Home Decorating: Choosing The Right Lights For Your Look & Needs

A successful lighting scheme that meets practical needs and creates atmosphere plays an important part in establishing the style and character of your home.

There’s more to home lighting than a central ceiling fixture backed up by a couple of wall or table lamps. A well-planned lighting scheme should be both practical and decorative.

On the practical side, the right sort of lighting provides illumination for cooking, cleaning, sewing, reading, and many other day-to-day tasks. Decorative lighting helps to create a relaxed atmosphere, and should complement your color scheme and furnishings.

A successful home lighting scheme is made up of several different elements. Most rooms will need a carefully thought-out mixture of these effects to work well.

Lighting Choices General lighting provides overall or background light and should be used in every room.

A hanging ceiling light is a common type of light fitting, offering a variety of shade styles in materials as diverse as fabric, paper, or metal. A ceiling pendant that is the sole source of light in a room is a limiting choice; it provides a bright central space with shadowy edges.

Recessed or semi-recessed low voltage down lights spaced across the ceiling will give a good level of clear light. Depending on the type of bulb used, and the housing, a recessed down light can spread light over a wide area or in a narrow beam. Semi-recessed down lights (sometimes called eyeballs) can be swiveled.

Controlling down lights with a dimmer system is a good idea because you can then have some of the lights off while others are on, and can vary brightness.

Task lighting is designed to give concentrated, directional light over a small area and may be used in conjunction with general and accent fixtures. The type of task lighting you choose depends on the activity you have in mind.

A desk light with a flexible arm is the perfect example, as it can be adjusted to provide light exactly where it is needed.

A reading lamp should be tall enough to shine onto the pages of the book, but not into your eyes. A floor lamp positioned behind the reader is ideal.

Light for writing, sewing, or any other hobby should be positioned so that it shines down onto the work. Rise and fall pendants are useful for this, especially if you work at the dining table. Recessed strip lighting is useful for providing countertop light in a kitchen. Accent lighting is used to show off plants, pictures, collections, and interesting architectural features. There are many different types, which can be used to light objects from above, below or behind, or at an angle.

A narrow beam halogen down light may be used to light a single vase or piece of china. The lower part of the object remains in shade, so this gives a dramatic floating effect.

Pictures are often lit from above. An adjustable eyeball or ceiling spotlight focused on the picture, or a special framing spotlight, which will flood the painting with light but leave the walls around it in shadow, are worth considering, as well as the traditional brass picture light.

A table lamp with a wide based shade will throw a pool of light onto the surface below it and is an attractive way to light a small collection or some framed photographs.

Floor standing drum torchieres can be positioned below large plants to create dramatic leaf patterns on the walls and ceiling. You can light objects on glass shelves very effectively by positioning a row of small halogen spotlights below the bottom shelf. Wall-mounted sconces, wall washers, or tall floor lamp-style designs will illuminate the detail on an interesting cornice or ceiling.

Small floor torchieres positioned behind a sofa or armchair will wash the walls with light and make the room seem larger.

2009, Rhonda Morin. MyInteriorDecorator.com

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