The Basics of Interior Lighting Design
Interior lighting is vital to the overall interior design of your home. In fact, it is arguably the most significant factor of the interior design; your home’s “atmosphere” will be created by the types of light fixtures used and how they’re placed.
It’s important to note that what works in one room does not necessarily work in another. Interior lighting should respond to the different functions of each space: family room lighting is different from kitchen lighting, etc. So, it’s important to listen to your interior designer or lighting designer when it comes to planning the lighting in your home. The added science of the differences between LED, incandescent, halogen, Xenon, and others, is something these experts can help explain and is not covered here (for another day) but must be considered when selecting lighting for function. This all sounds complicated and it can be, which is why bringing in experts will bring better results, but understanding the basics will go a long way to helping you see the process through to a successful result.
It’s best to begin by thinking about what you want to highlight and what you don’t want to highlight. When planning lighting in a sitting room (living or family room) for instance, you may want to highlight a fireplace and/or artwork above the mantel, but not the TV. Your designer will plan fixtures accordingly. Also, you’ll want more indirect lighting in a sitting room, because you don’t want overhead lights shining on guest’s heads when entertaining and a sitting room is predominantly used for reading, watching television and/or conversing, so task lighting is not abundantly needed here (other than reading lamps at seating areas, and/or a piano lamp) for example. Overall, highlighting specific objects like artwork with directional recessed fixtures strategically placed around the room (to balance the light), coupled with good lamps in appropriate places will generally provide ample ambient lighting in a sitting room, or at least most of it. If additional light is desired, wall sconces can add style as well as indirect lighting to fill in where needed. Or, integrated lighting in a tray ceiling or similar architectural feature will add balanced, ambient lighting to any space, providing a nice atmosphere.
The kitchen, on the other hand, will require more task lighting: over countertops to highlight work areas, over islands and/or dining tables, in front of pantry cabinets, inside glass front cabinets, etc. Adding under cabinet lighting in the kitchen provides additional task lighting on countertops as well as ambient, indirect lighting at off times when the kitchen isn’t in use.
To summarize, start your lighting plan by analyzing each space/room for its function, then determine what you want and don’t want to highlight and how much overall lighting you are seeking, all the while looking for an overall balanced light allocation. Next, consider the lighting fixture options available by determining which types of lighting accomplishes the objectives best, where to add stylized fixtures (your interior designer will help you select just the right thing to play off the style of the décor) and other indirect options if desired. These tips should get you off to a good start – understanding these basics of interior lighting design will help you and your designer to implement an effective and stylized lighting plan, creating the perfect atmosphere in your home!