We sat down with interior design guru Shawn Alshut, who owns Studio A2 Architecture & Interiors with her husband, Edward Alshut, AIA, in order to find out how she handles lighting the interior spaces she designs. Her advice? “Few things can change the visual and emotional impact of a space like lighting. Whether you’ll use a room for an intimate, romantic dinner or to operate a business, lighting will communicate a mood and support a function.” She says she considers what activities will take place in a room so she can create focal points with either general lighting for safety and visibility, decorative lighting (such as accent lights to highlight special objects) or task lighting (like well-positioned reading lights over a desk).
 
In this open living space, general, accent and task lighting is used to create “layers of light” to support the many functions in the room. In the main seating area, a decorative floor lamp has been used to visually lower the ceiling and provide general lighting. The ceiling’s recessed down-lights provide focused accent light in the path of circulation. A small-aperture, recessed wall-washer highlights the artwork in the entry. Dimmers on all the lights allow the homeowner to control the mood and focus of the space.  
 
The decorative pendant fixtures over this kitchen island bring the ceiling lower visually and provide task lighting to the countertop. The under-cabinet lighting system provides focused lighting on the counter surfaces and accent lighting for the backsplashes.
For glass-fronted cabinets, you can use LED light strips, which should be located at the front face 
of the shelving, to illuminate decorative objects 
and to avoid glare. 
 
Bathrooms need good lighting for both function and beauty. Here, architectural down lights in the ceiling, typically centered over the sink, provide illumination to the countertop and the decorative flooring in front of the sink cabinet.
The best facial illumination is provided by lighting located at eye level in front or to the sides of the mirror. Hence, a sconce positioned on the mirror wall serves this purpose. 
 
In an internal space with no access to windows or natural lighting, you might want to think about adding a skylight or “sun tunnel,” like this one from Velux, in the ceiling. The product looks like a normal light fixture, but runs from the roof to your ceiling just like a skylight. It’s a great way to introduce natural light to the space.  This is one of the most eco-friendly lighting options out there. Of course, you’ll need to provide a source of traditional lighting to the room for cloudy days and in the evening.
 
Shawn Alshut, Studio A2 Architecture & Interiors
 
Shawn Alshut, RA, ASID, is an award-winning architect and interior designer and she is a principal of Studio A2 Architecture & Interiors—winner of the 2015 Atlanta Home Improvement Magazine Architect Firm of the Year Award. She is also past president of the American Society of Interior Designers Georgia Chapter.