Lighten Up

When it comes to interior decorating, one of the first things on your list should be lighting. Understanding its importance is key when planning your room.  Long before Edison made light bulbs an affordable, commercial invention, lighting has played an essential role in people’s lives. Benjamin Franklin introduced Daylight Savings Time to maximize natural light and make candles last longer.

Interior designers will tell you that “layering your lighting” creates interest and dimension in your room’s design. There are three categories of light – ambient, task and accent.  Ambient lighting is your base layer of light and should illuminate most of the room through the combined use of sunshine and overhead light. This light source typically comes from chandeliers, ceiling fan fixtures, can lights, etc. It is best if your ambient lighting is soft.  Too often, ambient lighting is harsh and is the only light source in a room – don’t stop here, this is just your first step in creating an atmosphere.

Task lighting illuminates areas that you need extra light to accomplish projects like reading, chopping food or folding clothes. Its purpose is to diffuse the shadows created through overhead lighting and shed specific light in a certain area. Task lighting is best delivered through well-placed table lamps, floor lamps, pendants and under-cabinet lighting.

Accent lighting provides focal points to architectural elements or artwork. It is used to highlight and draw the eye to specific areas of beauty. Accent light sources are well-directed can lights, niche lighting or spotlights.

Some tips to remember:

  • Table lamps are an easy way to create task lighting. Keep height and width of the lamp base in mind. The diameter of the shade should be twice the size of the base and the bottom of the shade should be eye level when seated. (For more tips on table lamps, please see next blog.)
  • Mix and match lamps to create interest.
  • Dimmers help soften the harshness of overhead lighting.
  • Preset timers ensure that your room is appropriately lit without turning on and off multiple lights on a daily basis.
  • Adding “smart” light switches allows you to manage your lighting through the use of your Smartphone or tablet – especially nice when used in children’s rooms and closets.

Don’t forget about your outdoor living space - the same rules apply.  Just ensure that your fixtures are weatherproof. One of my favorite outdoor lighting techniques is the use of stringed lighting for a subtle glow. 

Walk through your rooms and assess where shadows are cast and what space could be softened or brightened. This is a great way to improve the mood of your home and “lighten up” this summer.

Article first appeared in the Four Points Newspaper Volume 10, Issue 23, page 4.

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