How to Choose Light Fixtures – Interior Lighting Design

Lighting functions as it should while looking great!

In today’s world of unlimited choices and advancing technologies, designing a comprehensive lighting plan rapidly becomes another one of those things – simple at first, quickly becoming complicated. Hoping this small guide takes you back to simple.

Consider the Architecture

Whatever lighting fixtures you select, always keep in mind that they are attached to the architecture and should be married in style to the structure itself. In this regard, the design and metal finish of the hardware throughout the house should also be noted. This includes doorknobs, back plates, door hinges, cabinet knobs and pulls, window latches, light switch covers and heat registers.

Style, Vision, and Proportion

A strong overall vision goes a long way when laying out a lighting plan, with a variety of fixture types, using these to light in layers. These include ceiling flush or semi flush fixtures, chandeliers, pendants, and wall sconces. In addition your lighting plan may also include under cabinet task lighting in the kitchen, recessed lighting on a tall living room ceiling for an overall wash of light, and a spot light here and there to highlight a piece of artwork, a beloved glass collection, or an outstanding architectural detail.

Lighting fixtures should be selected in proportion to the room or area, and hung at a length relating to ceiling height, how tall you are, and what kind of function the lighting will perform.

I have a deep affection for lighting fixtures that provide both utility and adornment, while emphasizing both a sculptural and hardwired element in the space. Fixtures can have a rich and artful history – there is nothing we love more than installing the perfect antique Art Deco chandelier with slipper shades in the dining room of a 1942 Craftsman!

Ambient Lighting

I have found the most effective room lighting is created in layers, with the ambient light as the basis for general overall room lighting. It can wash a room with light and ignite the space so that it is easy to navigate within.

The quality of light can vary with shades made of glass, metal, fabric or plastic. Some shades emit a twinkling prismatic effect, others reflect with mirrored finishes, while others soften or diffuse the light.

Dimmers are a great way to adjust ambient lighting according to time of day, season, or occasion.

Task Lighting

Task lighting is direct lighting used over specific area such as a kitchen island, a work desk, or in a reading nook. It is the lighting layer that illuminates in a way that helps to achieve the task-at-hand. It also serves as a space-creating element and can bring about close association and visual intimacy with an object at hand. Examples of this would be to illuminate a project like baking an apple pie, painting a portrait, or building model airplanes. Task lighting can be a source of discomfort when not properly considered in the over-all plan. ‘Know thyself’ then, as this is a significant factor in determining the task to be performed and the type of lighting you need to accomplish this.

Mood Lighting

Mood lighting affects your experience within the space. It can be soft or hard, warm or cool, reflective or flat, shadowy and sexy, relaxing or energizing and much more. There are many ways to create an atmosphere with lighting. For example, a restful effect can be achieved with low level lighting, diffused patterns, hidden light sources, and subdued color. A party atmosphere can be created with rhythms of light and shadow, dynamic lighting or…simply, a string of patio lanterns or red-hot pepper lights! Again, dimmers are recommended, to help transform a space with an intended atmosphere.

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting can add drama in the same way as a splash of color. It can be a spot of light on a particular piece of art, or it can highlight a moment in the entryway. It can be a candle on the mantel, a fire in the fireplace, or a string of LEDs tucked away into a soffit to emphasize a coved ceiling. Variations on this type are endless when attended to by a vivid imagination.

The lighting and wall colors within your space should work closely together. These two elements rely upon one another to achieve the desired effect in the room no matter what the furnishings are. Imagine you have selected a luxurious and metallic/pearlescent paint finish as an accent wall in the dining room, to set off your heirloom dining table and chairs. Yet, as the light dims in late afternoon in Seattle in November, the color flattens and becomes grayed. This is when properly illuminating your space becomes foremost. Selecting the right lighting fixtures will enhance the color in the room, and add a sense of warmth and life!

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