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.
“Lighting is one of the most important — yet can be one of the most undervalued — components when designing or renovating a home,” she says. “A proper lighting plan is very right brain, left brain — blending intuition with geometrical and mathematical concepts.”
When working with clients, Brown tries to shed real light on a design concept by creating a layered 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.
Brown says most homeowners give little additional thought to the lighting inside a house — that is, until they notice it doesn’t feel welcoming or is too dark.
“With all the choices of light fixtures and types of bulbs that are on the market right now, choosing what’s needed for a space can seem daunting,” Brown says. “A bulb’s wattage says nothing about what kind of light it gives off.”
When creating a lighting plan, a good place to start is by thinking about how much sunlight streams through a room at different times of day, during different seasons. 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.
“We want to have a lighting plan that has many levels to it, because when you show the fixtures’ arrays on architectural renderings, you can see how they intersect, and objectively see where there will be more need for light,” Brown says. “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. Brown says other task lighting can be set above the sink and beneath upper cabinets, so countertops are illuminated without shadows.
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, which illuminate glassware placed on shelves,” she says.