Different light sources make this room beautiful

How To See Your Home In The Best Light

 Different types of light sources make this room beautiful

Not to put too fine a point on it, but an “ugly” room almost always turns out to be poorly lit.

What you want is a range of lighting options to fill a room with light without dark corners.  The overall effect will be welcoming, comfortable, interesting and beautiful.

Most of us, for lack of a better experience, under-light our homes with too few light sources, or worse…

“Over-lighting” with a few light sources at very high wattage is an unpleasant effect. It’s weird too, veering from blinding bright to dim with shadows. A high wattage bulb without a shade has the same unfortunate effect.

There are three types of lighting. Using all three in some combination will give the most successful results.
  • Ambient lighting is general or background lighting. It could come from overhead lights, standing floor lamps, table lamps, wall lights or indirectly from behind a valance, or screen. Torchieres are in this category too because the light is directed upwards.
  • Task lighting is what it sounds like. Some examples are the lamp you use on your desk when you work, counter lighting in the kitchen, or spotlights above work surfaces. It should provide sufficient lighting for the job at hand, as well as interesting pools of light and shadow elsewhere in the room.
  • Accent or decorative lighting calls attention to possessions or vignettes. It adds a touch of drama too. This category includes spotlights, wall washers, up-lights, down-lights, picture lights, candlelight and even firelight.

Start with creating ambient light, which is a soft, low, all over glow. Low wattage ceiling lights or any fixture that hangs or is near the ceiling are best. Background lighting should be strong enough so there isn’t excessive brightness contrast between it and bright task lighting.

By the way, nobody looks good under strong ceiling light.   It causes too many shadows on your face.

For this reason, you are best served to keep the overhead lights to a minimum, just enough fixtures to do the intended job. When possible, convert the overheads to recessed, track and chandelier if possible.

Track lighting not only provides background lighting but also is multi-purpose and can work with any décor. It was originally designed as museum lighting, so it’s perfect for focusing on a piece of art, a flower arrangement, or an interesting table arrangement. It can also be focused on a workspace as task lighting. Just be mindful of where the shadows fall, or you’ll be working in the dark again.

If you already have track lighting, replace those bulky old cans, with tiny MR16 halogens.  Your lighting solution will then be very unobtrusive.  They are more energy efficient too.

How clever can you be here?

For different uses on the same track, point according.  If you don’t have a particular item to highlight, turn the cans towards the wall and lower the light with a dimmer to create soft ambient light.

By and large, the only kind of overhead lighting that actually looks good as a fixture is a chandelier. It also doubles as a specific visual statement and effortlessly contributes to the overall Wow Factor of any room .

Add task lighting wherever you are likely to be doing something that depends on good vision. Kitchens and bathrooms are a given, but don’t forget that your favorite reading chair needs a lamp beside it to avoid eyestrain. If you don’t have a lot of space on a work surface, consider where you can add strip lighting.  Under the cabinets in a kitchen is a good example.

Put all of your light sources on dimmers, so you can control the mood and lighting per situation. They’re cheap and easy to install.  Remember, a warm glow overall, rather than harsh strong light to no light at all in the corners is never going to read like “home”

What about all those cords? A single cord can be taped to the back or underside of a piece of furniture against a wall.  Snake the cords under area rugs where possible.  Plastic cord covers are available that can be painted the wall color.  If you really have a mess of spaghetti-like cords, cord-control kits are available.

By the way, you might want to check out https://www.modernlantern.com/
This site offers great looking, reasonably priced lamps that are battery operated….no cords! They don’t have a department that takes in wired lamps for conversion, but it’s in the works!

For extra credit, use spot lighting to accentuate special features, such as art, flower arrangements or particularly interesting vignettes. Try using small canister lights in hidden places. They’re cheap and can even be hung on the wall. Put one on the floor, behind a big indoor tree. The play of shadows on the wall is wonderful and interesting. You can use these close to drapery too, as long as they don’t have halogen bulbs. The halogens throw off a tremendous

A planned lighting scheme not only aids efficiency but you will also be so much more comfortable, no matter what you are doing. It can be more effective than any other single factor for increasing a sense of overall satisfaction.  A sophisticated, well-designed lighting scheme looks as if an artist has painted with light, creating peaks and valleys of light and shadow, causing the illusion of movement.

Give it some thought.  Add to and vary your light sources.
It’s easier than you think to light your rooms beautifully.
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Originally published February 26,2017.  Last updated May 3rd, 2021, 
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These articles are written as guides with general advice to help you, help yourself find the best design solutions for your home. Please understand however, that it isn’t possible to give specific answers to your design and/or paint questions.
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