Walk through the rooms in your home and ask yourself a few questions. What mood or style is reflected throughout? Do certain rooms feel warm and inviting while others seem dark and depressing? Why do some rooms feel so peaceful and calming, while others are cold, dreary and uncomfortable?
Have you ever considered the role that lighting plays in the feelings you get when you enter a room? Lighting not only provides general illumination, it is also used to transform, emphasize, or enhance a space. When illuminating a room, lighting can be used to create a mood, add drama or warmth, or highlight a special feature such as a painting, a plant arrangement or textured walls. Lighting can be whatever you want it to be: It all depends on you and your style, your budget, and the type of lighting you choose.
PLANNING A LIGHTING SCHEME
According to the American Lighting Association (ALA), lighting should complement your lifestyle. When planning your lighting, the ALA suggests you look at the activities that occur in each room of your home, the atmosphere you want to create, and the decorative elements you wish to emphasize, taking note of those areas that serve multiple purposes and those that will require more than one type of lighting.
TYPES OF LIGHTING
There are three basic types of lighting -- general, task and accent -- and a good lighting plan combines all three to light an area according to function and style.
General lighting is a basic form of lighting that replaces sunlight and provides an area with overall illumination. It radiates a comfortable level of brightness, enabling one to see and walk about safely.
Task lighting helps you perform specific tasks such as reading, sewing, cooking, doing homework or playing a game. It should be free of distracting glare and shadows and bright enough to prevent eyestrain.
Accent lighting adds drama to a room by creating visual interest. As part of a decorating scheme, it is used to spotlight paintings, houseplants, sculptures and other prized possessions. It can also highlight the texture of a wall, drapery or outdoor landscaping. Accent lighting requires at least three times as much light on the focal point as the general lighting around it.
TYPES OF LIGHTING FIXTURES
Once you ve selected what you want to light, you ll have to decide how you re going to light it. There are many different styles, sizes and shapes of lighting fixtures to choose from. Here are some examples to consider:
Hall and foyer fixtures create a congenial atmosphere while providing the general lighting you need to greet guests and safely move about your home. Use ceiling, chain-hung, or close-to-ceiling fixtures in hallways, stairways, and entranceways.
Chandeliers add sparkle and style to a dining room while giving you the general lighting you need for dining and entertaining. They can also be used in bedrooms, foyers, or over a living room grouping or a grand piano.
Pendants provide both task and general lighting. Equipped with shades or globes to avoid glare, they are suspended from the ceiling over dinette tables, game tables, kitchen counters, or other work areas.
Ceiling fixtures offer general lighting and are used in foyers, hallways, bedrooms, kitchens, baths, laundry rooms, etc.
Wall-mounted fixtures are great for general, task and accent lighting needs. Many are designed to match and supplement dining room chandeliers, or to provide hallway, bedroom or living room lighting.
Bath and vanity lighting strips supply task lighting while supplementing the general lighting provided by ceiling fixtures. These fixtures provide excellent lighting for applying makeup, shaving and grooming.
Portable lamps can deliver general, task and accent lighting while giving you the flexibility to move the light whenever you want. Table lamps, floor lamps, and torchieres are available in a variety of styles to complement any decor. Small specialty lamps such as clip-on lights, uplight cans, adjustable task lights, mini-reflector spotlights, and desk and piano lamps fill a variety of task and accent light needs.
Track lighting provides general, task and accent lighting all at once in one flexible lighting system. You can move, swivel, rotate and aim the individual fixtures in any direction along the track, giving you the versatility to change your lighting scheme when the need arises.
Recessed lighting provides general, task and accent lighting, inconspicuously. Installed in the ceiling with only the trim showing, recessed fixtures can be used anywhere in the home -- including outdoors, under the projecting lower edge of a roof. They are ideal for low-ceiling areas, and with a special adapter, they can also be used in cathedral ceilings.
Undercabinet and undershelf fixtures offer both task and accent lighting. Under kitchen cabinets, they light a countertop. In a display cabinet, they show off prized possessions. They can be used in a workshop or anywhere you need lighting right at hand.
After you ve chosen your lighting fixtures, the next step is to select an appropriate light source, bulb or lamp, for each one. The performance of any light fixture depends on the light source used in it. Different sources produce different effects, and different lighting fixtures use different light sources and wattages. That s why it s extremely important to know what bulbs and lamps to use in the fixtures you have and the maximum wattages allowed.
Here is a breakdown of the types of bulbs available for lighting fixtures, courtesy of the ALA.
Incandescent: Produces a yellowish-white light that imparts a warm rich glow in all directions. Bulbs/lamps in this category consist of general service -- general, globe, and decorative lamps which are inexpensive and are available in clear or frosted in a variety of wattages and shapes -- and reflectorized versions (bulbs that have a reflective coating inside that directs light forward, producing better beam control than general service bulbs) -- flood types which spread light, and spot types which concentrate light.
Tungsten-Halogen: Produces a bright white light and provides more light per watt than regular incandescent bulbs. Maintains maximum efficiency throughout the life of the bulb. Available in both line- and low-voltage versions.
Fluorescent: Available in a wide spectrum of colors. Warm white tones best duplicate the color of incandescents. More energy efficient than incandescents. Use 1 5 to 1 3 as much electricity as incandescents with comparable lumen rating (the amount of light that a bulb produces) and lasts up to 20 times longer. Compact types are used in smaller, trimmer fixtures such as recessed downlights, wall sconces, close-to-ceiling-fixtures, and track lights. Screw-in types can be used in place of incandescents in standard lamp sockets.
High-Intensity Discharge (HID): Has a longer life and provides more light (lumens) per watt than any other light source. Available in mercury vapor, metal halide, and high- and low-pressure sodium types. Used residentially for outdoor security and landscape lighting.
If you need help in developing a home-lighting plan, you may want to consult with a lighting designer. You can search for one in your area by visiting the International Association of Lighting Designers at www.iald.org. Two online resources for help in determining what bulbs to use in specific applications are: General Electric Company s GE Consumer & Industrial Lighting Division at gelighting.com, or Philips Lighting at www.lighting.philips.com.