The right lighting can make your home’s interior shine.
Homeowners may spend hours poring over paint colors, finishes, flooring and furniture, but lighting? It’s often an afterthought, but it shouldn’t be. “Lighting is the jewelry of the home. It completes the space,” says Melissa Kilgore, a lighting specialist at Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery in Orlando. Patsy O’Neill, a lighting designer with Lightstyle of Orlando, agrees: “All aspects of home design come to life through lighting.”
Beyond its ability to lend a finishing touch, lighting can make or break a room. That’s why both lighting professionals advise buyers to consider their options early in the home design process and to come prepared when visiting a lighting showroom. “Bring blueprints, room measurements, ceiling height, pictures of your rooms, and rooms you like. Some clients also bring fabric and cabinet samples,” Kilgore says. While there’s less design flexibility in existing homes, the same advice still applies.
Layers of Light
One way to enliven your home’s interior is with multiple sources of light. In living rooms, a chandelier, wall sconces, table lamps and indirect lighting behind furniture could comprise several light layers. For an inviting ambience, use dimmers. “Dimming is one of the most important aspects of lighting. Everything can be dimmed, from bedside lamps to kitchen cabinet lights. Even LED bulbs are dimmable now,” says Kilgore. In addition to using multiple light sources, O’Neill creates layers of light by dimming lights at different levels.
Using the right light for the space is key. A torchiere lamp, for example, provides general illumination and uplighting. A desk lamp is better for task lighting. Spots can highlight artwork, furniture, or a wall painted a dark color for accent.
When it comes to lighting a space, don’t hesitate to live large. “The biggest mistake people make is selecting a light that’s not the right scale for the space— usually, it’s too small,” O’Neill says. A rule-of-thumb is using three to four watts of incandescent light per square foot. Lighting specialists can help determine the correct formula based on your needs.
If you’ve written off LED bulbs as a “cold” form of lighting, look again. These money-saving bulbs have become more versatile. Kilgore favors the MR16 LED bulb. “It’s a romantic, soft light source that offers amazing lighting control.” To use LEDs properly, it’s helpful to understand that their light is based on temperature: 2,700 emits a warm glow similar to incandescent bulbs; 3,000 resembles sunlight; 5,000 has a cool, blue tone.
When evaluating light fixtures, try different placements. You might think outside a kitchen’s fluorescent light box with recessed cabinet lighting. “It provides more depth of field,” O’Neill says. For bathrooms, choose upward-facing fixtures for nice illumination without shadows. Considering a ceiling fan? Newer models have lights that blend seamlessly with fan bases. Finally, mix things up. “Finishes don’t have to match. A lighting professional can help pull out a detail from your fixtures or finishes and tie everything together for a designer look,” says O’Neill.