Design With Light
WHEN YOU THINK OF DECORATING YOUR HOUSE, WALL ART, FURNITURE and accent pieces are typically what come to mind. But have you ever considered the value light can bring to decorating? It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds, and can be as simple as a few portable lamps or as detailed as a one-touch lighting system for the entire home. From wall sconces to track lighting, illuminating a room can not only increase your visibility, but also dramatically change the way your house looks and ultimately affect your mood!
When building a home, choosing your light sources should not be a hasty decision. Because of the multiple types of light available, decorating with light can be both functional and fun. More and more homes are using transoms, bay and Palladian windows to usher natural light into great rooms, foyers and kitchens. This takes advantage of the sun’s rays and casts a very different feel to your entertaining spaces. But before you choose a home made entirely of glass walls or begin decorating with floor lamps, let’s take a minute to learn about the different types of light and the glow they provide.
As mentioned earlier, natural light is any light source from the sky. This includes the sun, moon, stars or any natural occurrences. By choosing a home plan with a variety of windows in a multitude of types, you can take advantage of nature’s illumination. And there are several products on the market to help you control the amount of natural light your home receives, including the new Pella® Designer Series® window that features between-the-glass blinds and fabric shades. These unique windows allow you to change the blinds or shades anytime you wish, so you can reap the benefit of natural lighting while keeping an eye on décor.
Artificial light is the most popular for indoor use and includes two types. As its name implies, the light comes from an artificial source and includes any decorative lamps, fixtures that are portable, table lamps and art/portrait lights. Architectural lighting is the second type of artificial light and includes light sources that are a physical aspect of a building or mounted directly into a ceiling. Examples of this type are recessed light fixtures and rope lighting.
There are several varieties of lighting under the “artificial” umbrella that you’ll want to use when decorating. Accent lighting is a directional light that highlights and adds interest to a specific object or architectural feature. Table lamps and halogen spotlights are good ways to achieve accent lighting. Task lighting is just what its name implies and aids when doing tasks such as reading or craft work. Glare-free, task lighting is designed to enhance visual clarity in areas that need attention to detail. This type is particularly important in the kitchen. Ambient lighting describes a hidden source of light that washes a room with a glow and creates little shadow. Examples of this type include wall sconces and smaller decorative lights. Anything with a dimmer can also provide ambient lighting.
Who would have thought light had so many options? While you might ordinarily buy a light bulb at the store by its wattage, brand or price, consider the type of light each bulb emits. This will drastically improve efficiency and aesthetic value to your lighting fixtures. Tungsten bulbs give off a slightly yellow tinge and are your ordinary light bulbs, while spotlights focus on one blast of light. Halogen lights reflect natural daylight and are considered “white light.” They will make colors appear brighter and are an energy saver. Lastly, fluorescent lighting is flat and often bluish and harsh. This is commonly found in offices and stores. Available now in various tones, fluorescent lighting is also finding its way back into the home.
Now comes the hard part: deciding what type of light to use where. How does each room in your home function? What are your lighting needs in each room? In the coming paragraphs, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular rooms in a home and possible options for lighting each.
In the Kitchen
When working in the kitchen, you’ll need light and lots of it. Because the kitchen is not just a place where you prepare meals and eat, it will need to include comfortable lighting in addition to bright, task lighting. A large ceiling fixture is needed for general illumination and should probably be fluorescent light. For scrubbing pots and pans, you’ll want task lighting to highlight the details of tough grease and dirty dishes. Track lighting is a stylish way to implement task lights. Pendant lights are another attractive way to brighten dinettes, island counters and nooks. Because bright light is not quite as important over a small table for quick meals, pendant lights provide an opportunity to choose fun fixtures that accent your kitchen décor.
In the Dining Room
When it comes time for lighting in the dining room, you’ll want a mixture of light sources. General, task and accent lighting are all welcome in the dining room, and with the use of a dimmer, can transform the room from a gathering spot for hors d’oeuvres to a formal room. For maximum aesthetic value, a chandelier is a necessity in the dining room and creates an ambience for the whole room. When dimmed, it can rival candlelight, and depending on the fixture you choose, it will probably become the focal point of the dining room. Spotlights above a china cabinet showcase your collectibles and can also highlight your dinnerware. If your room includes a buffet, consider wall sconces on either side to accent any displayed objects not lit from the overhead fixtures.
In the Bedroom
Harsh lights are to be avoided in the bedroom. As the place for relaxation, this room calls for soft lighting. Natural light is always welcome and dimming controls offer great flexibility. For a nursery this is especially important. General lighting is easily displayed overhead through recessed downlights, ceiling fans and/or wall sconces. If a bathroom is not nearby, you’ll want to have a dressing table or some part of the room aglow with task lighting for grooming purposes. In children’s rooms, track lights work well, especially those that can rotate to brighten reading areas or a table for puzzles and other detailed activities.
In the Living Room/Family Room
With the popular trend of large, multi-purpose rooms growing in home plans, integrating multiple types of light into one room is becoming a common thing. These rooms often include a multitude of activity so they require a variety of lighting types. If your family room includes a pool table, overstuffed chair and big-screen television, you’ll need three very different types of lighting. For reading, task lighting is required and should be positioned behind the reader’s shoulder. This can be achieved by placing a table lamp to the side of a chair or couch.
For the pool table or any other game table, a large pendant light is required overhead to cast a bright spotlight below.
For television watchers, you’ll want something that is dimmable or other low-level lighting that won’t wash out the television’s image nor cast a glare onto the screen. In the living room, paintings or other artwork can be highlighted with low-voltage, tungsten-halogen picture lights, while fireplaces should be accented by recessed downlights installed in the ceiling for a glow over the mantle.
As a general lighting guideline, keep in mind that if a room has high ceilings, you can use low luminaries to help lower visual height. If a room appears small, you can visually push open one wall by flooding it with light. For wider rooms, illuminate the narrow ends and consider the opposite for rooms that are too narrow. Also remember dark floors and walls reflect less light than colored ones, so if you’re looking for an intimate atmosphere, use little illumination.
Another exciting consideration for your home is installing a lighting system, which can be integrated to control all the lighting functions of your whole home. Imagine, with one touch, you can dim the living room lights, turn on exterior lights and light the fireplace. With a CentraLite™ customizable hard-wiring lighting control system, you can program buttons on each decorative panel to accentuate the home’s architectural details, to dim for immediate ambiance, or to just create a unique, aesthetically pleasing scene. Illuminating your home can be a pleasurable experience, and the amount of lighting fixtures, products and systems on the market presents a dazzling array of options. Be sure when determining how to illuminate your home, that the lighting will simplify your tasks, capture the personality of the room, and make your family’s life bright!