In addition to their ability to ‘light your way,’ lighting fixtures do a wonderful job of decorating it as well. At times referred to as “house-jewelry,” your chosen fixtures will have a major effect on the interior design, feel, and look of your home or business.
In today’s world of unlimited choices and advancing technologies, designing a comprehensive lighting plan rapidly becomes another one of those things – simple at the start that gets complicated down the road. Hoping this small guide takes you back to simple.
In a well-developed lighting plan it is a good idea to first consider the architecture. Is your home Colonial, Victorian, Craftsman, Mid-Century Modern style or atypical? Does it call for Mission Arts and Crafts style lighting, contemporary or eclectic? Whatever lighting fixtures you decide upon, always keep in mind that they are attached to the architecture (my mantra) and they should compliment rather than disagree with the structure itself. In this regard, the style and finish of the hardware throughout the house should also be noted. This includes existing door knobs, back plates, hinges, cabinet knobs and pulls, window latches, light switch covers, and heat registers. Remember that a strong overall vision, including continuity of style and finish, will go a long way to enhancing your surroundings.
When laying out a great lighting plan, a variety of fixture types including ceiling mount fixtures, chandeliers, pendant lighting, and wall mounted fixtures like sconces will no doubt be included. As well, lighting fixtures are selected in proportion to the room or area, and should be hung at a length relating to ceiling height, how tall you are, and what kind of function the lighting performs. Your plan may also include under cabinet task lighting in the kitchen, recessed / canned lighting on a tall living room ceiling, and a spot light here and there to highlight a piece of artwork, a beloved glass collection, or an outstanding architectural detail.
I have a deep affection for lighting fixtures that provide both utility and adornment. While emphasizing style as a sculptural and hard wired element in a space, they also have a rich and artful history! There is nothing we love more than installing the perfect antique Art Deco chandelier with slipper shades in the dining room of a 1942 Craftsman!
What do you want the lighting to accomplish? I usually group lighting fixtures into one or a mix of the following 4 categories:
I have found the most effective room lighting is created in layers, with the ambient light as the basis for general overall room lighting. It can wash a room with light and ignite the space so that it is easy to navigate within. The quality of light can vary with shades made of glass, metal, fabric or plastic. Some shades emit a twinkling prismatic effect, others reflect with mirrored finishes, while others soften or diffuse the light. Dimmers are a great way to adjust ambient lighting according to time of day, season, or occasion.
Task lighting is direct lighting used over specific area such as a kitchen island, a work desk, or in a reading nook. It is the lighting layer that illuminates in a way that helps to achieve the task-at-hand. It also serves as a space-creating element and can bring about close association and visual intimacy with the object. Examples of this would be baking an apple pie, painting, or building model airplanes. Often, it is a source of discomfort when it hasn’t been properly considered in the over-all plan. ‘Knowing thyself’ then, can be a significant factor in determining the task to be performed and the type of lighting to accomplish this.
Mood lighting affects an experience within a space. It can be soft or hard, warm or cool, reflective or flat, shadowy and sexy, relaxing or energizing and much more. There are many ways to create an atmosphere with lighting. For example, a restful effect can be achieved with low brightness, diffused patterns, hidden light sources and subdued color. A party atmosphere can be created with rhythms of light and shadow, dynamic lighting or…simply, a string of patio lanterns or red-hot pepper lights! Again, dimmers are recommended, as they can help transform illumination into a mood.
Accent lighting can add drama in the same way as a splash of color. It can be a spot of light on a particular piece of art, or it can highlight a moment in the entryway. It can be a candle on the mantel, a fire in the fireplace, or a string of LEDs tucked away into a soffit to emphasize a coved ceiling. Variations on this type are endless when attended to by a vivid imagination.
The lighting and wall colors within your space should work closely together. These two elements rely upon one another to achieve the desired effect in the room no matter what the furnishings are. Imagine you have selected a luxurious and metallic/pearlescent paint finish as an accent wall in the dining room, and to set off your heirloom dining table and chairs. Yet, as the light dims in late afternoon Seattle in November, the color flattens and becomes grayed. This is when properly illuminating the space becomes foremost: choosing the right chandelier and wall sconce style can enhance color and add a sense of warmth and life.
The following simple questions are what I pose to my clients while conducting a lighting consultation. The answers will help you to navigate through the ‘shadowy realms’ of your lighting layout and are of tremendous value in the creation of a suitable lighting plan.
1. What year was your house built?
2. What style is your house?
3. What light fixture style and metal finish does your house call for?
4. When remodeling: What fixtures and hardware will stay and what will go?
5. How is the space being illuminated to be used?
Lets find the right proportions:
6. What is your ceiling height?
7. What are your dining room table dimensions?
8. What are your kitchen countertop heights?
9. What are the dimensions and layout of the rooms / areas that you wish to illuminate?
10. How wide is your hallway?
How about light quality?
11. What is the ideal wattage to light the area with?
12. How much natural light is there in the space?
13. What kind of light are you after? e.g. ambient, accent, direct, subdued, bright, etc