by Catherine Warmerdam
Photography by Wes Davis
ASK A MODERN-LEANING interior designer anywhere in the country about their favorite sources for lighting and chances are Lumens Light + Living will make the short list. In just over a decade, the Sacramento-based company has grown into one of the nation’s top design-focused lighting companies, with annual sales of about $50 million and legions of loyal customers.
“In Sacramento, I think a lot of people think of us as a showroom in midtown, but that is actually quite a small part of what we do,” explains CEO Ken Plumlee, who founded the company in 2004 with his business partner (and now husband) Peter Weight. Lumens does about 95 percent of its business online; some of its largest markets include New York City, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Plumlee is quick to add that Sacramento has also been a great market for Lumens. “There’s a design community in Sacramento, both professionals and homeowners, that appreciates the modern aesthetic,” says Plumlee. “Of course, Sacramento has a long history of innovative architecture, particularly the midcentury Streng and Eichler homes. It’s not huge, but it’s a nice community of design aficionados, and we love catering to those folks.”
Plumlee points out that Lumens, which carries around 300 brands of lighting, furniture, home furnishings and accessories, sells more than just modern styles. “I always tell people that we carry products in every price range and in every style,” explains Plumlee. “We have customers who live in Victorian homes, and we’re able to find appropriate products for them. We have customers who live in Arts and Crafts bungalows, and we have products that work in those environments as well.”
The common denominator across the wide range of merchandise at Lumens is good design, according to Plumlee. That design-minded approach is part of the company ethos and one of the reasons that Lumens, out of respect for designers, doesn’t sell knockoffs or reproductions. It also explains why Lumens is a retail success story.
“Ken has pushed this company forward because of his belief in good design,” says showroom manager Joyce Wolfe. “Everyone who works here is design savvy because we like it. [A product] can be super modern or vintage looking, but it has to be about great design.”
Plumlee agrees, explaining that design isn’t merely about how something looks. “For me, good design really refers to a thoughtful approach to solving a problem,” he says. “Whether that is using materials in a unique way, whether it’s about rethinking how something works, whether it’s coming up with a fresh solution to an old problem—I think those are the kinds of things that contribute to good design.”