How to Light a Room Part 1

Techspeak: A lamp is the bulb. The apparatus that holds the lamp is referred to as a fixture.

I did an install not long ago where there was hardly enough light to see anything I was doing. In a recent issue of House Beautiful (my favorite shelter magazine) 10 designers speak about the biggest decorating mistakes we make in our homes and 4 of the 10 mention lighting. On a recent ‘Cityline’, lighting was talked about as being a decor maker or breaker.

When I teach the lighting section of the interior design course, the demonstration of different types of light always brings the biggest oohs and ahhs….

So here you are; Lighting 101: First of all, if you have the luxury of planning your lighting in a house while it is being built PLEASE hire an interior decorator or designer to help you plan the lighting. Most of us have to deal with the existing lighting but we will follow the same path to the right lighting.

Here is the key: light the objects in the room, not the room.

So first you need to decide what will happen in the room. The ‘tasks’. A telephone table is in one corner. It requires light, either a table fixture or an overhead that focuses on that area. Put that on your floor plan. (Object being lit: the writing surface)

If there is an area for reading, light is required there, (object being lit: the book being read) place the appropriate fixtures or overheads in this area on the floor plan.

If it is a bedroom, decide where the bed will be and place bedside lights on the floor plan. Place lighting near the wardrobe or chest of drawers. Is there a walk-in closet?

You may want to put lights at the entrance and inside the closet.

Once you have put all the Task lighting on your floor plan, go back and look at the room and think of how people will move through the room – this is the traffic flow and add whatever is necessary to the floor plan. Lighting needs to be thought about here to ensure there is enough light for people to move around the room easily. This is the Ambient lighting.

In the next column we’ll finish this plan and look at mood and ‘direction’ of light.

Written by