Wednesday Word on Interior Design Lighting

April 14, 2010

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Tamarai Restaurant Lighting by PSLab

I am so revved up about lighting after posting about Snog on Monday that this whole week is going to be about lighting.

I could never cover it all in one week of posts but here are some basic pointers.

First think about what you plan to do in a room. Will you be watching TV, playing games, reading a book, sleeping, working at a computer, shaving or applying make-up?  Each task dictates what type of lighting you need.  Also, keep in mind – sorry folks – as you get older you need more light to see.

The time to think about lighting is right at the beginning of building a home, addition or renovating a room.  Most lighting requires opening up walls and my electrician at least is loathe to open up a wall that is newly wallpapered or painted.  So make sure to think about your lighting needs and the amount of money you would like to invest in great lighting for your home.  It is a great investment!  Think of all the beautiful things in your home – don’t you want everyone to be able to see and enjoy them?

There are three types of lighting – ambient, task, and accent. Interior Designers, or if it’s a tricky home Lighting Designers, layer these three forms of light to wonderful effect.  Light should not be even so that the eye knows where to land.  Light should be used to highlight what is important and to create mood and drama.  Lighting can be used to change the way we see a space.  For example, it can draw the eye down and  emphasize the horizontal in a room – think table lamps.

  • Ambient lighting is your general or overall lighting – think overhead or recessed lights in a hallway, office or bathroom or the most obvious one (easy to forget) natural light.  Also, wall washers can be used to great effect to brighten a room and make it look larger.
  • Task lights are specific to illuminating work spaces, such as a lamp on your desk, a floor lamp next to your favorite chair for reading, a chandelier over your dining table, undercabinet lighting for your counters in your kitchen or lights on your steps so you can see where you are walking.  I have an Ott-Light at my drawing board – crisp full spectrum light – wonderful for clarity when drawing.
  • Accent lighting is used for highlighting art or objets – for example, the lighting in a glass cabinet to highlight your collection, an art lamp or recessed swivel lights turned to highlight art on a wall, a piece of sculpture.  This can also be used to great effect to highlight architectural details such as a beautiful stone fireplace – you can just imagine the shadows cast by the varying surface of the stone.

Lighting Moods

There are so many options out on the market now if you want to have a variety of moods in a room.  The easiest is to add a dimmer.  I always specify dimmers in bathrooms – do you really want a full flourescent glaring on you in the middle of the night?

Kitchens require all three layers of light.  They can tend to be the most complicated with a variety of overhead lighting, task lighting under the upper cabinets and above the sink and stove, as well as accent lighting for any beautiful dishes on display.

Dining Rooms should be soft and elegant.  Again, accent lighting for beautiful crystal or china is so important.  There are great LED strips out now that can be discretely hidden in the cabinetry to great effect.  Of course, a chandelier or pendants on a dimmer create wonderful ambience for your soiree.  I even add sconces above a console table or a pair of gorgeous table lamps directly on it.

For Bedrooms, I always suggest soft lighting, emphasizing the ceiling by using cove lighting or torcheres.  Either provide great ambient lighting without glare.  Dimmers are great in the bedroom too.  Make sure to get an opaque shade for a reading lamp so as not to disturb your partner too much when you are reading.  Bedrooms are a great place for wall mount reading lamps or  hanging pendants above each nightstand.

Finally, Lutron has a great light control system that allows you to set different moods in a room.  So imagine you want to read books in your living room by day and have a small cocktail party at night – two different moods, two different switches all at the touch of your fingertip.

Lighting can warm up cold spaces and make your home so much more inviting.

All sound baffling?  Feel free to post your questions right here on my blog.  I would love to hear from you.

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