Interior Lighting Options
Beyond paint colors, flooring, wall coverings, furnishings, finishes and decor, there is one element that truly defines the aesthetics and comfort of a home. In fact, without this element, all other components of a room would be invisible. The element is light, and its amount, location and direction can make or break the function and style of your home.
Rules of thumb
The standard rule of thumb for any room’s lighting design is to create three layers of illumination: general lighting (a.k.a. ambient lighting), task lighting and accent lighting. Another guideline is to be mindful of the light source’s Kelvin temperature. “It is important to use the correct Kelvin temperature for each specific room,” says Carl Strandberg, a technician for Sunbelt Technology. “The higher the Kelvin temperature is, the bluer and more hard-edged the light source looks, which is not ideal for the soft setting of a living room.”
Michael Jackson, president of American-De Rosa Lamparts, manufacturer of Sunset Lighting products and Concord fans, explains another lighting-design guideline: “Every pre-defined activity associated with a room should have a ‘lighting strategy,’” he says. “For example, a dining room is obviously designed for dining, but the space might be used for game playing or newspaper reading. Recessed lighting around the perimeter of the room can be combined with a chandelier to create a perfect blend of ambient and task lighting.”
Phil Sherer and Susie Adams of Masterpiece Lighting suggest “layering” lighting to achieve certain needs in particular rooms, whether that means choosing lighting to perform visual activities, enhance room decor, create mood and atmosphere or ensure safety and security. “People light their homes to suit personal lifestyles and tastes, basing their lighting needs on how they use the rooms in their homes and on what lighting effects they prefer,” they say. The following are tips from lighting experts on appropriate home lighting for daily activities.
Kitchen lighting consists of three layers: local task lighting in work areas, general lighting for the room and accent or mood lighting, according to Sherer and Adams. “Serious cooks deserve serious lighting!” One way to achieve dual-purpose lighting is to use ceiling cans, or recessed lighting, to aid in food preparation. Supplement that with under-cabinet lighting for added visual enhancement and mood lighting.
While you want to have plenty of light when you’re enjoying a meal, Shawn Hill of Lux Lighting Limited says that eating areas require less direct lighting. “A central pendant or chandelier with surrounding cans or down lights is a good solution,” he says. One over-the-table lighting option is a chandelier with upward-facing lights, which add a soft glow and prevent table glare.
TV and movie rooms
The use of a dimmer or low wattage light sources in living areas is a great idea, because, as Doug Root of Atlanta Light Bulbs says, “Low light puts less glare on your TV, which helps people avoid squinting.”
Dressing areas should always be well illuminated for distinguishing [between similar] colors, such as black from blue,” Michael Fortson of Illuminations says. Halogen lamps are the best source for clear, white light that shows true colors.
Sherer and Adams also suggest using fluorescents with compatible lamps in closets and dressing areas. “They offer a lot of light with a little heat,” they say.
As energy efficiency continues to be a primary concern among homeowners, LED lighting technologies are continually advancing. Ask any lighting specialist or interior designer which new products they’re excited about, and an LED offering will surely make the list.
Although some new products are still being tweaked for color quality, Fortson says that LED is the most efficient lighting source on the market today. “The best quality LEDs can last up to 50,000 hours or more,” he says.
Hill adds to the positive points of LEDs, saying, “Manufactures claim they consume 80 to 90 percent less energy than equivalent incandescent light bulbs and have a predicted life span of up to 15 years operating for 12 hours a day,” he says. Hill also points out that they contain no lead, mercury or other harmful heavy metals, which in turn eliminates disposal and health concerns.
Another favorite technology among experts is the continuing advances in home automation. Not only does automation allow lighting control to be more convenient and accessible, but it also increases energy efficiency. “It is always important to consider energy and convenience, and there are several options that meet both of these needs, such as hand-held remotes, wall-mounted keypads, table-top controls and occupancy and vacancy sensors which help to ensure lights are off,” says Jessica Ferguson, director of marketing of Sunbelt Technology.
Regardless of whether you’re considering lighting re-styling in just one room or you’re planning a whole-home makeover, open your eyes to the many possibilities on the market today and lighten up your life!
“Lighting can be ‘fun’ctional. It can function as a piece of art for the home or office. Don’t take it too seriously. Work with a professional to help you achieve your goals, and don’t be afraid to say you don’t like something. ‘No’ is as good as ‘yes’ when getting across your taste and style.”
—Michael Fortson, Illuminations
Jessica Ferguson, marketing director of Sunbelt Technology, says that homeowners can extend the life of their bulbs up to 10+ years, (depending on the percent of energy used within the bulb) and save money each year with the use of lighting controls. “They also allow the homeowner to feel secure, as they provide lit areas at any time of day or night and create safe pathways of light in hallways or to fire alarms and security systems.”
“Make sure you understand what you are buying and whether it is suitable for your application. If you have questions, ask a sales representative. If you are redoing a large portion of lighting or are switching out fixtures to newer technologies, go see a professional. With so many options out there and so many new technologies that are not “street tested” you want to make sure you are going with a quality product that the manufacturer will stand behind.”
—Doug Root, Atlanta Light Bulbs
“Unless you have a strong knowledge of and experience with lighting, it’s always better to have a professional step in, especially when dealing with dimmers and switches.”
—Carl Strandberg, Sunbelt Technology