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From Start To Furnish

Please enjoy my musings on all things interior design!

Turn On An Inspired Lighting Design

So often in home design, one of the most important steps in the planning process is rushed through and because of this, it fails to deliver in creating the desired ambiance. 

A carefully thought-out lighting plan is often ignored! It's so much more than just walking in a room and flipping on a switch to turn on the light.  

Exceptional lighting, planned well, enhances all of the other decisions in your home design that you have spent so many hours thinking about.  A well-done plan involves three layers of lighting.  Remember each light source to complete the room you've been planning.  

Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting, as the name implies, helps set the ambiance (gotta love that word).  It is the general lighting of the room.  Every room has it.  It casts light downward.  The light source for creating ambient lighting can be one overhead light fixture, pendants or, more commonly recessed cans.  

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is used to cast a specific light spread to highlight an object, such as a piece of art.  It can be achieved through many light sources.  Wall washers can be used to accentuate the texture of a wall.  Spotlighting achieved through a limitless selection of light fixtures accents a piece of art.  Accent lighting adds dimension to the room.

Task Lighting

Task lighting is the use of a certain light fixture or fixtures to provide the necessary light for a task, such as eating, grooming or reading.  One example is sconces that bring the light source down to eye level to light a passageway or a mirror for makeup or shaving.  Table lamps that have been chosen carefully for the particular location add the necessary light to read or do homework.  The light fixtures underneath your upper kitchen cabinets are helpful for old eyes (like mine!) to read recipes or do my prep work without adding a piece of my finger to the meal.  

Let's look at some examples from my projects of how different light sources effectively achieve the correct layered plan.

In this kitchen, you can see that the overhead recessed cans provide the light source for the ambient (or general lighting) in the room. 

The pendants over the island provide task lighting for eating and preparing meals.  The lights under the exhaust hood also make meal prep easier.  The under cabinet lighting at the desk brings extra light down to the homeowner's level for using her computer or reading recipes without eye-strain. 

Finally, the recessed accent puck lights in the cabinets above the desk accent the family's prized collections.  

This great room is from a remodel of a 1940's home which you can rest assured did not have a well-done lighting plan originally.  We corrected all of that in the remodel. 

Once again, recessed cans on dimmer switches provide adjustable overall ambient light.  Be sure to notice a few eyeball fixtures that are used to accent the texture of the brick walls and newly installed grasscloth. 

A chandelier over the dining table provides task lighting for eating over the table.  Finally, notice the floor lamp at just the correct height to provide the perfect light for reading.

Notice the ceiling fan.  There is no light kit on this fan.  There are rare situations where I agree with a light kit on a fan.  One such place would be in an office over a desk where you need the air but also a good task light.  Otherwise, recessed cans elsewhere in the room usually do a better job of providing the ambient light.  Another note on ceiling fans is to locate them strategically along with the cans.  If the light from the cans comes down within the fan blades, you'll get a strobe light effect reminiscent of 70's discos.  (Not what we're going for in nice homes!)

Finally, we have this contemporary small master bathroom.  This is a relatively small space by today's master bathroom standards.  The perfect lighting plan was an essential part of the planning of this remodel in order to get the most out of the room as possible. 

Recessed cans in the water-closet and shower provide ambient lighting in those areas.  A note here - both of these cans are also fans.  I love these new fixtures as they look every bit like ordinary cans, but also have the exhaust fan feature, thereby eliminating the need for those ugly exhaust fans of yore. 

The long sconces on the mirrors provide plenty of task lighting at eye-level for grooming but also serve to add to the ambient light and accent the beautiful marble which is the main feature of the room. 

A thin strip of lighting along the drawers of the cabinet provide a nightlight and also highlight the cool cabinets.  You can't see it in the picture, but in the water-closet, the light switch has the smallest night light that brings enough light to that area at night without being too harsh to disturb sleep.

See how you can do so much better than just a basic ceiling light fixture for your home?  A visit to your local lighting showroom will open your eyes further to all of the possibilities! 

Want to see what inspires me? Hop on over to my Pinterest board to see some of my favorites.  


Jill OrnelasAmbiance