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Lighting 101


When it comes decorating a home, lighting is often overlooked. However, choosing the right light can add dramatic flair to your living room, provide contemporary flavor to your favorite office, or spread practical style to your busy kitchen. Consider spending time with someone who is a Certified Lighting Consultant (CLC) with the American Lighting Association (ALA). They have the training to help you create the lighting effects you want. Here are some ideas to get you thinking about lighting in a new way.

New Ideas for Traditional Lighting

Add something new to your traditional lamps by changing the bulbs or trying a new lampshade. Soft pink bulbs mute the glare on walls. Add a pendant spotlight over your kitchen sink so that food preparation is easier and more enjoyable. Try colored lights in your track lighting for a whimsical, artistic touch.

Create a completely new feeling with your table lamp by putting on a new shade. Try a black shade to direct the light downwards and add drama to your room, or try a bulky woven fabric shade to cast visually exciting shadows on the wall. 

If your part of the country boasts a certain architectural style, replicate it with your lighting designs. Try ceiling lights with a nautical flair, if you live on the coast, or consider a floor lamp fashioned after turn-of-the-century gaslights, if you live in a historic part of town.

NOTE: Avoid "over-lamping.' Make sure to use only the appropriate bulb sizes, types, and wattage for each lighting fixture. 

Lampshade Tips

The easiest way to achieve a total room makeover is with a new lampshade. It’s quick and inexpensive. Don’t necessarily stay with the same style that came with the lamp. Your lamp might look wonderful in a variety of shades. A new lampshade can change the mood from quiet to exciting or from contemporary to elegant. It can make the lamp look larger or smaller. It can direct the light upward or downward, or provide soft, muted light or strong and direct light.

Kitchen Lighting

The kitchen sink and stove areas call for downward directed task lighting; the eating area, on the other hand, calls for soft, casual lighting that doesn’t detract from conversation. In areas where you spend a great deal of time, such as with hobbies and computer projects, consider indirect or under-cabinet lighting from halogen or fluorescent sources.

If you have tall cabinets that don’t reach to the ceilings, try over-cabinet lighting to reduce shadows and add interest to the high walls. Consider under-cabinet lighting to light a large kitchen and emphasize your countertops. Under-cabinet lights not only help with your food preparation, but also provide an attractive, soft glow for your meals. 

Bedroom Lighting

Create an atmosphere of relaxation in your bedroom, while providing light for special task areas, such as a reading chair or desk. Usually a combination of lighting works well in the bedroom to suit different moods and activities. Consider a variety of ceiling and fan fixtures, recessed lighting, or wall sconces. A lighted make-up mirror works well over your dressing table, as does a floor light or table lamp.

Consider swing-arm wall lamps above bedside tables. They provide light for reading, while leaving the table tops free for your books, clock radio, snacks, or beverages.

Lighting for Living Areas

When you place lights in living areas consider:

  • How the spaces are used
  • The style of the rest of the room
  • Pieces of furniture or artwork you want to highlight
  • Sitting and walking patterns in the room
  • The mood you want to create

Then select your lighting carefully, and don’t be afraid to try something new.

In choosing lighting for children’s areas, consider track lighting, which you can adjust to light special task areas: homework, play, hobbies, reading, and dressing. As the children’s interests change, you can adjust the track lighting accordingly—perhaps to highlight artwork or a trophy case.

Feng Shui of Lighting

Feng Shui is a Chinese practice that teaches how to achieve harmony in our homes and gardens to create a positive energy flow and peaceful state of mind. Recently, the Western world has come to value the ancient practice and benefit from its teachings.

You can improve your lighting by applying some simple feng shui principles:

  • Halogen and fluorescent lights cast a cool light that is suited to task areas
  • Incandescent lights cast a warm glow suited to warm, cozy, intimate spaces
  • Purple bulbs create a sense of passion; yellow, relaxation; pink, calm and pleasure
  • Two or more soft lights in a room create a more inviting space than one strong light
  • Shades made of fabric or paper create a soft atmosphere, suitable for relaxing
  • Shades made of metal or hard materials create a hard atmosphere, suitable for work and high energy
  • Corners can be softened with sconces or torchieres to create a gentle flow of energy

Artistic Lighting

If you want to venture off the beaten lighting path, investigate artistic lighting. A simple Internet search or a trip to the local gallery district gets you started into lighting fixtures made of blown glass, clay, stone, metal, and wood. Many are created by studio artists and are sold locally or through online galleries.

Choose from LED rope lights, twinkle lights, LED tower lights, cubes, and spheres. An LED panel changes color and intensity, while offering an exciting wall of color to your game room or entertainment center. Some lights can be programmed to create random textures and effects—suitable for your spa or music room.

Have fun investigating the array of materials and colors, and choose an artistic focal point for an otherwise uninteresting area.

Whatever your lighting project, try something new. Experiment, and have fun!