A balanced lighting design that doesn’t cost a ton? And provides lighting for people of all ages, all times of the day or night, for a broad range of activities year around? Sound incredible? Believe it or not, it’s not as difficult as you think to create. A great lighting design is done in three layers with flexibility and versatility in mind.
(1) General or overhead should be the workhorse of your lighting design. This can be a centrally located chandelier, a flush or semi-flush mount fixture, track lighting or strategically spaced out recessed lighting.
This first layer is meant to illuminate the entire space evenly. I recommended that you have a dimmer switch to control this layer. This will effectively give you maximum versatility and encompass a broad range of lighting options from a very dim mood mode to bright illumination of the entire space.
(2) Task, the second layer, is tailored for specific functions. For instance, a bridge lamp over a card table with four chairs around it or a floor lamp next to the chaise lounge for you to read or study by. Under cabinet halogen fixtures in the kitchen for preparing food or a table lamp where you pay the bills are other examples.
(3) Accent, the final layer, is sometimes considered superfluous. But accent, or mood lighting, serves to highlight specific artwork, architectural elements or other furnishings and fills in shadowed areas for a completely balanced, all around lighting design. Lighted aquariums, mini spots, lava lamps, candles, rope lighting and up lights are all considered accent lights.
Suggestions: Once you’ve laid out your space and placed your major furniture pieces, consider how to light each area for the specific activity it will be used for. Reading, studying, crafts, television or other media viewing, relaxation, socializing and exercising are each a bit different and will need slightly different lighting.
Sometimes one stone can kill several birds for you. For instance, a pendant light mounted over a kitchen table with a halogen or full spectrum flood bulb can provide excellent lighting for the kids to study under or for you to pay bills or review legal documents. A space like this can also be used to do crafts projects like sewing or watercolor painting and to have meetings where several people can view schedules and such effectively without distracting shadows. While this light is essentially overhead, it fits into the category of task lighting as well.
To create effective lighting for your space, try sitting in each seat as well as several places on the floor where kids or others might sit. Ask yourself if the lighting is adequate for the intended activity in each place. It will probably be necessary to adjust a bit. This is normal.
How do you know when it is right? Difficult question to answer. You will feel it. There will be no area of the space that is shadowed or feels unbalanced. By the same token, there will be no area in the space that feels glaring. Good lighting design is subtle. There is never any tension. People will just feel good in the space and not even think to ask why.
It usually isn’t necessary to pay thousands of dollars to have a space rewired to improve the lighting. Try changing out the lampshades to more translucent colors like white or cream. Very little light can escape from a black lampshade. You usually get a fan just above it angled towards the ceiling and another fan angled downwards. Valuable light that could be emitted from the entire surface of the shade is blocked by the opaque quality of the color black.
Also, improving the quality of light in your space could be as easy as changing the fixture’s bulbs to a higher wattage or to a different type of bulb altogether. For instance, you could replace your standard incandescent bulbs with full spectrum for more of a pleasing and healthy light or halogen for a brighter, crisper light.
You may also improve your space’s lighting by simply tweaking the position of the portable floor and table lamps. This will probably be trial and error. Move them around a bit then sit in each seat again around the space to gauge if the lighting has been improved or not.
Only when you’ve finished all this should you consider purchasing new fixtures or hiring a contractor to come do some rewiring. Most of the time you can dramatically improve your space’s lighting with just a few simple tweaks of what is already there!
To learn more about tackling your interior design projects with confidence, visit Do It Yourself Decorator @ www.doityourselfdecorator.com. You’ll be glad you did!
This guest post was written by Mike Stahl, self-taught interior designer and college instructor who teaches, writes and creates short videos simplifying the interior process for do it yourself decorators. Learn to inexpensively decorate like the pros in your spare time. www.doityourselfdecorator.com.