Let There Be Lights

A Henrico County company brings home excitement with lights, tech, and sound.

Photos courtesy Inaray

Everyone wants normalcy in life, especially after months of dealing with the pandemic. That’s especially true during the holidays. People want that magical Hallmark moment when they can flip on their holiday lights and find comfort and normalcy in the sparkling lights.

“Everybody wants a little bit of wonder. It’s good for the soul. That’s the goal we have in mind when we create a lighting scene,” says Todd Peace, principal at lighting and home technology company Inaray Design Group in Richmond. 

2020 was Michele Mancuso’s fifth year of having Inaray outline her home and driveway in white lights. “We light up our whole home,” says Mancuso, who lives in Henrico County. Mancuso has Inaray install the lights in October, but doesn’t turn them on until Thanksgiving night. “That’s when everything comes together. It looks pretty and festive. It looks beautiful,” she says. 

The company’s personal touch won her over, she adds. “I felt connected with Amanda Cox when she came out [to look around], and I have not been disappointed. The time they save us is really worth it.”

Inaray custom-fits holiday lighting to each person’s home. “We label it, put it up, maintain it, and then we come back and take it down and store it all year,” Peace says.

Lighting for the holidays has gotten more elaborate over the years and can feature everything from classic white lights to customized colors. “Some people want fun stuff. We’ve done a grove of trees in purple. We’ve hung thousands of mini-lights that drape straight down. We’ve done whole hillside scenes. We’ve done groups of trees with multi-color lights. Everything we do is personalized,” says Peace.

Light styles vary by community and geographic area. Wrapping trees and shrubs in white lights is prevalent in some areas, while others prefer to outline rooflines and landscape beds. “A lot of people like greenery and bows on their doors and windows, as well as garlands on the handrails and lights weaved into the shrubs,” Peace says. 

Prices for lighting services vary greatly. “We have some properties where we just do a couple of trees and some houses where everything on them is decorated,” he says.

Inaray’s holiday lighting services are currently available to customers in Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, Williamsburg, and Richmond. “Our growth plan is to have partnerships with other companies, like landscape companies that are slow in the winter and can help us with lighting,” Peace says. 

Adding Lights and More 

Peace started the company in 2002 after adding outdoor lighting services through his family’s landscaping firm and discovering he enjoyed the lighting more than landscaping. His business started growing quickly when he began working with Lutron lighting systems and creating lighting scenes. “Lutron was a very good fit for us,” he says. 

Casey Templeton Photography

A few years later, it became obvious that people wanted a personal haven where they could relax and recharge. The more Peace looked into that concept, he realized the company was “suited for providing a whole home experience,” he says.

Today, the company offers a variety of services that include lighting and audio as well as video and home automation systems that feature everything from security and surveillance to unified indoor and outdoor music systems. “Lighting and music are part of the same experience,”

Peace says. “We can place speakers outside that disappear into your landscape, and they sound incredible.”

When Peace mentioned an outdoor sound system to Kristi Smith, she rolled her eyes. “I thought he was trying to be aggressive with the sale,” says Smith, who lives in Goochland County. “He came out and did a demo outside, and as soon as he turned it on I looked at my husband and knew it was a done deal.”

The company installed 12 to 15 hidden speakers outside and buried subwoofers in the flowerbed. “I couldn’t imagine the sound system at our pool being part of our daily life, but it’s 100 percent part of our lifestyle now,” she says. 

For Smith, lighting represents happiness, so when she wanted to update the lighting outside she asked Peace to come up with something new. “He came out at dusk and did a display, and it was exactly what we wanted,” she says. “I call Todd now for any new space we create outside. He knows what I like and comes and installs the lights. I trust his judgment.”

Looking Natural

When it comes to adding home technology, Peace wants it to blend in and look natural. “We take all the technology and hide it as much as possible,” he says. “We have televisions that are artwork. They don’t look like a TV. We have speakers that go into the wall like a drywall patch.”

Casey Templeton Photography

He finds that many people think lighting control is simply a fancy system, but it can simplify the controls in the home. Instead of multiple light switches, a lighting system can be installed and programmed so lights come on automatically. “In my house the lights come on automatically before sunset,” Peace says. “The lighting changes three times through the course of evening, but we never touch the lights.”

The company also installs automated shades that can be raised and lowered at various times. “What’s happening next in technology includes wellness features that monitor air quality, light quality, noise, and comfort,” Peace says.

Rich Combs had Inaray install a central control system when he built his new 9,000-square-foot home in Goochland County. “That allowed us to have a smart home. We can control everything in the house from the television to the window shades,” he says. “It was a pretty challenging project. There was a lot of effort behind the scenes and Inaray was easy to work with. I wanted state of the art, and they presented that to me.”

Jesse Parsons is looking forward to Inaray creating a home theater in his family room. He knows the quality of their work because he’s worked for the company on several home projects that include indoor and outdoor sound systems and Christmas lights. “They do a good job, are knowledgeable, and they carry quality products,” says Parsons, who lives in Williamsburg. “At Christmas, we have them uplight a couple of our oaks. We alternate red and green. They also illuminate the front of our house. They wrap the shrubs on the front and the magnolia tree in lights.”

Extending the Season

Peace likes to extend the holiday lighting in his own home from November to March. “I am in the business of lighting for the holidays, but I like to prolong the season,” he says. “At the end of every year there is this period where you have been watching Hallmark Christmas movies and when you take the Christmas tree down there is a dip, a sense of loss.”

Lighting can help alleviate that sudden dip. Peace prolongs the season by layering the lighting. “As soon as November comes I put the window candles on to start that feeling,” he says. “Then I put up the tree and everything. We leave our lights on the tree through January and the window lights on through February.”

A simple light glowing in the windows can create that feeling of peace and wellness in your home, he adds. “I want that special feeling in my home; that feeling of warmth in the home that says, ‘Come on in, we have love in this home.’” Inaray.com

This article originally appeared in the December 2020 issue.

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