Consider the following categories for each room and situation:
- General lighting simply illuminates the room. It includes recessed and track lighting and torchieres.
- Task lighting illuminates a specific area, typically pointing down, and includes table or floor lamps. It enhances vision for reading, applying makeup, and cooking.
- Accent lighting is directional and emphasizes things like artwork, flowers, statuettes, and decorations. They include a bulb with a directional cone, halogen spotlights and table lamps with opaque shades.
- Ambient lighting comes from a hidden source to wash the room with a glow. It casts very little shadow, so it “flattens” the interior. Wall sconces, lamps with Japanese paper shades, even dimmers provide ambient lighting.
Different lights achieve different purposes. Halogen lights are a pure white and bring out colors. Tungsten (ordinary light bulbs) have a yellow cast and warmer tone. Fluorescent lights are bright for well-lit applications. Incandescent types radiate light when their phosphor is made to fluoresce. They emit a warm quality that’s complimentary to skin tones. Track lighting systems can highlight multiple or continuous areas with a series of adjustable lights.
There’s no formula to room lighting, leaving you free to experiment and enjoy.
Here are a few tips to help you unleash your creativity:
Accent items with the right lights. Different bulbs bring out different tones, colors and textures. Halogen lights bring out a painting’s colors, wood grains and plants’ shadings. Recessed and pendant lights are good for general lighting. Use accent lights over cabinets to bring out the wall’s color and texture.
Consider the totality of the room. Evenly lit rooms can be monotonous. Create a unique look by mixing and matching ambient and task lighting throughout a room.
Use light for the illusion of space. For tall rooms avoid illuminating the ceiling. For small rooms, “push” one wall by washing it with light, or light all four corners for an expansive look. Widen narrow rooms by illuminating the wide sides.
Down-light photos and paintings. Visit your local art gallery for ideas on emphasizing your artwork and family photos with down-lighting.
Combine function and comfort in the kitchen. Use recessed lights and pendants for general lighting and accent lights over cabinets. Consider under cabinet lights to soften the room at night. Also consider using task lights near the stove and food preparation areas.
Divide multipurpose rooms. Section off the areas in a large room by activity. Hang a light over dining and game tables, use floor lamps to direct light down from behind reading chairs and position lights strategically around TVs and computer monitors to prevent glare.
Highlight your walls. If your wall has texture, accent it. Use recessed or track lighting, or sconces to highlight textured and painted walls.
Have dimmers in several rooms. Expand the possibilities of each room. Dimmers provide a wide range of mood lighting and can also help save energy and extend the life of your light bulbs. Plug-in dimmer units are available at your local hardware store.
Open the shades. Daylight is the most illuminating and natural light, plus it changes the look of the room as the day progresses.
Consider yourself a painter and the light sources are your brushes. With the right blend of lighting and interior décor, you can make every room in your home a different work of art!