Friday, November 25, 2011

How to Light Any Room

Plan Your Lighting
    Fabric, wallcoverings, and furniture can all transform a room, but one of the most inexpensive and effective ways to freshen a room is through lighting. Proper layering of light can enhance color and ambience. Layering involves the careful use of task, accent (or decorative), and ambient (or overall) lighting within each room. Develop a lighting plan that addresses every purpose your room may serve or each task you will accomplish in it.

Lamps Add Color and Pattern
    Creating warm, welcoming rooms is easier with well-planned, well-placed lighting. Using bases and shades to enhance your decorative scheme makes your lighting another ingredient in a pulled-together room. Here, a red shade on a wall  sconce brings an accent color up to eye level as you enter the room. The animal-print base on the table lamp injects an extra hit of personality in the space.

Accents in the Living Room
    Living rooms may not have an overhead fixture for overall lighting and instead rely heavily on portable task lamps around the room. Accent lights can make such a room work harder and smarter. This can include spotlights on plants or artwork, indirect light concealed behind crown molding or above casework, even a light behind a chair to brighten a dim corner. When you add this type of accent lighting, keep in mind that the effect of the light should focus on improving the atmosphere of the room. The light source itself should seem almost invisible.

Dimmers in the Dining Room
    The dining room is a good candidate for a dimmer switch because flexibility is a key feature of this space. With a dimmer switch, you can use low lighting for dinner parties or flood the room with light for a casual homework station. If possible, wire every light in the room to a central dimmer system to instantly set the appropriate mood or render a glow akin to candlelight.

Dining Room Chandeliers
    Hung over the center of the dining table, a chandelier is a traditional fixture for providing light in the dining room. An attractive chandelier can serve as a decorative focal point for the space and provide a nucleus for arranging furniture and other lighting such as complementary sconces. In a room with 8-foot ceilings, a chandelier should hang about 33 inches above the table; add 3 inches for every foot above 8 feet. Keep your room layout in proportion by selecting a fixture that is about 12 inches narrower than the top of your table.

Ambient Light in the Kitchen
    Most kitchen illumination focuses on task lighting, but bathing a kitchen in soft light creates a much more inviting space. Recessed ceiling lights arranged around the room are especially useful when the room is being used simultaneously by several people for different purposes such as cooking, homework, or socializing. Smaller accent and task lights such as in-cabinet and undercabinet lighting provide sufficient light on their own to illuminate the room when most of the activity moves elsewhere.

Open Plan Lighting
    In a large open-room plan, relying on overhead light won't do the trick. A comprehensive plan for the space includes a dimmable chandelier over the dining table, pendant lights above the island and undercabinet lighting on either side of the sink for kitchen tasks, as well as table lamps in the living area and accent spotlights on the beams for soft illumination toward the ceiling.

Light for a Multitasking Bedroom
    For many people, a bedroom is much more than a place to sleep -- it can be a place to watch television, relax with a good book, work at a desk, or dress for an evening event. Plan your lighting for the ways you use this hub of activity. Soft recessed ceiling lights provide ambient illumination, while task lamps stand ready at the desk and nightstand. Overhead, a beautiful chandelier acts as both dimmable ambient fixture and decorative accent.

Accent Light in the Bedroom
    While lighting artwork is often considered essential in public rooms of the house, it is an often-overlooked element in a bedroom lighting plan. And it needn't require the addition of fixtures and switches. In this bedroom, accent and ambient light sources combine in a track system that provides overall light and focuses spotlights on artwork throughout the room.

A Well-Lit Bath
    A bathroom needs to look and feel different from day to night. In the morning, bright white light awakens and refreshes; while at night, a soft light can provide a spa-light mood or dimmed light can accommodate a late-night visit. In this bath, ample natural light supplements the overhead and task lighting to create an inviting atmosphere. Mirrors keep the light moving throughout the space.

Lighting for Office Tasks
    Without supplemental task lighting, the eyes can grow weary looking at the glow of a computer screen. When choosing light bulbs for a desk lamp, keep in mind that cooler, or bluish, light helps with reading tasks. Glare can create an unwelcome distraction in a home office, so use a shaded lamp with a bulb of no more than 60 watts. Brighten the rest of the office space with soft lighting from a pendant lamp.

Lighting the Basement
    Plenty of controlled lighting illuminates a multitasking basement media space. When the television is on, dimmed accent lights can provide a subtle and unobtrusive glow. Bright overhead lighting is a necessity in a basement room, but dimmers allow the light to be reduced for optimum television viewing. When placing lighting, avoid pointing any light directly at the TV screen to prevent glare.

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