With a little thought and planning, the lighting in the activity areas of your home can be made more efficient and attractive. But the right choice of fixture, the proper lamp (and bulb), placement, and height all have major effect on the results. When it all comes together, beauty, comfort and convenience can be added to every area of your home.
Four basic types of lighting are often used together to provide desired functionality and flexibility. Ambient lighting illuminates the entire room and should create a warm and inviting look. It should be relatively low level to avoid glare and dreariness. The amount needed is also affected by natural light sources, wall/floor/ceiling colors, and ceiling light.
Task or focal lighting is for reading, cooking, desk work, etc. and should be cooler in tone. It should be carefully placed to avoid shadows or glare to minimize eye strain. Accent lighting illuminates and highlights architectural features or objects in a room. Decorative lighting attracts attention to itself as an object. Examples are chandeliers or sconces. Decorative shades can make any lamp a decorative piece, as well.
Just as with furniture or window treatments, always start with the function or purpose of a particular lighting need when working with clients. From there, the type of lighting is usually obvious, although there may be choices or a combination required. With the exception of chandeliers, most residential lighting requirements are met best with lamps rather than recessed or ceiling-mounted fixtures. Wonderful lamps are available today for any location or purpose: wall sconces, table lamps, accent lamps, floor lamps, desk lamps, and torchieres of every size and material add variety and interest to any décor.
Size counts, and so does placement. Chandeliers, for example, should not be much wider than half the width of a dining table, and hung so that the bottom is about 30-32” above the table top. Chandeliers for a foyer or staircase are a bit trickier, as they must be three-dimensionally proportional to ‘look right’ when hung.
There are many choices for task lighting, and your selection should depend upon some basic ergonomic considerations, i.e. where will the task at hand be held? From where will the task be seen? Is glare a consideration? Lighting for a dresser or make-up table needs to light the face or head, without causing shadows or glaring into the eyes, color and intensity being particularly important for make-up application. Lighting for reading and many hand tasks should usually come from above and behind the user.
An astute buyer also considers the type, size, and color of the light bulbs for the lamps, as well--especially important if the bulb will be easily seen. And don’t forget that the halogen and quartz filament tubes generate intense heat, so they must always be shielded and kept well away from flammable materials.
Finally, use accent lighting to highlight the wonderful, special features of any room, and to create the mood for entertaining and enjoyment in both daytime and night. Small halogen lamps can spark up any art, houseplant, or accessory, and can often add
significantly to the overall ambient light, as well as the décor of your home. The choices available today are truly awesome and sometimes a bit mind-boggling. Give it some thought, and you’ll reap the rewards of a successful lighting scheme in every room