Deciding on interior lighting

Lighting is a key element in the look of your home.
Artificial lighting is a key element in creating a pleasing and safe home. Through various lighting methods, you can recreate a sunrise, the noonday sun or the sultry colors of dusk. You can evoke romantic emotions or illuminate any task at hand.

"The best way to achieve pleasing light is to use mixed combinations of lighting options," says Joe Rey-Barreau, director of education at the American Lighting Association. "These include a variety of fixtures in a collection of styles."

Mixed styles are the trend. In recent years, lighting fixtures have gotten somewhat nostalgic, as have lighting arrangements. Five to ten years ago, recessed cans were the choice. While they are still popular, a variety of lighting choices and a trend toward more decorative fixtures are replacing the standard of the 1980s. One reason is that lighting and colors are becoming more complex. Homeowners today want a layered, decorative look that suggests comfort. This comfort level can be accomplished through a combination of ambient, task and accent lighting.

  • Ambient lighting provides general overall lighting for a room. It often takes over when the natural lighting is not enough. Ambient lighting can be achieved in a number of ways: torchiere lamps, ceiling fixtures, fluorescent lighting, uplighting above cabinetry, etc. It is the most prevalent form of lighting.


  • Task lighting is self-explanatory. It is lighting that illuminates targeted areas for specific tasks. It also can be called a form of safety lighting, especially in rooms like the kitchen and bath. Task lighting could include options such as under cabinet lighting in the kitchen for meal preparation or reading lamps beside the bed. Recessed cans are one form of task lighting.


  • Accent lighting is used to highlight a focal point in a room, such as a work of art or architectural detail. It is used to focus the eye and add visual interest. It is often the most overlooked type of lighting in the home.
You should always use a combination of all three forms of lighting in the home.

In the past decade there have been technological advances that allow you to program multiple lighting settings on a main computer. When you need lights, you simply choose the program you want and push a single button. You can program a room or an entire house for various activities, such as a romantic evening, family time, reading, entertaining, etc.

Consider your lighting needs before you remodel. You may need to wire extra electrical outlets or fixtures to gain that extra bit of light--you don't want to have to rip out walls later in order to get it. You must also realize that no two rooms will have the same lighting needs--there are too many variables that affect the effectiveness of lighting fixtures. For example, a black room will appear darker than a white room using the same lamp because of the lack of light being reflected back into the room. The black room will reflect only four percent of the light, whereas a white room reflects 80 percent.

You must take your interior decor into consideration when planning your lighting needs. The best place to start is to consider how you use the room, the types of moods you would like to create with your lighting, and how that lighting will reflect given your decorating scheme. Discuss your lighting desires with your remodeler or lighting designer before the work begins. Lighting can be an artistic addition to any home. It should be a main concern in your planning stage.

Source: National Association for the Remodeling Industry (NARI)

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