We’ve had a lot of requests recently for tips on how designers create a lighting plan for an interior, so…let’s jump right in!
There are four kinds of lighting requirements: general (or ambient), task, decorative, & accent. The lighting required for each space will, of course, depend on what you would like to do in each area of your home.
1. General lighting allows someone to navigate a room easily & safely, filling the room with general environmental light.
2. Task lights are bright lights that illuminate a set area for activity, like a reading lamp on a desk.
3. Accent lighting focuses attention on artwork, features within the interior design, or other areas, & is especially useful for setting a mood in the room.
4. Decorative lighting consists of pieces that both light the space & are beautiful or sculptural. A dining room chandelier is good example of this type of lighting.[/ezcol_1half_end]
How to select lighting for your entire home:
Take a look at your home and imagine what you will do in each room. Using your furniture layout to determine how each area will be used is the best way to identify the type of lighting you will need.
[ezcol_1third][/ezcol_1third] [ezcol_2third_end] Be sure to take some notes (or even sketch the space!) on where you’ll locate the general lighting to light the whole room (like recessed can lights), where you’ll need task lights such as under cabinet lighting or reading lights, and where you would like to highlight art or a special material such as a stone wall (directional recessed cans are great for this! Pictured left). Your designer or your electrician can work with you to determine which fixtures are best to accommodate your desired lighting scheme, and then you can start the fun part of the process: finding the decorative light fixtures![/ezcol_2third_end]
Let’s take a look at some of our favorite projects and their lighting designs.
This lovely home office has a highly layered lighting design. The decorative chandelier by Jonathan Adler is a major focus in the room and lights the desk below it, as the lamps are directional. The overhead recessed down lights provide an even general light. The table lamp [Robert Abbey], which is also quite decorative (I love the little pop of color that the cord gives!), provides task light for the chairs in the window and can be turned as light is needed for reading or writing.
This gorgeous kitchen uses recessed lights for ambient lighting, under cabinet lights (see below) for task lighting at the counters, and the three gorgeous pendants to provide both light for the island and act as sleek decorative accents for the kitchen.
It’s also useful to be sure you know what is available. While halogen under cabinet lighting is extremely popular for kitchens, they do run very hot, and can create problems inside the cabinets. The new LED under counter lights are much, much cooler!
[ezcol_1third][/ezcol_1third] [ezcol_2third_end] The bathroom is another room that needs careful attention, as these rooms can be quite small, and sometimes windowless. It’s important to make sure that the person standing in front of a mirror is lit carefully so as not to create shadows—lighting from in front and both sides is often key. Never place a light directly overhead, as it cast shadows on your face. Not a good thing!
The American Lighting Association (ALA) recommends the following for dining room lighting fixtures:
Mount pendant fixtures 30″ above the table top. Personally, I prefer 36” above the table when the ceilings are tall. If your table is round, the fixture should ideally be 12″ narrower than the diameter of the table, but it can be even slightly smaller in scale.
A dining room is another example of the use of decorative lighting (as we mentioned above!) This gorgeous room uses a particularly beautiful decorative chandelier. For square and rectangular tables, choose a fixture that is 12″ narrower than the smallest side. Again, it can be slightly narrower. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there is no hard and fast rule to selecting decorative lighting. As long as the fixture is proportionate to the room and the furnishings, if you love it, go for it!
One great big “don’t”: always be careful to control and avoid glare in your lighting design. It’s important not to allow bright light directly in the eyes of the room’s occupants. A quick and easy tip for lighting control: It’s useful in any design and in any room to use dimmers, giving you control over the levels of light and to set moods.
Do you have specific questions about lighting in your home or other spaces? Let us know in the comments and we’ll try to answer in future posts! In the meantime, take a look at our online portfolio and take note of how we’ve used lighting in each room—the best way to learn how designers use light (or indeed any other element of design) is to study their projects!
We’ll see you next week!