Lighting is one of the most important elements of interior design (if not THE most). It is also too often overlooked or done incorrectly. Lighting is the means of creating the mood and it will make the space look and feel more spacious while accentuating the color scheme and other focal points. When we talk about lighting, we mean both natural and artificial light. Both elements are considered when creating the lighting plan.
Natural lighting can be improved in obvious ways – adding windows, skylights, using glass entry doors, using sheer fabrics on glass, using minimalist window and door coverings where possible. Knowing what the space will have for natural light is analyzed when developing the overall lighting plan. Then, artificial lighting is incorporated.
Basic types of artificial light fixtures 1. Ambient lighting – this is the overall, general lighting within the room. It should radiate a comfortable level of brightness without glare. In some spaces like the laundry room, the ambient lights also serves as the task lighting. Examples of ambient lightings are: chandeliers, recessed lights, wall sconces, ceiling mounted fixtures. Having a central source of ambient lighting in all rooms is fundamental to a good lighting plan. But, for a well-designed lighting plan, it doesn’t stop there! 2. Accent lighting – this is where we highlight wall art or other decorative objects by angling a recessed light or track light or wall-mounted picture light (directional fixture) to aim the light on the desired piece. To be effective, accent lights should provide three times as much light onto the focal point as the general lighting around the room. The great thing about accent lighting is that it creates indirect light in the room at the same time it is accentuating the focal pieces. This type of light fixture immediately elevates the atmosphere of the room! 3. Task lighting – this is exactly as it sounds; it is very important to provide ample lighting to surfaces or areas where it is needed such as on the kitchen counters, on desk surfaces, around the bathroom mirror and any other task area around the house. Task lighting helps to avoid eyestrain when reading or working and it ensures that kitchen tasks can be carried out safely. Examples of task lighting are: recessed lights placed over the task area, pendant lights, vanity lights, under-cabinet kitchen lights, desk, table and floor lamps. It should be noted that table and floor lamps may also be effectively used as accent lighting or ambient lighting – as additional elements, usually not the primary source.
The success of a lighting plan is dependent upon the proper mixture of the above functions coupled with the selection of the fixtures themselves. Further, the style of the fixtures will reflect the style of the interior design. Well selected pendant fixtures, sconces, table and/or floor lamps, chandeliers and vanity lighting will become focal points of the spaces and elevate the design while rounding out the lighting plan at the same time. This is the art; marrying all of this technically as well as tastefully.
In today’s lighting marketplace, there are literally tens of thousands of different fixtures to choose from. There are a so many resources it is mind-boggling! And, pricing also runs the gamut – from $50 to $50,000 and up, depending on the type of light and source. Then the type of bulb specified for the fixture must be considered – there are many types with different levels of brightness, color tone, wattage and voltage. Lighting can be a complex topic and if you don’t have the knowledge or access to the proper resources, a professional Interior Designer, will be a valuable investment! The professional will provide you with the right mix of fixtures and styling to propel your average room into a well-designed, beautifully functioning space!