Expansion Story: Benson Stone Co. Lighting Gallery

A new lighting department at Benson Stone Co. offers our region a full array of quality lighting products, making this homegrown home goods store an even more powerful one-stop shop.

Offering furniture, flooring and full kitchen remodels is already impressive. But with a new lighting gallery opening this fall, Benson Stone Co., in Rockford, is now more than ever before a one-stop-shop for home goods.
“Customers can discover a full breadth of products here,” says storeowner Andy Benson. “It’s convenient to be able to find the right lighting to go with your new kitchen, sofa or dining room table, all right here in one store.”
Michael McGinty, Benson Stone Co.’s lighting department manager, says it’s important to consider lighting because it drastically impacts the overall look of your home.
“Proper lighting shows off the fabric on your couch, the paint color on your walls and the cabinets in your kitchen,” McGinty says. “That’s why you shouldn’t neglect lighting. Sometimes, people will buy a product and it doesn’t look the same in their home as it did in the store, and that’s because the lighting in the store was different than their home. That’s less likely to happen in Benson Stone, thanks to our new lighting department.”
The department is more than 4,000 square feet in size, with displays of chandeliers, pendant lights, wall sconces, floor lamps, outdoor fixtures, landscape lighting and more. The selection includes everything from entry-level lighting to high-quality designer fixtures.
Benson’s goal was to provide a range of lighting products at different price points and styles, so that the community has an enhanced selection of lighting to choose from.
“The big-box stores seem large, but in reality they display a rather limited selection,” Benson says. “Unlike the box stores, we have a very broad range of quality products.”
Due to having such a vast array of products, Benson Stone Co. cannot display everything it sells. Most of the fixtures on display are representative of an entire “family” of fixtures that are available in a variety of types, sizes and finishes.
“I like the lighting industry because it’s jewelry for the home,” McGinty says. “We show less than 1 percent of what you can actually get. You can pick out the exact size and finish you want of a chandelier, floor lamp or other product to match perfectly in your foyer, bathroom, kitchen and other rooms. It would be impossible to display one of everything, but I can order what you like from manufacturers and have it delivered in three to five days.”
Benson Stone Co. has been reaping success since Andy’s great-grandfather, Martin O. Benson, and grandfather, M. Howard Benson, founded the company in 1930. The father and son duo started out in a small shop on 10th Street and 10th Avenue in Rockford.
Andy worked in the family business with his father, Howard D. Benson, since the early 1980s. Looking to expand, Andy instigated a successful move for the company in 2001, when he relocated the store to the former Rockford Standard Furniture building at 1100 11th St. Since then, customers have been able to find stone, brick, granite, home décor, fireplaces, cabinets for kitchens and bathrooms, landscape materials, barbeque grills and a host of additional home goods. The 11st Street location even includes Hearth Rock Café, a cozy spot for delicious breakfast, lunch, pastries and coffee.
The lighting gallery adds a new chapter to Benson Stone Co.’s ongoing success.
“You know, I’ve been doing this almost 30 years now, so I’ve been in the lighting business a long time,” McGinty says. “I’ve learned from my mistakes and figured out what not to do. You can spend a lot of money on paint, flooring, cabinets and furniture, but if your home is poorly lit, it will never look its best. Proper lighting is essential for a beautiful and functional home.”
The gallery showcases a plethora of styles, from traditional to contemporary. Lights are organized based on the style and finish of the fixture, and within this selection, lights of all sizes and price ranges are available.
According to McGinty, crystal is making a big comeback, but with a contemporary twist. Colored glass is becoming more prominent, in addition to what McGinty calls ‘lightly dressed’ chandeliers.
“It’s not your grandmother’s crystal chandelier anymore,” McGinty says. “Instead, we’re seeing little accents of crystal that can be just about any color. I’ve divided the showroom into the two main colors you see, which are your satin-nickel chrome finishes and your oil-rubbed bronze finishes. Most chandeliers will come in both of those colors.”
But crystal is just the beginning. On the other side of the spectrum, a reclaimed, urban-warehouse style is also gaining in popularity. Edison-style light bulbs in a rounder, orbed-shaped frame are giving chandeliers a more rustic aesthetic for those interested in an industrial look.
“Our full selection is available on our website,” Benson says. “That way, if you know what you want, you can refine your search. The website allows you to narrow your search to specific finishes, fixtures or prices, and you’ll be able to see high-resolution photos of every option.”
The showroom additionally includes a lighting lab with examples of the latest technologies, making it possible for customers to explore the aesthetics of various bulbs and color temperatures. The possibilities range from warmer yellowish-white and red-color temperatures to cooler, bluish-white color temperatures that more closely emulate sunlight. Color temperatures around 5,000 K are considered cooler, while lower color temperatures around 3,000 K are considered warmer.
“I feel that people in traditional homes gravitate towards the warmer colors, since that’s what everyone is used to, but I can also see the use of cooler colors in a more contemporary, white-cabinet kitchen,” Benson says.
Benson Stone Co.’s staff members can use the lighting lab to help customers find the best lighting for their homes.
“I think most people are used to a generic type of recessed can bulb that was thrown in during the construction of their house, and not to say that the builder did anything wrong, but there is a lot of what I call ‘bad lighting’ in homes these days,” McGinty says. “The lighting lab can help you find the perfect lighting for your home because you can choose the mood you want with the various color temperature options. Lower color temperatures serve for more romantic lighting, whereas higher color temperatures with increased brightness help create a more active space.”
Choosing a color temperature is possible with LED lighting, the latest technology in the industry. LED bulbs last longer than traditional bulbs, making them far more energy-efficient. Benson Stone Co. carries more than 25 brands that provide LED lighting, such as Kichler, Minka, Hubbardton, Forge and Schonbek Crystal.
For an updated kitchen, Benson Stone Co. can place LED lighting underneath cabinets and countertop edges, as well as in soffits of crown molding, to add lighting to areas that are traditionally poorly lit.
“This new level of lighting can help your kitchen look its best,” Benson says. “There’s a lot you can do besides the standard bulb in the ceiling, which used to be the only choice.”
Adding lights to these less obvious spaces is important to consider when remodeling your home, especially if you’re trying to sell your house.
“Having more lights in the kitchen gives your home an edge,” Benson says. “That’s another thing you’re definitely not going to get at the big-box store – a more advanced lighting design that’s refined for your home.”
With all of the options in lighting technology, it’s helpful to have store professionals in our region who know how to navigate the options.
“I don’t think you know what good lighting is until you’ve seen it,” McGinty says. “I think we’ve lived in a poorly lit world and our eyes have just adjusted to it. Fortunately, with new lighting options, that’s starting to change now.”