During his presentation at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, Randall Whitehead cleverly incorporated photos of the antique dolls he's collected over the years. The black-and-white images showed dolls that appeared to be crying, screaming, or frightened—all expressions he's seen from people whose homes weren't lighted properly.

"What we want to see is soft, gentle lighting," Whitehead told about 100 people attending his "Alluring Energy-Efficient Lighting" session in Atlanta. "Good lighting is subtle. It doesn't scream at you."

Whitehead, of San Francisco-based Randall Whitehead Lighting Solutions, said pros can create highly functional lighting with energy-efficient fluorescent lamps because of the enhancements to the technology during the past decade. Previous generations were "bad, bulky, flickered on, were not dimmable, and made you look green like Shrek," the animated Disney movie character, he said. New fluorescents, on the other hand, come in a range of colors, are dimmable, and can be used in all types of fixtures.

Whitehead, who recommends fluorescents for most applications throughout the home, said pros can disguise "ugly little fluorescents" in sconces, behind shades in chandeliers or lamps, and in other types of decorative lighting fixtures. Furthermore, fluorescents can be hidden on top of cabinets that don't go to the ceiling to create a warm, ambient glow.

Nevertheless, he noted that some homeowners remain hesitant about using fluorescents, so pros should install them in less noticeable places, such as closets, basements, and laundry rooms, to get their clients started using them.

Although fluorescents have greatly improved in recent years, Whitehead raved about LED lights, which he said shine closer to warm incandescent bulbs and are excellent choices for bathrooms where dressing takes place and makeup is applied. Another big plus is that LEDs are expected to last 30,000 to 40,000 hours, versus 10,000 hours for fluorescents and about 1,000 hours for incandescents.

Although dimmable LEDs are very pricey, Whitehead—author of a number of books on lighting design—said he believes prices will fall in about 18 months as more products hit the market.