Lighting 101: Tips for Lighting a Room

String lights twinkling overhead on a cool summer night inspire us to unwind. The subtle glow of flames reflecting in a fireplace provides warm, snuggly ambiance. Landscapes come to life in the darkness of night with well-planned accent and path lighting. Moods are lifted by the shimmer of holiday lights on those long, cold winter evenings. It’s easy to see that lighting is about more than safety or style, it’s also about atmosphere.

Lighting Layers

Similar to layering texture and color, consider these three lighting layers when strategizing a home lighting plan.

Ambient lighting is produced by recessed and ceiling mounted fixtures, providing general brightness and a building block for more specific lights. Natural light exposed by windows and skylights is also considered ambient, and a critical design feature in planning well-lit spaces.

Task lighting serves the purpose of illuminating specific spaces within the home. Stairs, under cabinet, vanity, kitchen island, and reading lights all help to make certain tasks easier to achieve. Task lighting sometimes requires its own fixture, but not always. Adding dimmer switches appropriately can turn ambient or accent lighting into a task light if the brightness can be adjusted accordingly.

Accent lighting spotlights special features and enhances architectural attributes. Wall sconces build drama on a dining room wall, track lighting intensifies art below, lamps subtly brighten a space, and tray ceiling lighting glows softly in a room. Accent lighting opportunities around the house are seemingly endless.

Fitting Fixtures

Are you sometimes confused when to use what type of light fixture, when it is helpful to add a dimmer, which switch for what, and how many bulbs is maybe too much? Let’s break it down by popular spaces in the house.

The bath is commonly lit by recessed can lights for ambient light and either 3 to 4 bar light bulbs or 2 to 4 wall sconces over the vanity. LED tape lighting is a great way to create soft lighting accents for vanity toe kicks, creating a night light effect. Putting vanity lights on separate switches and a dimmer is a great idea so you can up the brightness for task lighting when preferred.

The bedroom can accommodate many different lighting possibilities. If ceilings are cathedral style or at least 9 ft. tall, a chandelier can be considered. If ceilings are less than 9 ft. in height stick to semi-flush or surface fixtures. Tray ceiling and lamp lighting provide ample accent lighting. Dimmer switches are also a smart idea in the bedroom.

The kitchen includes recessed can lighting as a foundation, under cabinet and kitchen island pendant lighting for tasks, and sometimes a chandelier over the kitchen table as a fun accent. Additionally, LED tape lighting is a great way to accent glass fronted cabinetry to highlight special dish-ware and glassware. Separate switches for tasks and accent lighting are recommended. Dimmers on chandeliers and island lighting is also a nice touch.

The dining room is simply lit with a chandelier over the main dining table, sometimes accented by wall sconces over a buffet furniture piece or to frame wall art. Dimmers on both of these lighting elements is useful in setting a relaxing dinner mood.

The living room provides many lighting opportunities, including recessed ambient lighting, fireplace accent lighting, and lamp lighting for tasks like reading. In airy spaces with tray or cathedral ceilings, chandeliers are sometimes added as a supplement to can lighting. Separate switches and dimmers on accent lighting allows you to adjust brightness according to nightly preferences.

Warm White, Soft White, and Bright White Basics

Color temperature determines light appearance from a light bulb, and is measured in degrees of Kelvin (K) on a scale ranging from 1,000 to 10,000. Typical residential lighting falls somewhere around 2,700 – 3,000K, for a soft white light similar to 60-75 watt incandescent, complementing interior colors well. Color temperature descriptors like bright white, soft white, and warm white are assigned to give consumers an idea of how blue to yellow the light bulb will appear. Be consistent throughout the home when choosing a bulb color, and design color palettes with the bulb type in mind.

Don’t get left in the dark when it comes to lighting tips and trends. Lighting sets the stage for good design, from highlighting carefully selected color palettes to spotlighting featured furnishings. Let us light the way.

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