We run into it all the time: Clients spending endless hours picking exquisite materials like beautiful stone, fabrics, exotic woods, but then they almost miss the opportunity to have them stand out by neglecting the lighting.
If you put this much love, thoughts and money into your choices it really would be a crying shame, if they only looked their best during the daytime and not when you are the most likely to be relaxing or entertaining at home.
When you are planning the lighting for a space you first need to establish a few things:
- Which activities will the space be used for?
- Are there any main task areas?
- What’s your style? (Contemporary, traditional, eclectic, to name a few)
- How is the furniture positioned – and will some of it be moved around ?
- Atmosphere/mood are you aiming for? (cozy and inviting, cool and sleek, grandiose)
- What do you want to highlight? (architectural features, an art collection, things you love)
One basic lighting principle that you’ll hear mentioned a lot in this blog is using layers of light practically in every room.
Layers of light mean that one light source is not asked to do the work by itself, but that the combination of different lighting types and techniques creates a harmonious illumination for a space.
The four lighting techniques are Ambient, Task, Accent and Decorative lighting.
You all already know them and use them, now you’ll just get introduced to this bit of designer lingo.
Ambient Lighting (above) is the soft, general light that fills the space with an inviting glow. It softens shadows while defining the space and makes a room feel larger. Ambient lighting can be a diffused overhead light, wall sconces, a torchiere lamp or linear lighting on top of a cabinet.
Ambient lighting is not really intended to stand out or make it on its own.
Task Lighting (above) is a focused, more intense light source. From a desk lamp on a table, lamps on a nightstand to undercabinet lighting in the kitchen and vanity lights in the bathroom, task lights get he work done.
By creating “pools of light” task lights add visual interest to a space. There is nothing as boring as even illumination (think hospital waiting room.)
Accent Lighting (above) is a focused, aimed light source that directs the eye towards things you want to stand out. It adds interest and dimension to the space. Track lights and adjustable recessed cans highlight what you treasure from artwork to bookcases, a natural stone fireplace or other interesting architectural features. Here the focus is definitely not on the fixture itself, but on the effect it creates.
The light that bounces back into the room is a pleasant addition to the overall lighting.
Accent lights are not meant to be used over seating areas or for general illumination in the room. This type of light is unpleasantly harsh and glary if directed towards you.
I can’t tell you, how often we have had to move tracks because they were placed completely wrong and the spot lights were shining into your eyes no matter which way they were directed.
Decorative lighting (above) is the diva among in the room. the unique focal point that pretends to be the only light source around. It’s the fun, magical chandelier or a unique pendant light that adds charm and character. With some help from strategically placed accent lights you can create the effect that this diva does all the heavy lifting and let it take center stage.
The secret is that none of these fixtures could make it on their own, but as a team they make a room shine.