Lighting is one of those things that not only "makes" a room but it is something you cannot live without. It can really loft the overall mood and appearance of a home. Unfortunately it is often overlooked so here are some guidelines to help you decide how much light you need and the best types for the different rooms in your home. We work with our Fairfield and Westchester County Clients to insure that they have the best lighting for staging and design.
Let's first talk about the four different types of lighting before we get into design, use and placement.
Ambient or general lighting provides overall illumination to a room. It can be built in (recessed or underneath soffits) or added as a fixture (track, sconces and hanging.)
Task lighting enables you to do something specific such as reading, paperwork or cooking to name a few. This could be a table or standing lamp, a pendant or even under the counter in the Kitchen.
Accent lighting is used to highlight an architectural detail or focal point (such as a painting) and is usually three times as bright as ambient lighting.
Natural lighting is the light that comes from outside through windows, doors or skylights.
There are two essential rules to keep in mind.
1. Functionality comes first then aesthetics
2. The formula to properly light a room:
Room Length (in feet) x Room Width x 1.5 = Amount Of Wattage Needed.
For example, an 18 x 12 room needs 324 watts (18 x 12 x 1.5). You can and in most cases should divide that lighting into more than one source. i.e. 2 Lamps @ 150 watts each and 1 lamp @ 60 watts would be more than adequate light for the room.
There are different types of lighting that work best for specific rooms. A chandelier is a great source of ambient light for a grand entry. For smaller foyers and hallways use flush and semi flush mounted fixtures on the ceiling. Then add a combination of a pendant light, two wall sconces or even two buffet lamps on a side table for an inviting entrance.
Most living areas of the house require adequate lighting for reading or other tasks and some low level, glare-free lights for television viewing. Lamps with a 3-way switch are a good option as they give you a wide range of illumination. Try keeping the lamps proportional to the tables they are sitting on. The bottom of the lampshade should be at eye level when you are seated. Floor lamps are another option when table space is at a minimum. There is usually some form of overhead lighting so try keeping it as a decorative accent and use a dimmer switch so you can change the mood of the room. In the case of track lighting I like to use LED strip lighting which creates a soft glow as seen below on these beams.
If all of this seems complicated, a good rule of thumb is to have 3 lighting sources in a room to produce adequate lighting and create your triangle of light.
Other than the kitchen, excellent lighting is essential for performing personal tasks in the bathroom. Whatever your style, lighting for the bath has become a primary part of bath design. Your bath will probably require some form of overhead lighting and task lighting for the vanity. The best way to light a vanity is to place a fixture above the mirror with lights facing downward not upward. A good rule of thumb is to keep the size of the lighting in proportion to the size of the mirrors. For that spa like quality, try a chandelier that coordinates with your vanity lighting. Think about adding a dimmer switch for those times when you crave that special spa experience. It can really set the mood.
In your Dining Room make the table the brightest spot by placing a chandelier or a pendant above the table. Give the space a subtle glow with a pair of small table lamps on a sideboard or matching sconces on the wall above.
As the hardest working rooms in the house, the kitchen requires a certain amount of technical know-how when it comes to lighting. Here well-considered, functional fixtures go a long way toward making a kitchen both beautiful and practical round the clock. Start with recessed cans and/or ceiling mounted fixtures for ambient lighting. Then depending on how and where you will work in your Kitchen add task lighting in the form of under cabinet lighting (tubes or puck) and pendants over sinks and islands. You can also add pendants and sconces as accent lighting. The pendants can not only serve as functional but as the "jewelry" to finish the room.
Most bedrooms have overhead lighting so when choosing a ceiling fixture, look for something decorative that fits the style of the bedroom. Chandeliers are very popular and look opulent in the bedroom. Don't be afraid to go for it! Again, make sure whether you choose a chandelier, semi-flush or a flush mount fixture, you install a dimmer switch. It will give you options from bright light all the way to a soft, moody glow. Bedside lighting is very important. For maximum illumination, the lamps should be no further than 12 inches away from the side of the bed. Try choosing bedside lamps with three-way switches so you always have the level of light needed for reading, etc. The lamps must also be tall enough to throw enough light. Too often I see tiny lamps on bedside tables that really do not cast any real light. If you don't have room for a bedside lamp, try wall mounted sconces. You can purchase either plug in or hard wire versions that look stylish and keep your bedside tables free for that stack of magazines you've been wanting to read.
Adequate task lighting is the key to a functional office space and here lamps are the best option. Desk lamps should be about 16" above the work surface to maximize efficiency and reduce glare. If you want a very bright space, install overhead recessed lighting or track lighting to direct light in specific areas.
As you can see there is so much to cover when it comes to lighting. Feel free to ask me any questions about it on my facebook page or instagram. In the meantime, here are some dos and don'ts to help you get it right.
- hang chandeliers in rooms with high ceiling to fill the mid to upper layer of space.
- use LEDs for high reaching lights so you don't have to change them too often.
- use dimmers to decrease energy and heat output, increase lamp life and to set the mood.
- use track lights as the sole source of light for a room.
- cover your ceiling with too many recessed lights or it will look too busy.
- add accent lighting that casts shadows or impedes on a work space.
Remember....good lighting is one of the important elements of design, yet many homes are under-lit and others have too much. So when your room does not have enough natural daylight and the sun goes down, properly placing light fixtures and choosing the right ones for each room is a must to make your home complete.
Have a bright day!