A variety of lighting sources make this room beautiful

How To Create The Best Lighting Solutions For Your Home

 Creating the best lighting solutions for your home will not happen by accident.
However, armed with a little information and forethought, it’s easier than you think. You have come to the right place for everything you need to know to achieve the best lighting solutions for your entire home.

The best lighting solutions use different types of light sources
The best lighting solutions use a variety of different types of lighting options.
 

Be it ever so humble…

A great lighting plan will make your home feel more comfortable, be more efficient and look TERRIFIC.

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

Don’t make these bad lighting decisions

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

“Over-lighting” with the same too few light sources at very high wattage will give you more light, no doubt. But it’s actually unpleasant.

Over-lighting is a kind of default solution to create brightness in a room that’s akin to shooting yourself in the foot.

In the same vein, I don’t know why it became a “trendy” thing to forgo light shades.  It only works if the wattage is pretty dim, really. A high wattage bulb without a shade, obviously, can’t be all that pleasant either.

This isn’t to say high watt bulbs don’t have a place or use. Outdoor patios come to mind. Or, you might have a task that requires the brightest light possible to discern all the details. Hopefully you won’t need the light on high alert for very long.

The main point is that high wattage bulbs aren’t a universally great solution for your lighting needs. Along with the already referenced problem of too few light sources, you really can’t create a lighting plan that will function for comfort, efficiency and beauty.

If it weren’t for bad options, you’d have no options at all...or so it seems. Let’s investigate.

Notice the emphasis on “too few light sources”. There’s a useful clue there regarding the number of lighting sources you could use to your advantage. It’s probably more than you think, but worth it.

It’s a common (default?) assumption that just one light source, usually an overhead light, is sufficient for lighting any room. Sooooo not true! The very best lighting solutions are based on the notion of layering different lighting types.

Neither a strong harsh light anywhere, nor near dark in the corners of your rooms is EVER going to feel like “HOME”.

How to create well balanced lighting solutions

There are three categories that are particularly useful. 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, torchieres  or screens.
  • 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 and can also be used to create 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 wall washers, spotlights, track lights, up-lights, down-lights, picture lights, candlelight and even firelight.

For unexpected interest and delight, try using small canister lights in hidden places. Put one on the floor, behind a big indoor tree, for example The play of shadows on the wall is wonderful and interesting.

These categories are only general. In truth, track lighting and various types of table and floor lamps can also be considered task lighting, ambient and/or accent.

A rule of thumb for background lighting

It should be strong enough so there isn’t a huge contrast between it and bright task lighting. You don’t want an effect similar to a street lamp on a dark night.

By the way, nobody looks great under strong ceiling light.  Too many shadows on your face is never a good look.

For this reason, you are best served to keep the overhead lights to a minimum. Use just enough fixtures to do the intended job.

If you have ceiling fixtures

They are best used to provide the soft, low, all over glow of ambient light as a base line only.

Yes,  the standard light-bulb-with-frosted-glass fixture-in-the-middle-of-the-ceiling is utilitarian. But this type of lighting solution is rarely attractive. When possible, convert the overheads to recessed, track and/or chandeliers. You will be happier with the range of lighting options these other fixtures can provide.

Better and prettier is definitely a win/win.

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

Track lighting is very versatile

It can provide background, task and/or accent lighting. AND it can work with any décor. In terms of your overall lighting solution, it’s akin to one-stop-shopping if you have the right wiring.

Unfortunately, the ceiling outlet can usually only be used where it’s installed. It can’t be moved because of the way the ceiling is constructed. Just ask any contractor.

In this case, consider cord covers. Painted out the same color as ceiling color, they can be used to “carry over” the wiring unobtrusively to where you want it. Or sometimes swagging the chain for pendant/chandelier lighting will serve as well.

Individual track lights can be focused independently

  • On a workspace for task lighting.
  • For accent and/or decorative lighting. 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.
  • 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.

Just be mindful of where the shadows fall, or you’ll be living/ working in the dark, again.

If you already have track lighting

Be sure to replace those bulky old cans, with tiny MR16 halogens. These are unobtrusive even with multiple sockets on the track.  They are more energy efficient too.

Classic lighting solutions for every room of your home

It can be a little daunting at first to decide which lighting solutions to use where. Your best bet is to walk through each area and assess what kind of lighting would add to your comfort and convenience.

This is where the notion of “magic in the logic of design” begins to take hold.

ENTRYWAY

Coming home, only to walk into a dark area is not a welcoming experience.  The most obvious solution is a wonderful pendant light or chandelier overhead.
But don’t stop there. Having alternate options in addition to the overhead light are wonderful.

  • It’s very useful (assuming you have room) to have a small table or even just a bench to set down the things you carried in with you. Use a mirror or hang art over the table, with a pair of sconces or small lamps. 
  • Equally, a place to sit and remove your boots and/or shoes is very convenient.

These small gestures will add a great deal to your sense of comfort.

LIVING ROOM

Though this may not be an especially big area, it’s called the Living Room for a reason. The term LIVING ROOM is a bit of a misnomer these days. LIVING FAMILY ROOM might be more accurate. In studios, the LIFE ROOM rings a bell. The point is, this room, whatever you call it, is where we relax, entertain, binge watch anything, eat, etc. We do the most stuff HERE.

Good design starts with identifying all the thing you do in any given room. Think through what you’ll need not only for comfort but also what will also give you more options. Using different lights at different times, can change the mood and the use of any given area with a flick of a switch.

Planning ambient light sources is a good place to start.

  • Track or recessed lighting throughout is a good idea here.
  • An overhead fixture is a great addition. Using one to center your main seating area looks spectacular. Over the coffee table usually works best. Don’t hang it lower than 7 ft. to avoid someone hitting their head.

Task lighting comes next and is often multipurpose. It doesn’t have to just light up the job at hand, but can also contribute to the overall job of lighting a room quite nicely.

  • Standing and table lamps as well as sconces add to the overall ambient light. Table/standing lights are also task lighting when they are used for reading,
  • Is there a console, buffet or entertainment unit here? Small lamps or sconces can be used to flank art work or a mirror to great effect.
  • Are you reading in the dark?  Your favorite reading chair needs a lamp beside it. So does your sofa. A pair of lamps, flanking your sofa will give you a balanced look as well as better lighting. As mentioned above, a high wattage bulb in a lamp is unpleasant, but inadequate lighting is simply pointless. Why cause eyestrain?
  • It’s smart to put your light sources on dimmers where possible too. They are cheap and easy to install.

Good reading light is around 60-75 watts.
Otherwise, when using several fixtures in a room, 40 watts works well.

Accent/decorative lighting is how you draw attention to “special anything” in your home: possessions, vignettes, artwork, flower arrangements, etc. A little well placed “drama” adds a lot of interest without a lot of fuss.

It’s worth looking for opportunities. Take the time to investigate the myriad types of fixtures that will do the job the best.

Highlighting your favorite things and areas is a wonderful way to personalize your home…think of it as your own “special sauce” in high relief.

Modern living means that the way we use our rooms is fluid

Dining Room/Library/Bedroom/Office Etc.

  • Your dining room might also be in your library.
  • Your office is located either the in bedroom or living room.
  • Your office could even be in a closet.…still, let there be appropriate light.
  • Your living room is every room...AKA a studio apartment

Whichever way your rooms are used, the main points about ambient, task and accent lighting still apply…with a little more focus on task lighting where needed.

Some types of lighting are typically found in certain rooms

This is because they are the tried and true best solutions for the function and aesthetics of those rooms.

DINING ROOM

  • A large pendant or chandelier centered over your table is a given. It should hang roughly 34″ from the top of the table.
  • As in the living room, use pairs of lamps or sconces for your buffet or any other case piece in the room.

BEDROOM

  • You will want a main, overhead light source, recessed or otherwise, but in here, the overhead is best as a quick full lighting option. Install a dimmer anyway for the ambient option.
  • Bedroom always look and feel best with table lamps on nightstands and dressers. Standing floor lamps are great behind corner chairs.
  • Don’t forget to light your closet. Fumbling around for that favorite shirt is a waste of time when you could just flip a switch.

Office

  • Start with ambient lighting, either recessed or from a main, overhead source. 
  • Use floor lamps as additional ambient light for dark corners as needed. Table or floor lamps are both ambient and task lighting in any seating areas
  • A desk lamp specifically task oriented in your main work area.

What about all those lighting wires and cords?

Here are a few ideas. 

  • Tape a single cord 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 have a mess of spaghetti-like cords, use cord-control kits. This is a mess you can master.

Can you have too many lighting fixtures?

It’s unlikely you would have all of them on at the same time. But if you put the light sources in the recommended places…

You’ll be ready to…

  • Set the mood as you set your table.
  • Stage your living room for optimum comfort to watch your favorite shows.
  • Curl up with a great book and good reading light
  • Light up for a party with your friends.

These are the small layers of details that will add up to creating a comfortable, versatile and beautiful home.

Kitchens have special lighting needs

Lighting a kitchen adequately, let alone well, is complex.

  • Using recessed lighting where possible is a given.
  • Areas where you might eat, dining table or kitchen island are best served by hanging pendants or chandeliers.
  • Strip lighting under the cabinets are a huge help. You especially don’t need dark shadowed places in kitchens.
  • Extra lights above the sink and the stove are great additions.

Bathrooms

Recessed ceiling lighting is standard. Let’s be honest though, that fixture above the medicine cabinet is usually not great.

  • A better looking might be sconces or long lighted rectangles at the sides of the mirror. It depending on how much light you need for shaving or make-up…or both…
  • A light source above the tub is great.
  • It’s particularly nice to have a light in the shower. No sense soaping up in the dark!

I love small chandeliers in bathrooms. They add a little luxe along with a sense of humor.

A sophisticated, well-designed lighting scheme looks as if an artist  painted with light. The peaks and valleys of light and shadow give the illusion of movement which defines a real “living space”.

Great lighting can be more effective than any other single factor for increasing a sense of overall satisfaction in your home.

Go for it….

Over To You!

I’d love to know your thoughts regarding creating perfect lighting solutions in your own home. Did you find information that’s especially helpful? Do you have any suggestions of your own to add?Hopefully you were inspired and found the very best solutions for a long standing lighting problem! In any event, let me know in the comments below!

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