Let There be Light
Lighting may not be something you think about much. We have come to trust it will be there with a simple flip of a switch and at a moment’s notice. However, lighting can do more than just illuminate a room; it can solidify your home’s design.
There are three key components to creating a lighting design, according to experts at the American Lighting Association (ALA), a trade association representing the lighting industry.
General lighting provides a space with overall illumination. It should radiate a comfortable level of brightness, enabling one to see and walk about safely.
Task lighting helps you perform specific jobs, such as reading, cooking, homework or hobbies. It can be provided by recessed and track lighting, pendant lighting and lamps.
The ALA advises you select task lighting that is free of distracting glare and shadows. In addition, it should be bright enough to prevent eyestrain.
Accent lighting adds drama by creating visual interest. It should be used as an element of your decorating plan—to highlight paintings, sculptures, a fireplace or other objects of interest. Accent lighting requires at least three times as much light on the focal point as the general lighting around it.
“By using a correct mix of these three light forms, you add variety, comfort and efficiency to a space,” says Bob Milford of Calcon Lighting Co.
How much light is right?
To ensure that you have enough light in a space, you can incorporate general lighting in a number of stylish ways: chandeliers, ceiling or wall-mounted fixtures and recessed or track lights. You should also consider ways to control your light.
“Dimmers allow the light level to be adjusted for the use of the room and time of day,” Milford says.
When creating a lighting design for your living room, you’ll want to include general illumination, task lighting for reading or homework and accent lighting to draw attention to decorative items of interest. There may be some areas, such as a fireplace, where you will want to use multiple types of lighting. “With a fireplace, you might want to do some spotlights to highlight the fireplace or the texture of it,” says Mary Tucker, ALA certified lighting designer with Lamps Plus. “The other option is if you are going to actually decorate the fireplace with lighting, you might put sconces on either side of a painting.”
If you have recessed lighting and enjoy watching television, Tucker suggests putting those lights on a dimmer. “That allows you to dim those down and gives you some background lighting.”
Another specialty space is the computer center. “A lot of these new homes have what they call tech centers,” says Gary Contreras, district manager with Lamps Plus. “You may want to consider some specialty lighting.” He suggests spotlights or undercabinet lighting so it doesn’t flood the rest of the room and occupants.
“The dining room is a simple room to address, yet is typically a poorly lighted room that has considerable investment (dining room sets are usually expensive furniture) and minimal usage,” Milford says.
To have lighting that covers both dramatic display of the table centerpieces and good lighting for use of the table, Milford suggests installing a pair (possibly more depending on the size of the table) of low-voltage pin-point recessed lights, in addition to the chandelier. “These would be placed just outside the diameter of the chandelier lengthwise on the table,” he says. “The chandelier (on a separate control) can be on with low-wattage bulbs or lowered with a dimmer.”
In the case of a large room, Milford recommends additional (usually four) evenly spaced recessed lights for general light. Accent lighting can be used to draw the eye to artwork or to areas like a well-dressed buffet.
Once upon a time, the kitchen was a utilitarian place to prepare food. Today, it has become the nerve center of the home where family and friends gather to catch up and socialize. When putting together a lighting design, you’ll need to factor in functionality with comfort.
“A lot of times we are taking out fluorescent lighting,” Tucker says. “We are doing a lot of can lights, and we use that as general background lighting.” She suggests placing recessed cans around the room at strategic points and using halogens. “It renders colors true,” she adds.
Beyond general lighting, you will want additional task lighting over the sink and cooktop. Undercabinet lighting is ideal for prepping food and can be aesthetically pleasing,.
Geanie Vaughan, marketing sales manager with Savoy House Lighting, says many customers are getting creative and having fun, particularly when choosing task lighting. “People are using more of the whimsical mini-chandeliers as apposed to three little pendant lights or trestle lights,” she says.
Many use their fixtures to add fashion and color to a space, but don’t think of the color their bulb may cast. “Match up the bulb colors,” Vaughan says. “Make sure your recessed bulb and under counter bulbs have the same color rendition.”
Finding a Fixture
|Chandeliers add sparkle and style while providing general light. They are used in bedrooms, dining rooms, foyers or over a living room grouping.|
|Pendants provide both task and general lighting. Equipped with shades or globes to avoid glare, they are suspended from the ceiling.|
|Wall-Mounted Fixtures can furnish general, task and accent lighting. Many are designed to match and supplement dining room chandeliers, or to provide hallway, bedroom or living room lighting.|
|Portable Lamps deliver general, task and accent lighting, while giving you the flexibility to move the light. Table lamps, floor lamps and torchiers are available in a variety of styles.|
|Track Lighting can provide general, task or accent lighting all at once in one flexible lighting system. You can move, swivel, rotate and aim the individual fixtures, giving you the versatility to change the lighting scheme.|
|Recessed Lighting provides general, task or accent lighting inconspicuously. Installed in the ceiling, recessed fixtures can be used anywhere.|
Undercabinet/Undershelf Fixtures offer task and accent lighting. Justin Bryant of Uni-Lite in Anaheim suggests florescent or xenon lights for inner- or under-cabinet placement because they produce little heat.
|Photos courtesy of Lamps Plus|