lighting gesture

The Last One About Lighting

My column from a few weeks ago about light bulbs has been getting some attention. Several times I’ve been asked for more information, had comments made that now the homeowner knows what to ask for, and thank-yous for clarifying the whole thing. You are so welcome.  Thanks for letting me know you read my columns and that the information is useful to you.

In light of all of this, I thought perhaps I should continue the illumination and talk a bit more about lighting our homes. If you are making a floor plan, are redecorating, or are tired of the dark corners in your home, this one’s for you.

As I said before, light the tasks in the room first, then add the ambient lighting, then finish with the accent lighting. Task and ambient are fairly clear, but to review:

Task: light the room-specific activities. Reading lamps beside the sofa need a lamp with the bottom of the shade at eye level when you are seated.  Hanging lights over the pool or games table. A table lamp on the writing desk. Adequate light at the piano. A light source by the CD storage. The main direction of the light from the source should be directed at the activity area.

Ambient: This is the light you need to move around a room safely. Ceiling fixtures which direct light down along a hallway. Lamps and Sconces on the walls. Ceiling lights in living rooms. Lights over the stairwell. The important lights. 

Accent: This is the jewelry lighting. Light a painting. Light a dark corner with a string of mini lights wound through a plant. Candlestick lamps on the mantle. This is the lighting that takes your room from lit to well-lit. Don’t skimp here.

Use dimmable light bulbs so you can get just the right amount of ambiance every time. And please remember that just because you have a lamp in the room doesn’t mean you have to turn it on. Sometimes just the lamp itself can be part of the jewelry of the room.  

Accent lights may project the light up – as do most sconces, or down – as so some sconces. Some project both — as in table lamps. 

Torchiere lamps are not included because their only function is to throw a circle of light up toward the ceiling. IMHO they should be banned, along with pink-beige carpet. I digress.

A well-lit room will have some lighting of all kinds, with some up-lights, and some down-lights, and at varying heights around the room.

Here’s a trick to check the balance of your lighting. It’s a good way to check that you have it right, and it’s fun to do, too. Stand in front of your main wall and look at all the lighting. On a piece of paper draw a really rough sketch of the room. Put in the lamps, the ceiling lights,  the sconces.. anything. You can draw it as one long continuous line, if you like. Then take a red pencil and draw big directional marks representing the direction the light will go when the fixture is turned on.
lighting gesture

Are all the red lines going the same direction? You need to fix that. Are all the lights at the same distance from the floor? You need to fix that.

There you go.

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