Proper lighting can make or break a house. It helps you perform tasks more easily, promotes a dramatic look, or gives a soft, cozy feeling. When planning the lighting for your house, take into consideration the activities that take place and what you are trying to achieve. The key to success is to find a good balance for the requirements of each room. The general types of lighting fall into three categories: Ambient, task and accent lighting.
Ambient light refers to any outside light, such as sunlight coming through windows, or overhead room light. The goal of ambient lighting is to enhance the light of your home by using low levels. This can be done by placing inexpensive LED rope lights on a shelf or ledge, by dotting characteristic floor and table lamps throughout the room, or by installing cove lighting or recessed pot lights.
Task lighting does what it says; it makes tasks easier by providing more light for them. This type of light provides direct light pointed towards where the ‘task’ would take place. For example, in the kitchen, recessed lights will point directly down to illuminate the counters. In the living room, lamps with opaque shades casting light downwards will provide task lighting. Any light pointing to a work area is a task light.
Decorative pendants can add an aesthetic character to a space, as well as provide functional task lighting. One pendant can be used for a more intimate lighting style, such as in a restaurant, or multiples pendants can light an elongated surface, such as kitchen island counters.
Accent lighting emphasizes a particular object, such as a painting, in order to draw attention to it. The goal of this type of lighting is to add drama or highlight something that is beautiful. Recessed spot lights pointed at the wall can highlight paintings. Pinpoint pot lights can emphasize a porcelain or china collection. When aimed upwards from the floor through a plant, the accent light can add drama and cast shadows. Colored floodlights can cast dramatic color in a dull room.
Accent lighting is usually placed at a 30 degree angle from the object you are trying to illuminate. This eliminates any chance of glare or shadows on the object. In order to have a noticeable visual impact, accent lighting should be three to five times brighter than the surrounding area. The rule of thumb is, the brighter the light, the more dramatic the result.
Light adds dimension and texture to a room, making a room look larger or smaller, softer or more dramatic, cozy or formal. There are a few ways to go about directing the lights.
Down lighting is a technique that illuminates objects from above, replicating the natural way sunlight falls. The opposite of this is Up lighting, directing the ray of light upwards from the ground. Wall washing provides an even spread of light for flat surfaces, such as ceilings or walls. This type of lighting reduces glare and creates a soft ambient look.
Valance lighting utilizes the principles of both Up and Down lighting, typically using fluorescent strip lights. Recessed lights are common in kitchens. The lights are installed so that the fixture is set into the ceiling.