Your First Home
Bring Up The Lights!
Copyright Deborah Marks 2005
The stage has been set. Now it's time to bring
up the lights! With a well thought out lighting plan, you
can create a wonderful, appealing, and cozy atmosphere while
illuminating your home's interior to its fullest advantage.
In the past thirty years lighting technology
has seen tremendous development. This has been particularly
beneficial for lighting design in contemporary interiors.
Halogen entered the home and brought bold and interesting
new lighting possibilities. In many cases the lighting
fixture itself became a work of art. The crisp white light
of halogen is just the right addition to the Contemporary
Light interior. It brings dazzle and sparkle in well-defined
quantities to your furnishings, artwork, and architectural
Nevertheless, the standard incandescent's soft, yellow light, which is so flattering to
skin tones, certainly is not passe. And fluorescent lighting, though
sometimes associated with flickering, clicking, and greenish
color, is useful in a variety of spaces, not just in work areas. Great strides have
been made in fluorescent lighting, which make it much more
attractive and easy on your pocketbook. Both these light
sources have their place in the home and can be used in a
lighting plan for a Contemporary Light setting.
How do you create a lighting plan? What do you have to take
into consideration? Lighting a room is very similar to
lighting a stage. You want to make the stage--or the
room--dramatic and interesting. You want to throw the
spotlight on certain features in order to create focal
points. Lighting, of course, is also utilitarian. It enables
us to see and perform certain tasks. How do we take these
varying factors into account in drawing up an effective
Lighting experts agree that there should be
"layers of light" in a room. Typically, they don't recommend
a central ceiling fixture that produces an evenly lit but
monotonous space. Instead, layered lighting can produce
pools of light distributed throughout the room. These
"pools" produce contrasts of light and dark which add depth
and interest to the space. The eye is drawn to the light and
travels across the room from one lighted area to another.
||In the living room pictured light
fixtures have been employed to create an inviting
atmosphere. Directional light for the artwork is
provided by the adjustable reflectors mounted on the
ceiling. The floor uplight adds height to the room by
casting light and shadow onto the ceiling. Comfortable
reading light is furnished by the two floor lamps. The
small table lamp on the sideboard casts light onto the
wall, from which it is reflected into the room.
In your own plan decide where you want and need
those pools of light. You may wish to illuminate the
fireplace as the focal point in the room. Recessed
directional downlights, referred to as "eyeballs," can be a
good choice to accomplish this. To use light to feature
artwork as the main attraction in the room, suspend
spotlights from the ceiling. Use low voltage halogen bulbs
with protective glass that filters out the harmful UV rays
which can damage paintings.
If the room is somewhat long and narrow, you
may wish to throw light on one of the longer walls by using
sconces, wall lights, or spots. This will have the effect of
widening the space. If the ceilings are low, plan for
uplights. If you have high ceilings, keep the lighting
directed downward to enhance the feeling of intimacy.
In recent years recessed lighting has become increasingly
popular. A cautionary note about this type of lighting: In
most cases a non-directional downlight is used, which is
very unflattering to people standing or sitting directly
under it. For this reason never position recessed lighting
above a sofa or any other sitting area.
Holes for recessed lighting fixtures placed in a ceiling can
be quite permanent. When you illuminate objects using
recessed lighting, remember it is not easy to change the
arrangment of furniture once lights are installed. Also, if
you put in too many recessed lights, your ceilings look like
"Swiss cheese." This effect is particularly noticeable if
the lamp housings are black. Some halogen bulbs produce an
uncomfortable amount of heat, so be sure to ask for the ones
which disperse heat toward the back.
Alternatives to recessed lighting are spots or
pendants on bendable rail systems. The look is captivating!
Spots can be used to illuminate artwork or to wash walls;
pendants can be used over peninsulas, dining tables, and
sideboards. The advantage is that there is one power source
to one rail feeding many lights. This eliminates the need
for a multitude of large holes in the ceiling. The
possibilities of style, shape, and color are endless for the
decorative and utilitarian pendants. The cost is higher, but
one advantage is that you can take them with you when you
||Among the floor and table lamps there
are some which are industrial looking, some more formal,
and some just-for-fun. The shades can come in blown
white or colored glass, polycarbonate, or even
rubberized plastic! Their bases can be of chromed or
enameled metal, nickel, or a wood finish. The lamps can
provide very direct task lighting or diffuse ambient
lighting You can choose from the most recent designer
models or the classics of the past.
Select those that complement or accent your
interior furnishingsâ€¦and those that do the job! If you want
soft flattering light more than true color rendering, choose
lamps with a standard incandescent source. If you need a
bright white light, then halogen would be the answer. If the
floor lamp is more decorative than functional, you may want
to consider a fluorescent light source. Fluorescents come in
cool and warm whites and colors. The flickering is a thing
of the past, and they are far more economical. Some lighting
fixtures do allow for the use of all three light sources, so
you can test the effectiveness of the bulbs as you go.
Do insist that the lighting fixtures have
dimmers. Dimmers may come with the lamps or can be installed
at the switch. Since they are still too expensive for
fluorescents, consider dimming the standard incandescents
and halogens. This is one of the best ways to add drama to
your lighting plan! If full capacity is needed, up with the
lights! But when a more subtle atmosphere is desired, put
the lights at varying intensities and experiment with all of
Lighting in kitchens and bathrooms requires special
consideration. In the state of California fluorescent
lighting must be the primary light source in these rooms. As
of October 2005 even more stringent codes will come into
effect for remodels and new construction. Title 24, which
concerns energy saving matters, addresses this issue.
There are ways to incorporate fluorescents into
an effective plan. Compact fluorescents can be used in
recessed lighting. Fluorescents are welcome in under cabinet
lighting. Usually kitchen or bath designs are done with an
interior designer or architect. Consult the professional as
to the most aesthetic and functional means to employ
fluorescents in the lighting plan.
When planning, remember that any work which
requires installing lighting in a ceiling or behind a wall
should be done by a licensed electrician. If you are renting
a home or apartment, consult the landlord before having
lighting installed. You will need his/her approval.
Designing just the right lighting plan does
take much thought and some experimentation. The reward of a
careful design is an interestingly and well-lit interior.
When everything is in place, sit back, turn up the lights,
relax, and enjoy the view from center stage!
Picture #1 Courtesy of Schőner
Picture #2 Courtesy of Lite Line Illuminations, Inc., Los
Picture #3, #4 and #5 Courtesy of Foscarini, Italy
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