Lighting Your Home

Proper lighting is an important element in interior decorating because it helps you set the mood and activity for the room. An evenly lit room is boring - variations in brightness, highlight, and shadow provide visual relief to the occupants. Too much contrast, however, can destroy the interior design. The key to a great design is a balance among different types of lighting.

  • Ambient - Overhead lights that illuminate the whole room. Wall sconces may be another example.
  • Task - Helps you perform the task at hand, such as reading, cooking, shaving. Task lighting should be glare-free, and it should make things easy to see without straining your eyes.
  • Accent - Used to illuminate a sculpture, piece of art, or architectural element in a room. Accent lighting is about three times as bright as ambient lighting.
  • Natural - Comes through windows, doors, and skylights. Depending on the time of day, season, or weather, it can vary in brightness and intensity.

Do a little planning before you purchase your home lighting fixtures. Consider the different activities that will occur in each area of the room, and don't be afraid to use multiple types of lighting in a room. That's the best way to be able to adjust the lighting to suit the mood and activity you are preparing for. For additional flexibility with your overhead or other ambient lighting, consider installing a dimmer in larger rooms so you can adjust the brightness as needed.

Take some measurements before choosing a lamp. If the lamp is going to be placed on a table, it must have the right proportions so that the lampshade does not overlap the edges of the table. This not only prevents the lampshade from being bumped, but also allows for other objects to be placed on the table.

Lighting can also be helpful in making a room look larger or smaller. For example, if a room seems too narrow, then wash one wall with light to visually expand it. If a ceiling is high, but you want the room to have a more intimate and cozy feel, try not to allow much light to escape beyond the height of the lamp.

Here are a few suggestions for lighting various rooms in your home:

Family rooms: Place a lamp behind every reader's shoulder - about 42 inches above the floor. Highlight a framed piece of art with halogen track lighting or by attaching a picture light. Install recessed lighting as your general light source or to bring out beautiful wall textures.

Bedrooms: Place table lamps on your nightstands, but avoid halogen lamps (which can get very hot) in children's rooms. Don't forget candlelight if a romantic setting is what you have in mind.

Kitchens: A grid of recessed ceiling cans will provide great general lighting, and under-cabinet lights make excellent task lighting.

Dining rooms: A chandelier over the dining room table creates a beautiful setting (use a dimmer). If a chandelier is not your taste and you have a long table, try a trio of pendant lights.

Bathrooms: Use frosted bulbs to reduce shadows and glare around mirrors so they are well illuminated for grooming. Halogen and fluorescent bulbs provide brighter light, and are ideal for overhead lighting. And don't forget to install a nightlight!

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