Lighting is the fastest way to transform a space. It is also one of the most significant components of featuring a room. The best-designed spaces will look dismal with ineffective lighting. Dollar for dollar lighting can also provide the most profound transformation. All lamps and lighting range in costs from very reasonable to overtly extravagant. If you’re working on a budget the key is to find lamps and lights that look more expensive then they are and optimize their functionality. Every light, and I mean every light (with the exception of utilitarian or task lighting) should have a dimmer switch attached to them. Utilitarian lighting examples might be found in a bathroom or lights illuminating the basement stairs. Dimmers come in the form of corded and wall-mounted. If you don’t have every lamp on a corded dimmer, make that a priority first.
Lighting should be directional and intentional so it brightens a specific area of the room, adding drama with warmth. I’m a huge proponent of filtered or Soft Lighting. Soft lighting is diffused, bounced, indirect light; the opposite of Hard Light. The soft shadows and subtle highlights produced are so luscious, one wonders why this light isn't used for everything. I try to avoid hard lights or lamps where you can directly see the bulb. They produce aggressive highlights and dark shadows. They’re always uncomfortable to look at and without being properly diffused and focused, the intention of the light never feels resolved. There are exceptions. Many chandeliers for example are hard lighted. They look spectacular in a foyer where the entire area needs to be illuminated. Appropriately dimmed chandeliers can add remarkable glitz to almost any room.
For the kitchen: Kitchens are the heart of the home, the place where everyone receives its sustenance. Over the years a kitchen has become an increasingly important area to reflect this. As such a kitchen requires various types of lighting, from a mood light all the way to a task light. So each light needs to be able to preform as both. LED strips under the cabinets are a fantastic way to brighten the workspace and when dimmed create a warm inviting glow. They’re inexpensive and an electrician or someone with electrical experience can install with a wall dimmer. Canned lighting or other flush mounted ceiling lights (sometimes referred to as huggers) are great for utilitarian purposes. This is appropriate when you are in the middle of cooking and need bright illumination to safely and accurately work in the space. As soon as the focused attention to your work is completed, turn it down and set the mood. Have enough fill lighting to avoid shadows. Fill is used to lighten shadows and control contrast and lighting ratios. For example ceiling lights mounted far in front of the counter would create shadowing by you while working at the counter. This is why under the cabinet lighting is so beneficial.
If you have an island or peninsula this is where you get to shine and have fun. There are 1000’s of pendants to choose from and really is a crowning jewel to a kitchen. Decide whether you’re kitchen is modern, country-style, elegant, etc. Retail online lighting sites are a great resource to search through a vast number of options while coordinating your style. Pendants, depending on size and radius of light casted, should be placed approximately 3-4 feet apart. The radius of casted light is determined by the lamps widest possible beam angle, or the circle outside the casted light where illumination drops below 50%. This creates blooming, the spreading of highlights into the surrounding area. It’s not necessary for casted light from projected beam angles to touch, just make sure the area you’re illuminating is sufficient without dark areas.
For dining room: As mentioned above, I’m not actually a fan of hard-lighted chandeliers over a dining room table. This isn’t a rule, just a preference and again, even that can be broken. There are many styles of chandeliers that diffuse direct lighting with barrel shades (one large shade encompassing all the bulbs) or mini shades for each independent light bulb. Some chandeliers are cleverly designed so crystals hang in front of the bulbs. Others bounce light from within the sculpted lighting feature. Whatever you choose remember guests should be welcomed to the warm glow of the table and attention to the food and tabletop décor should be lime-lighted. Also, don’t forget about the credenza, this too will need to be illuminated by a smart table lamp or hanging pendants that compliment the style of the Chandelier.
Hallways: Track lighting or spotlights are great for hallways. In general have lights pointed at the artwork or pictures in the hall. The reflection of the light off the wall is often enough to illuminate the floor. Attractive ceiling lights or wall sconces are both good choices as well.
For the living and family room: As mentioned every lamp should have a dimmer to adjust it’s luminance. My favorite dimmer is the Credenza Lamp Dimmer by Lutron. They come in a variety of colors and have a smooth, firm glide to the fader bar. Yes, three-way bulbs can work but you won’t have optimum command to create the widest spectrum of moods. When purchasing energy efficient light bulbs, remember to get CFL and LED’s that are dimmable, not all are and it will be specified on the packaging. I still use incandescent for some lamps in the house, dim-ability are flawless and sometimes, on very dimly lit lamps when the power dips (ex. when the refrigerator fires up), the CFL goes out and won’t come back on. However technology for these bulbs keeps getting better everyday.
There are a variety of lamps to choose from: standard table lamps, floor lamps and floor projected lighting, swag lamps and chandeliers. Try to mix the styles of lamps throughout the room for more interest. Though not as widely common, I like swag lamps for their versatility and space saving capabilities. They hang from a hook attached to the ceiling with a chain that dips to the outer edge of the ceiling at either the corner or the wall and runs along the chord to the floor. These are great when direct ceiling mounted lighting is not an option. The number of lights needed depends on the size of the light and beam angle, its intended brightness and location. A room should first be divided up into “zones” and lighting should be provided for each area. Zones are typically small areas. A rocking chair might be a zone and the couch another while a credenza or bookshelf would be a third.
Choose lamps and lighting that either fit your theme or coordinate with the colors and tones of your selected pallet. For example if earth tones are predominant you could choose a lamp with amber tones. Or if greys are predominant, a sexy black lamp will always add relevance. Try not to mix gold and silver metals, select one or the other. While this is completely possible, it takes a trained eye to balance the two. Lastly, digital timers that turn on and off you lighting are very helpful in automating the space. It’s so pleasant walking into a home warmly lit welcoming your arrival.
· A dimmer on every light, every time - Lighting that’s intense can produce feelings of anxiety. Lighting that is soft and warm will relax. (Exception is utilitarian lighting). Digital timers automate your lifestyle.
· Choose lighting that fits the theme – Decide the theme of your space and either choose lightening within the theme or colors of lamps that coordinate your pallet.
· Avoid hard lights – Soft lighting produces a warm glow with subtle highlights and soft shadowing.
· Make sure lighting is sufficient – Since lighting creates zones within the space and is dimmed to create warmth, you may find you need more lighting then anticipated. One bright light will not sufficiently illuminate a space to create a satisfactory atmosphere.
Hopefully that helps create your mood and brightens your evenings. If you have any questions or comments please let us know.