Why lighting is more important than furniture, no matter what your designer says

There are so many things to consider when decorating your home that you do not have the time or inclination to study the lighting for your home in detail. I know how you feel.

But you know that feeling you get when you walk into a room where the lighting is just right. Maybe it’s your neighbours kitchen where you feel like the lighting would be so lovely to prepare meals in. Maybe it’s your friends living room where you feel instantly comfortable and cozy. Or maybe it’s your favourite restaurant where the lighting adds so much to the ambience.

You can’t help but wonder how they create those feelings.

You know that lighting can make or break a room — that it provides atmosphere just as much as functionality, but you don’t really know how to work with it.

Well don’t worry, I will take the guesswork out of it for you. You too will make every room shine and add the ambience it needs to highlight your rooms and make them sparkle.

The best way to screw up good architecture is bad lighting,” says architect Charlie Simmons, of Charlie & Co. Design. Even if you had millions of dollars to spend on beautiful cabinetry, countertops, furniture and wall coverings, “if you are not going to highlight with appropriate materials, you are not going to appreciate it.

The 3 Types Of Lighting that Create The Atmosphere In Any Room

The atmosphere in any room is created by only three different types of lighting. They are:

  1. Ambient Lighting
  2. Task Lighting
  3. Accent Lighting

A good lighting plan combines all three types to light an area according to function and style. Each type of lighting meets a particular need and one type of lighting cannot do it all. It is a good concept to have a range of different types of lighting.

Ambient Lighting: Illuminate Your Room

Ambient, or general lighting is the most basic of the three types. It provides an area with overall illumination — radiating a comfortable level of brightness without glare and allows you to see and walk about safely. Ambient lighting can be accomplished with:

  1. Chandeliers
  2. Ceiling or wall mount fixtures
  3. Track or recessed lights
  4. Table and floor lamps

In some spaces such as laundry rooms, the ambient lighting also serves as the primary source of task lighting.

Having a central source of ambient light in all rooms is fundamental to a good lighting plan; it’s the base upon which you add all other layers of lighting.

Task Lighting: Focus Where You Need It

Task lighting targets a particular area of a room illuminating a specific function — like reading, grooming, preparing and cooking food, doing homework, working on hobbies, playing games and balancing your check book. For example areas in the home that require task lighting are the kitchen counters where food is prepared, the bedroom end tables where reading is done, home office where bills are paid or vanity where makeup is applied.

To enhance visual clarity and prevent eyestrain, effective task lighting should be free of distracting glare and shadows. Great task lighting can be achieved by:

  1. recessed and track lighting

2. Pendant lighting and specialty lighting

3. Vanity lights

4. Foor, table, and desk lamps.

Accent Lighting: Behind The Scene

Accent lighting (a.k.a. directionall lighting) is typically used to highlight certain objects or architectural features, such as houseplants, paintings, sculptures, or countertops. But you can also use it to highlight window treatments or the texture of a brick or stone wall. You can even use it outdoors to highlight landscaping such as a beautiful tree, plant or water feature, or just to draw the eye to a particular area of the garden.

Accent lighting should be about three times the general illumination level. Accent lighting should never be the focal point. In fact, it’s meant to work without being seen. Accent lighting can be provided by:

  1. Recessed and Track lighting
  2. Chandeliers with dimmer switches Specialty lighting
  3. Wall Sconces.

How To Use The 3 Types Of Lighting To Create The Atmosphere You Want

When planning the layers of light in a room, it usually makes sense to consider the ambient lighting first, then consider task and accent lighting. Specifically identify the room or space and its intended purpose then you can decide how to go about illuminating. With rooms that are heavily task-oriented, however, such as home offices, task lighting can be the focus first. And in a hallway that doubles as a photo or art gallery, accent lighting might be considered first.

It is not rocket science, just some explanation of how lighting works. Look around your home and see where changing up the lighting can make a big difference.

Lets take the living room for example. This is usually a large room, that may need all three types of lighting. Ambient, Task and Accent. A single overhead fixture may not be enough.

Overhead lighting can be provided by a fancy light fixture focused on a sitting area, a ceiling fan with a light or pot lights. Install a dimmer switch to be able to change up the atmosphere and set the mood.

No ceiling lights, no problem. We can still create all three types of lighting with lamps. You can incorporate table lamps and floor lamps throughout the room to give a visual balance of light.

You can use two matching table lamps on side tables to give the space a sence of balance and symmetry. Maybe your living room space only allows for one side table beside your sofa. No problem, you can have one table lamp and use a floor lamp on the other side of the sofa to create balanced lighting. A lonely armchair instantly becomes a favourite reading nook when you add a floor lamp.

Having a tri -light ( a lamp that uses a 3-way light bulb to produce three levels of light) can work very well with lamps. This will give you a choice for the type of lighting you need. A high setting can provide task lighting for reading. A low setting can provide ambience.

You can also use picture lights and track lighting to light up your art work, objects and collections.

Lights, Camera, Action

Imagine walking into your living room and immediately getting that warm and cozy feeling with the flick of a switch. Imagine being in your kitchen and knowing every light is perfectly positioned and has the right illumination to help you with every task. Imagine going to your bedroom and knowing exactely which light to switch on to give you that romantic atmosphere.

Lighting is kind of like jewelry for the home. Your home will now sparkle and shine with the correct lighting in all the right spaces. You’ll hardly believe the difference your new lighting will make.

Originally published at medium.com.

2 thoughts on “Why lighting is more important than furniture, no matter what your designer says”

  1. Happy Mother’s Day to all you wonderful mom’s out there. Hope you are all being pampered today by your significant other and or your kids.

    While sipping on your tea, sit back, relax and have a little read. This post is all about lighting. Something that we all know is a very important function in our homes.

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