509-2011.

All photography by Ruby & Peach.

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