Design Center

Proper lighting plays a huge part in making a house a home. The right fixtures let you cook and do household tasks more efficiently, improve your property's security, and raise your overall level of comfort and well-being. They also add to the aesthetic value by altering the visual size of a room. For example, strategically placed lights can make a small room seem larger and an enormous room more intimate.

The first step to a great lighting plan is basing it on your lifestyle. Take a look at each room and determine its purpose. A game room, for instance, doesn't need bright lighting, but a kitchen needs plenty of light. Some rooms, like studies and bedrooms, require more than one kind of lighting.

The current state of other furnishings also needs to be taken into account, as well as the way light bounces off walls and ceilings. A room's color scheme is another vital component in lighting; rooms painted in dark color tend to absorb light, thereby requiring more energy to illuminate, while light-painted rooms reflect light and tend to look brighter with fewer lights.

Lighting makes all the difference in interior design—and our Design Center will help you select the perfect pieces for your home. Below is a guide to the different types of light fixtures to help you choose the right ones for your home.

CHANDELIERS

Used properly, chandeliers not only provide brilliant lighting, but also add style and class to a home. They are commonly used in dining areas, foyers, and living rooms, but more and more homeowners are choosing to install chandeliers in unusual places, such as bedrooms and bathrooms. Wherever you put a chandelier, take note of these tips:

  • Measure the height of the mirror and sink before planning anything else. The mirror's base should be 1 to 5 inches below the bottom of the sconce, unless you plan to use a full-length mirror.
  • Vanity lights are placed above the mirror, with sconces at either side. Hang the sconces around 66 inches above the floor and 28 inches (or the mirror's width) apart.
  • The light from all fixtures in the room should fill all sides of your face, eliminating shadows. This is especially helpful for those who spend a lot of time in front of the mirror.
  • At the same time, the light shouldn't be too bright. Consider installing a dimmer to provide just the right glow for a relaxing dip in the tub. You may also try using a chandelier or pendant above the bathtub for a dramatic effect.

PENDANTS

Pendant lights are versatile fixtures as they can provide both task and general lighting. They are commonly used over kitchen islands, bars, work benches, and game tables such as those for cards and pool. Pendants are also popular alternatives to table lamps, especially in small spaces, because they don't take up floor space.

  • When used in the kitchen, take note of the size of the counter. Follow the "Rule of Threes," that is to install three pendants evenly if you have a longer counter, and fewer if you have a shorter one or if you're using pendants with larger shades.
  • Pendants need to be hung low enough to hide the glare of the light bulb, yet high enough to keep people from hitting their heads on them. The recommended height is between 60 to 66 inches.
  • A room painted in a neutral color benefits from brightly colored pendants and vice versa.

WALL SCONCES

These can be used for general, task, and accent lighting. Wall sconces are commonly utilized to match and complement other lighting fixtures in hallways, living rooms, and bedrooms. They can also flank bathroom mirrors and make for a perfect accent above fireplace mantels.

  • To avoid glare, install a sconce at least 60 inches from the floor, or above eye level.
  • Sconces should add to the appeal of a room, not distract from it. For example, a sconce should be placed on either side of a decorative piece, rather than directly above a chair.
  • When using sconces as an accent, such as on both sides of a painting, space them 28 inches apart.
  • When placed in a hallway or foyer, place sconces at least 6 feet apart.
  • If using a chandelier, get the matching wall sconces, or at least one that belongs to the same design family.


BATHROOM LIGHTING

Most bathroom lights are of the sconce variety, so the rules for sconces apply here. Generally, ceiling lights for bathrooms are either recessed or flush-mounted to avoid electrocution. Sconces, bath lights, and vanity lights lend ample illumination to make-up application and general grooming. Proper lighting makes these tasks a safer and more relaxing experience.

  • Measure the height of the mirror and sink before planning anything else. The mirror's base should be 1 to 5 inches below the bottom of the sconce, unless you plan to use a full-length mirror.
  • Vanity lights are placed above the mirror, with sconces at either side. Hang the sconces around 66 inches above the floor and 28 inches (or the mirror's width) apart.
  • The light from all fixtures in the room should fill all sides of your face, eliminating shadows. This is especially helpful for those who spend a lot of time in front of the mirror.
  • At the same time, the light shouldn't be too bright. Consider installing a dimmer to provide just the right glow for a relaxing dip in the tub. You may also try using a chandelier or pendant above the bathtub for a dramatic effect.

TRACK LIGHTING

These lights provide a versatility that is rarely found in other kinds of fixtures. Because you can change their positions and aim them wherever you want light to hit, you have the option to change your lighting scheme when you feel like it. Track lights are commonly used in the kitchen, where bright, focused light is essential to tasks that are dangerous if done without proper illumination. Game and recreational rooms also benefit from track lighting arranged in such a way that shadows are minimized. Finally, track lights are useful for temporary spaces where you don't want to mess too much with the electric circuit.

  • Since track lights provide focused lighting, decide how many light "spots" you need. A small area might need just one light; a larger area might require more.
  • The type of bulb depends on the type of room you're planning to illuminate. For general lighting, such as lighting for dinner tables and living spaces, incandescent bulbs are ideal. To highlight an artwork or design element, a halogen bulb produces the right, focused beam. For task lighting, a fluorescent bulb is just right.
  • Track lights are available in a variety of styles—some have tracks that are almost recessed, while others just pop out. For subtle lighting, get a set in the same color as your ceiling. For a bolder look, get tracks and heads with a metallic finish or another hue that contrasts with your ceilings and walls.
  • For best results, install track lights between 20 and 40 inches from the wall on which you'll be focusing the light.
  • Make sure that your lights don't get in the way of doors, window shutters, or cabinets.


RECESSED LIGHTING

Recessed lights may seem laid-back at first glance, but these fixtures deliver a powerful light that can cover an entire room. Used with dimmers, they produce great mood lighting, and when properly oriented, they emit focused light that makes tasks easier. Recessed lighting is popular in kitchens and bathrooms where it's too risky to have something hanging from the ceiling, but they can be used in any type of room.

  • Recessed lighting fixtures are composed of three components: housings, trimmings, and lamps.
  • Get a housing that matches the following criteria: your ceiling's insulation, energy efficiency, and dampness. Look for fixtures that are IC-rated, air tight, and are UL/CUL listed, respectively. This is because recessed fixtures are prone to overheating and might be damaged by water absorbed in wooden ceilings.
  • Since the ceiling might be a fire hazard, look for a Fire Rated light cover as well. This absorbs heat, and provides thermal and acoustic insulation.
  • Trims are the only visible part in recessed lights and have a huge impact on how the light is diffused. They come in different styles and colors to match your ceiling, and can either soften or amplify the brightness.
  • When choosing a bulb, consider the nature of the space. Incandescent lamps are the most popular choice for both general and task lighting, but CFL bulbs are brighter, last longer, and are more energy-efficient. Mercury vapor lamps and halogen bulbs are great for outdoor use, where brightness and security are important.

LANDSCAPE LIGHTING

Outdoor and landscape lighting add beauty, value, and security to any home. They also provide excellent illumination for night-time activities such as parties or backyard camping. There are many options available, including outdoor versions of sconces, pendants, and recessed lights, which are specifically built to withstand the forces of nature. Many specialized lights are available for outdoor use, such as path lights, post mounts, and in-ground lighting and floodlights.

  • If you live in an urban area with street lighting, your needs will not be as great as they will be if you live in the suburbs.
  • Outdoor sconces, pendants, and ceiling mounts are good for porches and garages. The larger the entrance, the larger the fixture you'll need.
  • Lamp posts add character and charm to any outdoor space. Most posts are between 70 to 75 inches tall and come in various designs to match your home.
  • Garden and path lights are often a quarter of the height of full posts, and focus light on your paths and spreads. They frequently feature whimsical designs such as animals and gnomes.
  • Some in-ground lighting fixtures feature movable heads, making them great for highlighting trees and statuary. Be sure that the light is shining upwards, covering as much of the tree or decorative item as possible. This allows you to play with light and shadow, creating points of interest in your outdoor spaces.
  • Deck lamps make stairs and railings safer for outdoor events.

A great lighting plan successfully mixes and matches light fixtures to create the optimal conditions. Chandeliers and sconces, for example, provide ample brightness to foyers and hallways, while outdoor pendants and path lights create an inviting mood on porches and terraces. A combination of wall sconces and track lights draws attention to an outstanding artwork or design detail, and highlights your taste for the finer things in life.

Different areas need different lighting fixtures for maximum effect. Tasks are easier using the proper choice and positioning of lights, while the right kind of lighting sets the mood for entertainment or relaxation. The right lighting adds security and safety to any space, and can make a home feel as large or as intimate as the homeowner wants.


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