As you put together your home to make yourself more comfortable and at ease, sometimes nothing works. You like the furniture, you like the accent pieces, you like the wall coverings, but it still doesn’t feel right. The culprit may be lighting.
Lighting may the single most important feature in your home décor. It should be pleasing to the eye, focus attention on key features of the room and avoid both harsh spotlights and dark shadows. In this article we’ll talk about different kinds of home lighting.
General or ambient lighting refers to the overall level of light in the space and helps make the space comfortable and safe for use. One option for ambient lighting is torchiere lamps, which throw their light upwards, so it bounces off the ceiling and spreads throughout the room. Another option is to install recessed lighting into the ceiling. Recessed fixtures fit into a “can” from 3” to 8” in diameter and are available in hundreds of styles. Installation may require access through the attic to be able to drill holes in the ceiling for the cans. Generally speaking, they’re easier to put into new construction than to retrofit. If the housing will be contact with insulation, be sure it is rated “IC” for fire safety considerations. There are a host of new florescent fixtures which save energy and the bulbs are available to simulate natural sunlight.
Task lighting is focused light. Examples would include lighting focused on kitchen islands, under kitchen counters or at a desk. Fixtures with halogen or xenon bulbs will give a warmer light than traditional florescent lights and are available in both low and line voltages. A series of 5 watt bulbs spaced 6” apart should work if the lights are within 2 feet of the work surface.
A rule of thumb for accent lighting is that it should be four times brighter than the ambient light in a room. Here the lighting is used to focus on an accent object or an area like a vase or a picture. These lights are also available as halogens and the fixture should be able to swivel to give you more options as you want to change the room. Accent lighting can add real drama to a room.
Wall washing is accent lighting that provides uniform illumination, for instance to show off a series of pictures on the wall. Remember that some of the light will be reflected back into the room, increasing the overall ambient light. Wall grazing is using accent light to enhance the shadows to help bring additional texture to drapes, stone or brick. Generally, the closer the ceiling mount is to where the ceiling meets the wall, the more shadows it creates.
Display lighting is the small, low voltage fixtures used inside cabinets to illuminate displays of keepsakes, ornaments or dinnerware. Again, lots of choices available including touch lights that are attached to the hinge, so you don’t have to open the cabinet to turn the lights on and off. One nice touch is a baffle that conceals the bulbs and redirects the light.
And don’t forget to replace as many incandescent bulbs with compact florescent bulbs as you can. They use substantially less energy and last from 6,000 to 15,000 hours (compared to 750 to 1000 hours for an incandescent). As much, if not more, than any other home improvement, lighting comes in thousands of options. Any good lighting store should have several displays set up so you can see how well they might work in your home. As always, be sure you are buying from a reputable dealer and the lighting is UL or ETC listed.