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Designer Tips for Lighting and Lighting Fixtures

Light is one of the most important, yet understated elements in our daily lives. Light helps form events, and memories…the sunny day at the beach, the marriage proposal by candlelight, the ghost stories told by the campfire. The Bible says that after God created the heavens and earth, he created light, and saw that it was good (Genesis 1:3-4). Scientific studies have shown that the appropriate and proper lighting affect our daily moods. Can you imagine living in a world with no light? Or even in a world with inappropriate lighting? How would this affect your life?

Thankfully, we have access to great lighting….which means we have options. You can use lighting in so many ways to enhance your life, and your home…to make easy life’s daily tasks, to strengthen and highlight the structural features of your home, to provide romance and warmth to the environment where you spend your quiet time. Below are some of the ideas we would like to share with you on light positioning and lighting products. It comes from years of experience and working with other professionals who are experts in the field. I hope this helps…please enjoy:

What are the different types of lighting I should know about and use when designing a room?

There are four basic types of lighting that can, and should be used to achieve the best lighting design. They are: ambient lighting, task lighting, accent lighting, and decorative lighting.

Ambient lighting fills the undefined areas of a room with a soft level of general light, enough for someone to navigate through the room.

Task lighting is a bright light that illuminates a particular area where a visual activity, such as food preparation, or reading takes place.

Accent lighting is similar to task lighting in that it consists largely of directed light. Accent lighting is used to focus attention on artwork, or architectural features, to help set a mood or provide drama in decorating your space.

Any of the three previous categories of light can come in the form of Decorative Lighting. Decorative lighting draws attention to itself, and can sometime be the centerpiece or focal point of a room. A Dining Room Chandelier is a perfect example of this. It is very important that you select the proper type of decorative lighting to create the environment you desire.

Are there any basic rules to use when planning a lighting design?

One basic, but often overlooked rule of efficient lighting is to put light where you need it. However, to insure an attractive, comfortable lighting atmosphere, you must also think about balancing light. It is essential to create an effective spread of light through each room and have it flow seamlessly between rooms. The best way to achieve this balance in a well-decorated room is to layer light sources. The first step to lighting design is to identify the main activity areas or the room’s focal points. Any room with multiple focal points will be the most visually interesting and balanced. This is where the brightest layer of light should be directed. The next step is a middle layer of light that provides interest in specific areas without detracting from focal points. The last layer fills in the background.

The first two layers are supplied by task and/or accent lighting, depending on what is being lit. The third and lower-level ambient lighting is usually indirect like that provided by wall sconces. Once the essential layers are in place the decorative pieces can be added.

Can you add too much light to a room?

Yes you can. When designing with light you must consider all light sources, including natural light. You must also take into account day and evening options.

If you over light a room, the effect will be harsh and uncomfortable especially at nighttime. If you have layered your lighting correctly you need not rely on your decorative pieces for light – lamps with dark or black shades, or chandeliers with dimmer switches are among the lighting options that can be added for fashion without over lighting your room.

In location of lighting, are there other do’s and don’ts?

One of the most important considerations in the placement of light fixtures is the glare they produce. Direct glare – as from a bare light bulb – is the worst kind. Always use the correct bulbs to avoid glare and also beware of reflected glare, light that bounces off of other objects into the eyes.

My room seems too big/small…. how can lighting help?

The direction in which you point the light can be very helpful. Ceilings can pose problems, or they can become special features. If the ceilings seem too low, bounce light from up-light fixtures (like torchieres) as this can visually “raise” the ceilings. Cathedral or beamed ceilings can also he highlighted and take on new importance in the overall design of a room with up lighting. Two common problems in older homes are rough or patchy surfaces., and high, cavernous ceilings. To alleviate lighting issues, keep the lighting off the ceiling by using only down lighting (like chandeliers or semi-flush mounts). Imperfections in a surface will be less noticeable without direct light shining on them.

Room dimensions can “appear” to be altered with the proper lighting. Smaller rooms can look more expansive and large rooms can be warmed with the correct lighting fixtures. Washing the four walls of a room with soft light, combined with a light toned paint can create the effect of a larger room. Conversely, a large room illuminated with a few soft pools of light concentrated on certain objects or areas can make a room feel smaller and more intimate.

What about a narrow room or hallway?

Narrow rooms can benefit by placing lighting on the short walls of the room rather than drawing attention to the long narrow walls. This results in a wider looking space. In narrow hallways choose sconces that project light both up and down the walls and that light both sides of a hallway.

I have a lot of beautiful features in my home, like stonework and silk window dressings. How can I show them off with lighting?

Skimming them with light will highlight textured surfaces, whether it be a soft surface like fabric or a hard masonry surface. Acute angle placement near these surfaces will help achieve this effect.

How can I use lighting to show off the beautiful decorative objects in my home?

Backlighting decorative objects can help accent them. Bouncing light indirectly onto an object can also achieve a pleasant effect. Lighting something from below works particularly well on transparent or translucent items such as glass.

Any tips for my Entryway?

Entries should not be overly lit. The transition from outdoors to indoor can be disorienting. Remember to avoid glare in this area. This is best done with multiple light sources. Make the entry warm and inviting. Lighting is very important here, as it is the point where the first impression is made.

How should I light my Living Room or Family Room?

Living rooms and family rooms benefit from the layered approach perhaps more than any other areas of the home. If a television is present be sure to have soft ambient light to make the viewing experience pleasurable. These rooms are perhaps the most used rooms in a home so remember to avoid glare off of reflective surfaces. Task lighting may also be important in parts of these rooms so think about everything that goes on in these rooms when planning your lighting.

Once I have the right size chandelier, my dining room is complete, correct?

Not quite. The chandelier should not be your only light source in the room. Wall sconces, and buffet lamps are some examples of fixtures that can help balance this room. Also, don’t forget light by candle, or possibly by fire when planning your dining area.

The Kitchen and the Bathroom seem to be the place where lighting is most important – how do I get the right lighting in these areas?

Kitchens and Bathrooms require both task and ambient light. Focus light on work areas such as over an island or sink. Add ambient light to the task lighting under separate controls for different looks as well as function. Ample lighting is needed in both areas. Be aware of shadows and dark areas that can be caused by furniture, doors, etc. Don’t scrimp on light in either of these important areas of your home.

How do I provide transition light from my rooms to my hallways and staircases?

Hallways and stairs need ample and pleasant lighting, as they are the passageways of the home. Try to make the transition between rooms and passageways as even as possible. Uneven lighting provides a harsh transition. Hall lights should be kept simple, as they are generally narrower areas. Using larger, ornate pieces in passageways can clutter or appear to reduce the size of the passageway. Do not under light these areas however, especially the staircases for safety sake as well as the look.

What general rules should I follow to light the master bedroom?

Bedrooms need the same layering of light as all other living spaces. Reading, television viewing, dressing, makeup application can all take place in the bedroom. Give enough options to have soft lighting to full bright light available in the appropriate areas of the room. Balance is also important but matching both sides of the bed is not always critical. This is often a personal space for more than one person. Each of their tastes can be reflected with complimentary, rather than matching pieces.

I have a home office… how should I light it?

All workspaces must be functional but do not need to look utilitarian or cold. In other words a home office need not look like an office. Make sure to have the proper task lighting in place and again be mindful of the glare factor. Computer screens and shiny desktops can make work areas uncomfortable if glare or shadows abound. Light should come from the side not behind or in front of the worker. Again two sources are better than one to avoid eyestrain.

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