Illuminate your home’s design by getting the light right. Rooms that are lit properly inside a home feel comfortable and unstrained, but designing them isn’t always as easy as flipping a switch, says Patricia Davis Brown, an interior designer and lighting specialist based in Vero Beach, Fla.
“Lighting is one of the most important — yet can be one of the most undervalued — components when designing or renovating a home,” she says.
When working with clients, Brown tries to shed real light on a design concept by creating a layered lighting plan that blends different types of illumination:
• General — This type of lighting provides a room with overall illumination. The goal is to create ambient light so people feel comfortable and look good in the space, which includes ceiling fixtures and recessed lights.
• Task — Optimal task lighting is achieved by hanging pendants, track lighting and table lamps, which illuminate the specific spaces in which people work and read.
• Accent — Indirect lighting can be achieved by using wall sconces and torchieres that throw diffused light upward, which doesn’t cause glare or shadows.
To map out a lighting plan, a person must also mathematically make accommodations for the spread of light from a fixture, so it’s important to consider the type of bulb and the fixture in use, before they’re installed.
Based on a color-rendering index (or CRI), look for bulbs that have CRI ratings of 75, or better. With daylight rated at 100 CRI, some fluorescent lights might only score a 50 CRI. However, compact fluorescents, color corrected fluorescent tubes, incandescent and halogen bulbs can all have CRI ratings that are 75 and greater.
“Two of the most important places in a home to consider the lighting are in the kitchen and bathrooms.”
The kitchen has always been the center of the home, but now it’s also used for much more than food preparation. Lighting in the form of hanging pendants above the kitchen island illuminate the task at hand, whether it’s doing homework or chopping vegetables.
Kitchen cabinetry with glass fronts can be a perfect place for accent lighting. “LEDs (light-emitting diodes) can come in any number of colors and can make a design statement when placed vertically inside cabinets.
Brown designs bathrooms that are light and bright without being sterile by using cross lighting in the space. “What you don’t want in a bathroom is one fixture that illuminates from the top with the beam spread moving downward. That top-down approach just creates harsh shadows on the face,” she says. “Instead, you want wall mounts on either side of the mirror, which help light the face from each side and eliminate shadows. This makes tasks like shaving and putting on makeup easier.”
“Overall, light affects our mood, and if a room is dark and dank, it can have a powerful affect on us,” Brown says. “Conversely, if a room is lit properly, it can elevate and inspire us, without us consciously knowing that the light is right.”