At Home, Spring 2014

Let there be Light

Lighting is critical to our livelihoods and good lighting is paramount to our productivity.

In biblical principle, God took the first day of creation just to create light and to separate light from darkness.We are learning more and more as technology advances, how important and multifaceted light can be. The way that we psychologically process lighting is a key factor for mood and memories. Light can evoke feelings of joy, romance, and even fear- just imagine these scenes: a sunny day at the beach, candle light dinner, or a cold pitch-dark room…. yikes!

So what makes up a well-lit space? There is no one solution for this question because lighting preferences vary so much by each user, but I have put together several ways that you can customize your lighting and improve your light quality for your home, no matter what your preferences may be.

There are four basic types of lighting that can, and should be used to achieve the best lighting design. They are: ambient, task, accent, and decorative. Measuring what type of lighting you are already using and then filling in with the ones that are missing will help you to find balance and also add interest to your living spaces.

??Ambient lighting fills the undefined areas of a space with a soft level of general light, enough for someone to navigate through the room. This is the case where most new homes have recessed can lights which are placed evenly around the room or in older homes where there is one flush light source in the center of the ceiling of each room. Ambient is practical but please do not let it be the only way you illuminate your interior; take time to light not just the floors but the walls and ceilings as well. Having flexibility and control of your light will help you create the different moods and productivity levels you wish to generate.??

Task lighting is a bright light that illuminates a particular area where a visual activity, such as food preparation, or reading takes place. Task lighting can be created with track lights, desk lamps, under counter lights, and pendants, among others to produce light directly on a work surface. Having enough light to work by is crucial to efficiency. If you find yourself ever having to strain your eyes to see the details of your book page, try bringing in a lamp or brighten the bulbs in your existing fixtures; we will talk more about this in a bit. ??

Accent lighting is similar to task lighting in that it consists largely of directed light. It is used to focus attention on artwork, or architectural features, to help set a mood or provide drama in decorating your space. Accent lighting often gets skipped but it is what can make a space completely memorable and unique. Play with putting more light on your ceilings and walls and less just on your floors and counters. Ceiling brightness makes a space feel taller and brighter walls makes the space seem bigger. Try adding drama by going with a dark wall color and then lighting the walls and artwork. Another cool trick is to put lights above your cabinets that shine on the walls and ceiling. This draws the eye up and will be attention-grabbing but it will also give height to your room. Many of us know to light up artwork over a fireplace but take this a step further and light your stairwell with sconces and wall wash your ledgestone accent wall. Whether building a new home or looking to improve interest in your existing home, don’t skip on accent lighting when looking for ways to really up the ante.

Any of the three previous categories of light can come in the form of Decorative Lighting. Decorative lighting draws attention to itself, and can sometime be the centerpiece or focal point of a room. A Dining Room Chandelier is a perfect example of this, or on a greater scale, the Peace Center’s “Taking Flight” winged light sculpture in the lobby creates conversation and draws the eye from blocks away.

There are all kinds of new light bulbs on the market that will really change your interiors if you use them properly. A fun way to make a light with an exposed bulb more decorative and also more visually manageable, is to change the regular light bulb to an old fashioned looking Edison bulb where the filament is coiled and glows. This style works well in craftsman, industrial, shabby-chic and retro style homes such as mid-century modern. Edison bulbs do not get very bright at all so they should never be considered a task light source, but rather, purely decorative.

I have been telling most of my friends and clients over the last year who are looking for ways to freshen up their home that changing their light bulbs can be one of the simplest solutions for a brighter, fresher space! GO LED! Dispose of your compact fluorescents that you just never could get used to and make the leap to LED’s or light emitting diodes, which come in almost every bulb size and shape now so that up to 95% of your lights in your home can be converted. Taking the time and making the investment to do this will truly pay off. Although bulb for bulb, LED’s are more expensive than halogens, incandescent, and fluorescents, they use a fraction of energy and therefore they will save you money over time. Their life is different than an incandescent or halogen which just die or fluorescents that flicker when about to die in that they stay bright for a minimum of 5 years and then from that point they just begin to loose luminosity but they don’t burn out so you can have decades of light from the same bulb! Just this weekend I changed my entire home over so that I am practicing what I preach and… WOW. It is incredible what a difference it has made; we feel like we live in a jewelry store now, everything sparkles and has magnificent true color. I replaced my 50 watt halogens with 8 watt LED equivalents.

The trick to buying the right LED replacement is in a few technical details that can be found on the box or on the photometric information: Look for a color temperature of 3000k (kelvins) if you want clear light that falls between daylight and incandescent (your standard lightbulb). This is in my opinion the best upgrade. If you prefer the warm light of an incandescent then you would buy 2700k bulbs. For daylight equivalent which is more blue or cooler, you would buy 3500k bulbs. To take it one step further, try finding LED’s with high color rendering which draws out the richness in color- anything above 80 is good. You can buy LED bulbs in all different types and wattage equivalents at common places you shop for light bulbs or if you want a bulb with a specific look and technical ratings, I think an internet search is easiest. My last few songs of praise for LED lights are that they can now be purchased as dimmable and they emit no heat whatsoever; as opposed to most energy burning bulbs which get hot and release a bunch of heat into your home.

Establish better lighting where you live and relax and you will not be disappointed by how your quality of life will be improved! If you feel it is a bit overwhelming to undertake on your own, remember that a lighting specialist or a good designer will be able to point you in the right direction and can also offer you a range of options while having knowledge of equipment, creative applications, and comprehensive project management to help you properly light your life!