DETERMINING YOUR NEEDS: Lighting should be planned to complement your lifestyle. So, first you need to develop a home lighting plan that suits your individual needs and those of your family. When planning your lighting, look at the activities that occur in each room, the atmosphere you want to create and the decorative elements you want to emphasize. Keep in mind that light can be absorbed and even wasted in dark-colored rooms, or reflected and used as additional illumination in light-colored rooms. Also, take note of areas serving more than one purpose and those that will require more than one type of lighting.
THE FUNDAMENTALS: There are three basic types of lighting that work together to light your home: general, task and accent. A good lighting plan combines all three types to light an area, according to function and style.
• General Lighting: provides an area with overall illumination. Also known as ambient lighting, general lighting radiates a comfortable level of brightness, enabling one to see and walk about safely. It can be accomplished with chandeliers, ceiling or wall-mounted fixtures, recess or track lights, and with lanterns outside your home. A basic form of lighting that replaces sunlight, general lighting is fundamental to a lighting plan.
• Task Lighting: helps you perform specific tasks such as reading, sewing, cooking, homework, hobbies, games or balancing your checkbook. It can be provided by recessed or track lighting, pendant lighting, and portable lamps. Task lighting should be free or distracting glare and shadows and should be bright enough to prevent eyestrain.
• Accent Lighting: adds drama to a room by creating visual interest. As part of a decorating scheme, it is used to spotlight paintings, houseplants, sculptures, and other prized possessions, or to highlight the texture of a wall, drapery or outdoor landscaping. Accent lighting requires at least three times as much light on the focal point as the general lighting around it. This usually is provided by track, recessed, or wall-mounted fixtures.
LIGHTING THE KITCHEN: Kitchens aren’t just for cooking anymore...they’re used for entertaining, doing homework, gathering with family and friends and working on the computer. Proper lighting is an important consideration for the busiest room in the house. Kitchen lighting should be decorative, yet functional, and include general, accent and tasking lighting to create a complete look. General lighting might include close-to-ceiling fixtures or recessed cans, which can be discreet, but provide needed illumination throughout the main work areas of the kitchen. Task lighting is another important element in the kitchen to provide critical light over key work spaces. Hanging lights not only serve as excellent task lights, but they visually change a room, adding dimension and decorative style to the kitchen when mixed and matched. Undercabinet lighting not only provides supplemental task lighting for critical work areas in the kitchen, but it can add ambiance to create a distinctive look. And for dinette areas, a pendant hanging 24 to 30 inches above the table provides good tasking lighting and can add the finishing decorative touch to a kitchen.
CHANDELIERS: A chandelier can be a general lighting element, as well as the focal point of the home. For foyers, halls and stairways, size the chandelier to the space. For instance, a two-story foyer will require a larger fixture. If the chandelier can be seen from above, make sure you select a fixture that looks attractive from a second story viewing. For dining areas, size the chandelier 6” to 12” smaller than the narrowest edge of the table. To ensure proper lighting levels and avoid glare, place the bottom of the chandelier approximately 30” above the table.
BATH AND VANITY LIGHTING: The key lighting task in the bath is at the mirror to provide adequate, shadow-free lighting on the face. One main fixture mounted over the mirror is necessary to light the bathroom, but when used alone, it can cause shadows on the face when looking in the mirror. You should select lighting fixtures that match the size and scope of a bath. Areas over 100 square feet require several recessed down lights or decorative surface mounted fixtures. Used recessed shower lights or a ceiling mounted plastic unit in the shower. Consider adding a recessed unit over the commode as a functional lighting detail.
LIGHTING CONTROLS: The simple toggle switch isn’t what it used to be. Granted, it is still the primary lighting control device in most homes, thanks to the fat that it’s cheap and does the job. But a whole world of newer lighting controls can do the job with much greater pizzazz, while handling many lighting tasks both more efficiently and, in some cases, automatically. Types of controls:
• Integrated dimming switches: allow you to create multiple preset lighting scenes within a room.
• Touch dimmers: allow you to vary the intensity of the lighting while depressing a button. These systems permit one-touch recall of the previous lighting level. Some are equipped with indicator lights that provide a continual readout of the lighting intensity.
• Slide dimmers: provide full-range, manual dimming control. Some are equipped with a touch-button that allows you to return to the previous lighting levels.
Rotary dimmers: provide full range, manual dimming control. Some are equipped with a push-button operation that allows you to turn the light on and off and return to the previous lighting level.
LIGHT SOURCES: The performance of any light fixture depends very much on the light source (bulb) used. Different sources produce different effects.
• INCANDESCENT: General service bulbs are inexpensive and readily available in a variety of wattages and shapes. They produce a yellowish-white light that is emitted in all directions. Available in either clear or frosted.
• TUNGSTEN-HALOGEN: Produces a bright, white light. Has longer life and provides more light (lumens) per watt than regular incandescent bulbs. Maintains maximum efficiency throughout life of bulb. Available in both line- (120 volts) and low-voltage (12 volts). Low-voltage types require a transformer to step down the voltage.
• FLUORESCENT: Use 1/5 to 1/3 as much electricity as incandescents with comparable lumen ratings and last up to 20 times longer. Compact types are used in smaller, trimmer fixtures such as recessed downlights, wall sconces, close-to-ceiling fixtures, and track lights. Screw-in types can be used in place of incandescents in standard lamp sockets. Available in a wide spectrum of colors. Warm white tones best duplicate the color of incandescents.