Mar 27, 2013

Lighting Design

Lighting design is often an afterthought.  A common misconception is that you must have everything else in place before you begin selecting your fixtures.  The result is that your project budget may fall short and the effect will be that you sacrifice the integrity of your interior design. Take into consideration how lighting will affect your space as early as the design phase. To help budget correctly, there are a few key things to remember.

  • Budget generously for a quality lighting plan. The style and quality of the fixtures, and how they are controlled (automation, dimmers, sensors) is important in the long run. If you begin with a higher budget, you can find ways to trim through lighting packages, showrooms, or internet vendors. A typical budget for high-end residential lighting is $6-$10/square foot. If your budget is too restrictive, finding dollars may not be possible. When on a tight budget, list what you are looking for and submit it to a lighting rep, showroom or lighting designer. They can make suggestions on where you can save money, and what you can substitute for more affordable options.

  • Never be afraid to ask for help. There are vendors and designer that have a vast knowledge of lighting. Find someone that you work well with, and learn from them. They not only can help you with your budget, but can suggest scenarios along with the best lighting solutions for what you would like to achieve.

  • Optimize! Create a flowchart of the task areas within each space. Take note of the areas that need performance lighting. Where is office work done? What are the task areas and lighting needs in the kitchen?  Note the focal areas (i.e. Foyer, Kitchen Island, Dining Room Table) where feature lighting is important. Next, identify the areas with less foot traffic (i.e. Utility closets, Garage, Basement) where illumination is less important. After you've taken these initial steps, determine the style and number of fixtures you want for each area. With that in hand, you can obtain costs. You will then be able to see where you can trim or expand the budget to optimize the quality and overall effectiveness of your lighting plan.

  • Get educated. Knowing your lighting requirements and understanding light fixture output will enable you to select the highest quality products and optimize your energy use.  It's important to note that the quality of lighting often determines how much time people spend in a space. Taking  the time to light rooms correctly can bring family together and create comfortable and effective work, play and entertainment spaces.  An example is the use of layered lighting that washes walls, highlights the ceiling, and accents artwork and architectural elements.  The effect creates an inviting yet open space where people want to gather and relax.

  •   Don't forget about daylight. Incorporating daylight is crucial to good lighting design since balancing artificial light with daylight helps maximize use of a space and minimize energy use. Having the ability to control daylight - with window films and window coverings - is as important as controlling artificial lighting with the proper switches and control devices. For example, depending on the placement of windows in a space, there are likely areas that appear dark and cold throughout a typical day.   Illuminating with the right fixtures will resolve the problem.  At night you may utilize all of your lights, but during the day you may only want to use those that are illuminating a particular task area.  The result of a balanced lighting plan creates spaces for diverse needs and ultimately reduces energy use and saves money. 

A special thank you to Amelia Brubaker of OCS Lighting.