Home lighting – What and Where
When it comes to lighting, not all bulbs are created equal. And, neither are types of lighting, locations of lighting, styles of lighting… you get the idea. Different rooms are suitable for different types of fixtures, and it can all get confusing. If you’re wondering what the best place is for that chandelier or wall sconce, here are some basics.
Three major types of lighting
The first place to start when it comes to lighting is learning the three major types: ambient (also known as general), accent and task.
Ambient lighting fills a room and makes it functional; it’s also known as general lighting because it provides general illumination of a room or space. It’s your primary source of light, commonly controlled by the light switches in a room; think ceiling-mounted lights, or larger floor lamps.
Accent lighting is in addition to your general lighting. It adds a dramatic element to items or spots in the room that you want to draw attention to via illumination, such as decor, houseplants or architectural features. Common fixtures for accent lighting are table lamps or wall-mounted lights.
Task lighting comes from fixtures specifically designed and placed in a spot to help you perform a task, such as a desk lamp in an office, under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen or a reading lamp on your bedside table. It’s usually used in combination with ambient lighting.
With the use of a dimmer switch, any of the types of lighting can be used for a different purpose; for example, dimming the ambient ceiling lights in the living room can provide dramatic mood lighting typically provided by accent lights.
What to use (and where to use it)
Maybe you saw some sleek track lighting in a friend’s kitchen, or were inspired by gorgeous hanging pendant lamp in a showroom. Here are some of the more common light fixtures and some do’s and don’ts about placement.
Track lighting: Versatile in that the lights can be angled to illuminate whatever you fancy, track lighting is a sleek, sophisticated fixture commonly used in modern kitchens, but making its way into studies and hallways. Track lighting is a good fit for rooms with high ceilings that need a lot of ambient light, since these fixtures may look bulky in a room with low ceilings. Their ability to adjust to illuminate specific spots also makes them a good option for accent lighting.
Pendant lighting: A modern addition to the ever-growing list of lighting options, pendant lights come in so many different styles, and are just as decorative as they are functional. Pendant fixtures can be the perfect finishing touch to a room or the centerpiece of a space — it’s all up to you and your vision. Hang them high in a high-ceiling kitchen or entryway, or low in a bedroom as bedside lights.
Chandeliers: Whether you opt for an understated, simple piece, or an elaborate work of art, chandeliers are one lighting option that is sure to be a conversation starter. The traditional location for a chandelier is above a dining room table, but they also look elegant in entryways and powder rooms. Be sure to get one that fits your space — a large chandelier in a small room can make the space look cluttered. They provide great ambient light, but, like most fixtures, can also function as an accent piece.
Recessed lighting: Recessed light fixtures are installed directly into the ceiling, maintaining a flush surface perfect for smaller contemporary or modern spaces — especially those with low ceilings, like finished basements. Although they are ceiling-mounted, they are commonly used as accent lighting to create a mood in a space, but can be used as the main source of light in the room, depending on the bulb used. They are versatile and ideal for kitchens, living spaces and even bathrooms.
Ceiling fan: One of the most popular ambient light options out there, ceiling fans both light up and cool off spaces. Commonly used in bedrooms and living rooms, they come in many styles to fit different spaces — transitional, contemporary, modern or traditional. Many come with dimmers, which allow you to control the amount of light to match the time of day or what you’re using the room for.
Wall sconces: Wall-mounted light fixtures are usually on the smaller side, making them popular accent or task lighting options. For task lighting, installing a wall sconce on either side of a bed will provide the perfect illumination for reading; or, put them in the bathroom on either side of the vanity mirror. Wall sconces used as accent lighting are good for drawing attention to wall-mounted artwork or flanking a fireplace.
Under-cabinet lighting: To take your modern or transitional kitchen to a whole new level, consider adding under-cabinet lighting. A strong example of task lighting, under-cabinet fixtures rid the kitchen of unsightly shadows caused by the cabinets, and illuminate your counter space, creating a well-lit and safe environment for your cooking tasks. The kitchen will feel more open and refreshing with these added.
Layer your lighting onto your ambient light base with accent and task fixtures, depending on the room and what you’re using it for. After all — you can’t enjoy your home design if you don’t illuminate it.
While all of those options are mostly used inside, some can be used outside, especially if you have a covered patio. Wall sconces would look great on either side of your garage bays or front door, especially ones that come in a lantern style. Ceiling fans on a covered patio are functional and stylish, keeping you cool on warm summer days.
Other outdoor lighting options include flood lighting, which are ideal for security and can be controlled both by motion sensors and light switches. String lights add the perfect touch to a backyard, whether you’re throwing a party or just enjoying an evening drink in the hammock. Landscape lights are low to the ground, the perfect fixture for illuminating a path or front walk. Lanterns, whether mounted on a fence post or a standalone post, add curb appeal to any home.
GateHouse Media July 9, 2019