Karen LeBlanc, Houzz
Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish.
Before you update furniture, replace floors or remodel a living space, consider whether your lighting works. Lighting is a telltale sign of design quality and one of the most affordable ways to update your home without busting your budget. It sets a mood and helps define a style. Without it, important architectural details, artwork and focal points fall flat and unnoticed. When done right, lighting functions as a carefully tuned orchestra, creating a pitch-perfect composition of light, layers, direction and flow.
If your lighting choreography consists of a single flip of the switch, then perhaps it’s time to illuminate your mind.
Lighting placement, fixtures and functions are the three main ingredients to think about when giving your living space a light makeover. So if you’re wondering if it’s time for an update, ask yourself these questions.
Am I Lighting Unexpected Places?
As you evaluate the status of your lighting style, keep in mind that lighting also functions as art that helps define your style, set the mood and perform practical tasks. Think of adding light in unexpected places, such as a chandelier in the master bathroom. And consider using light in unconventional ways — such as using hanging pendant lights as reading lamps.
Bright idea for unexpected lighting: Look for opportunities to install light fixtures in alcoves, tray ceilings and wall niches to trace interesting lines.
Another example: Highlight the silhouette of a cabinet with undercabinet and in-cabinet lighting.
Does My Lighting Have Layers?
A perfectly lit room has three basic layers: overhead lighting, task lighting and accent lighting. This bedroom pulls all those together — the chandelier for overhead, bedside reading lamps as task lighting, and accent lights above the headboard and artwork.
Bright idea for layered lighting: Think of the functional and decorative purpose of each light source.
Do My Lights Dim?
Good lighting should multitask and set the mood. A dimmer is an inexpensive ($20 to $25) and essential tool that puts you in control of the quality and quantity of light. You can install a dimming system either as a whole-house lighting control or by adding a wall box dimmer in each room and lamps with dimmer switches.
The American Lighting Association (ALA) estimates that a dimmer switch saves $30 a year in utility costs. Before installing a dimmer, make sure you have dimmer bulbs.
Bright idea for dimmed lighting: To make the most of your lighting, install the highest-wattage lightbulb possible, then dim it down to accommodate the mood and lighting needs. Consider putting dimmers on both overhead lighting and lamp lighting.
Do My Fixtures Reflect Current Styles?
One of the quickest ways to update the look of a living space is to swap decorative lighting fixtures for more up-to-date styles. The ceiling fan as a light fixture is now a bit passé.
Bright ideas for current lighting styles: Consider replacing your ceiling fans with eye-catching chandeliers. Keep the overhead light at 150 to 300 watts for optimum illumination.
Mix and match your lighting fixtures. They don’t have to be from the same lighting family or design.
Is My Lighting Focused?
Lighting design is all about the strategic placement of light and matching the perfect light source to its intended function. Indirect lighting pulls focus, adds texture and layers the sight line.
Bright idea for focused light: Pick focal points that you want to highlight, then direct a light source toward them.
If you want the room to mimic daylight, the ALA recommends using a bulb rated 4,000 Kelvin or higher. (The Kelvin, or K, rating describes how visually warm or cool a light is.) The higher the K rating, the cooler or bluer the light appears.
The Color Rendering Index (CRI) is the second important number. A higher CRI is optimum. For example, 100 CRI mimics natural light and is perfect for highlighting skin tones and clothing. CFLs and LEDs usually have ratings in the 80s and are usually less flattering light sources.
A chandelier in the dining room should hang 30 to 36 inches above the dining table. The width of the chandelier should be at least one half the width of the table.
Recessed can lights and track lights are ideal for low-voltage direct lighting. They typically cost $50 to $100 per light.
Translucent glass shades on pendant fixtures will reduce glare in the kitchen. Hanging overhead lighting fixtures such as pendants should sit 30 to 36 inches above the island work surface.
For flattering kitchen lighting, bulbs with a color output of 2,700 K for a sightly red cast are recommended.
Use high-K halogens for a bluer light in task-intensive areas such as places for doing homework or crafts, or paying bills.
The ALA recommends track lighting for eye-intensive activities as well. The lights can be individually adjusted to pinpoint light for tasks.
More from Houzz.com:
- Lamps Where You Least Expect Them
- Glam Up Your Design With a Chandelier
- Find a Lamp Shade in Every Style