A well-lit room can mean the difference between a relaxed state of mind and an anxious one. It can also mean having sufficient lighting to cut vegetables at the kitchen counter, put on makeup in the bathroom, and see your guests’ faces in the foyer. Good lighting habits make a room not only beautiful but also functional, making your home a peaceful place for your family and guests. To achieve this effect, you’ll need to know these common lighting mistakes and how to avoid them when designing or re-designing your home.
It’s all too easy to pick lighting that dwarfs its surroundings with its size or that is so small that both its lighting and aesthetic is ineffective in the space. For open spaces, larger fixtures often help anchor the space and provide sufficient lighting for a larger area. Small, closed concept spaces often benefit from recessed lighting and smaller light fixtures, helping the light to recede and making the space seem larger.
#2: Relying on Only One Light Source
Planning on only one light source in a room—such as a pendant light in a dining room or a table lamp in a living room—is another common lighting mistake. The result is often a glaringly bright light or not enough light to function. What’s the quick fix? It’s called “layering” your lighting, meaning using multiple lights in a room, which helps bring balance to a space. A good way of looking at it is this: you should incorporate these three types of lighting in your home: ambient, task, and accent.
Ambient lighting distributes light across a space, allowing people to function in, and navigate safely through, the space. This includes track and recessed lighting, as well as downlights.
Task lighting allows people to perform certain tasks in a space, such as under-cabinet lights in the kitchen, a desk lamp in your office, or side lamps that light up the mirror in your bathroom.
Accent lighting is lighting that illuminates a specific object, such as a piece of artwork in the dining room or a water feature in the yard. Accent lights are typically adjustable, allowing them to be positioned so that the light can be focused on an object.
#3: Using Too Many Light Fixtures
The opposite of relying on only one light source is to have too much lighting in a space, causing it to look cluttered and overly bright. So just how many light fixtures do you need in a room? The general rule is 70 foot-candles a square foot. (A foot-candle is a unit of measurement to determine light intensity by a source of light.) Once you know how many foot-candles are needed in your space, you can convert it into lumens, which then can be converted into watts. Here are the formulas you will need:
Room square footage x 70 = number of foot-candles needed
Number of foot-candles x 10.76 = number in lumens
Lumens x 0.001496 = number in watts
Once you know the overall wattage needed in your space, pick a few light fixtures with that collective wattage in order to layer the lighting and disperse it in a balanced way.
#4: Not Considering How Paint Color Affects Lighting
When considering which lighting to place in a room, it’s good to consider the paint color. This will have an effect on whether you should use warm or cool lighting in the space. For example, warm yellow lighting (such as incandescents) will make vivid colors like reds, oranges, and yellows even more intense, while subduing blues and greens. LEDs are more flexible, and look good with most paint colors. And halogen lights are most comparable to sunlight, producing a whiter (rather than amber) light.
Aside from the type of bulb and the hue it emits, one must also consider the gloss level of the paint. For example, a room with high-gloss paint will cause light to bounce off its surface, whereas a matte paint finish will maintain the true paint color, keeping it consistent under any type of lighting.
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