Positioning Your Light Source
Lighting is no longer just about brightening up a space, it has become so much more than that; it is about layering and balance; positioning your light source. You can have a room filled with all different types of lighting and still be missing the mark. Some rooms would benefit from lighting that draws attention and creates style within a space, while others need subtle fixtures that are restrained and delicate. There are also the different types of lighting that help to develop the layers within a space – ambient, task, accent and decorative lighting.
Ambient lighting is the most general lighting, creating the overall, general light within a space. This general lighting can be accomplished with sunlight, cans or lamps. Another common type of lighting is task lighting, which would be lamps on a desk or pendants over an island. The next two types of lighting create depth and interest in a space, accent and decorative lighting; accent lighting is used to accentuate an object or element in a space, think picture lights over paintings or puck lights in glass cabinets. Decorative lighting is purely ornamental; one of the most common applications is cove lighting above cabinets or in tray ceilings.
Getting a feel for the different layers of light is one thing – but how do you use them in a space? This all depends on what room you are trying to light as well as the look that you want to create. Here are some general guidelines for each space:
In a living room or family room you will want to light three of the four corners of the space, this can be accomplished using a combination of table and floor lamps, wall sconces and overhead lighting. Shaded lamps will create good reading light for the direct area while torchiere lamps will light up more of the room. Wall sconces and overhead lighting should be put on dimmers; this gives you more control over the mood and function of the room.
In a dining room the main source of light is over the table and should be put on a dimmer and lowered for entertaining purposes; this dimmer light promotes socializing because it is calming and flattering. Additional lighting should be placed on the edges of the room using torchiere lamps on a buffet table or accent wall sconces.
Ambient and task lighting are most important in the kitchen to assist with cooking. Many people congregate in the kitchen while entertaining and that is why accent and decorative lighting really help accentuate the space. Recessed lighting or an overhead semi-flush mount can create a great amount of ambient lighting; be sure to place these on a dimmer so that they can be nice and bright while cooking and dimmed while entertaining. Pendant and under cabinet lighting create additional lighting where tasks are performed, these can also be dimmed down while the overhead lights are off creating a backdrop while the party is perhaps eating in the formal dining space.
I have been asked if recessed lighting is sufficient in a bathroom – the answer is absolutely not. While you will want recessed lighting in your shower (and if the bathroom is large enough throughout the space), it is not good lighting for applying makeup and is far from flattering when you look in the mirror. Wall sconces are the absolute best for a bathroom; they create a warm flattering wash on your face. When wall sconces are not possible, a vanity light is the next best thing.