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Resources / Lighting

Choosing Lighting Fixtures

Lighting is an important finishing touch that can make a dream home a reality. The types of lighting to use and where should be determine at the beginning of the home building process. The decisions you make early will be easily seen in the results. No matter how beautiful your home may be, if you have the wrong lighting you're not showing it off to the greatest degree. Proper lighting allows you to get the most out of each room, draws attention to focal points in your décor, and creates ambient or dramatic atmospheres.

There are three main types of lighting: general or ambient, accent, and task. The first, general or ambient lighting gives basic, overall light to an area and should be bright enough to allow you to function safely in your home. It flattens an interior and creates very little shadow. Use of a dimmer also can provide ambient light. Accent lighting highlights and draws special attention to details in your home -- artwork, plants, and collectibles. Halogen spotlights and table lamps with shades are good ways to achieve accent lighting. Task lighting is just that; lighting that's used to perform daily activities such as reading, cooking, shaving, putting on makeup, etc. It needs to be glare-free. Effective task lighting enhances visual clarity and keeps the eyes from getting tired.

To achieve the best use of light in your home, here are key points to keep in mind:

  • Don't over or under-light a room. Most people tend to over-light. Check the tag on each lamp for recommended wattage. Install dimmers for additional control over intensity.
  • Choose the right light for the job. For general lighting, overhead lights are the traditional choice, but also consider multiple floor lamps or cove lighting—lighting hidden in a decorative way, such as that around the perimeter of a room—for a soft warm feel.
  • Put the right light in the right place. For accent lighting, for example, consider recessed pin spotlights on the ceiling that shine down on a table or mantel. For further accent, try sconces flanking the door.
  • For a good reading lamp, look for the right lampshade—one that's not too high or too wide. A reading lamp should cast light on your book, not in your eyes.
  • In addition to general lighting in the kitchen, consider task lights on the stove, sink and counter.
  • In a seating area, make sure lighting appears to come from the front of you, not behind or beside you or from the person you're conversing with.
  • When you go to a showroom to buy lamps, bring pictures of your home and the area you want to light if you have them. If not, bring measurements—the room size, window dimensions, measurements of any archways, the height of the ceilings, etc.

There are many ways to light a room. The room's function greatly determines the way it should be lit. Rooms should be illuminated to accommodate the user's needs. Dark walls and floors reflect less light than light-colored ones. If you're looking for an intimate atmosphere, less is more. On the other hand, be aware that a darker room will require more light for general tasks.

A balancing act is important in all rooms. An evenly lit room will become boring rather quickly. It will also tend to fatigue the eye, particularly if repetitious tasks are being performed. Up lights, down lights and wall washer's work well together. They make a good team in almost any room and if dimmers are added they can perform well in any atmosphere.

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