Mar 8, 2013

One of the most important design elements is lighting. Without  it, the spaces designed don't function well and focal points and accents are lost.  Here are some ideas for lighting specific rooms. 

1) Kitchen.  This is the most important space to light properly. Many builders use large, recessed can lights over-lighting the room throwing and shadows on work surfaces. The best lighting ( be sure to use fixtures and lamping that complies with your local code) is to place recessed fixtures slightly away from the cabinet faces, so the beam of light is thrown onto the counter and into the walkways.  LED under cabinet fixtures are a fantastic way to get task lighting, with low profiles that are nearly completely concealed.  Tucking puck lights into glass-fronted cabinets provides accent light and night lighting as well. LED strip lighting under toe kicks and in crown molding accents and provides mood lighting. Pendant for islands, peninsulas and tables are a great lighting solution that adds artistry to functionality.Be sure to use the right number and scale. 

2) Bathrooms. Whether it's a master bath suite or a shared hallway bathroom, the lighting needs to address the requirements of all users. I do trans-generational lighting whenever possible. What does that mean? Many couples buy a home, start a family and raise them there. Both they and their children age and have different lighting needs over time. Start with a good ambient light for the overall space.  Add task lighting for vanities, showers, toilet areas, soak tubs, and specialty areas for make-up and health related tasks. Recessed and flush mounted fixtures are practical and provide excellent ambient light. Wall sconces that shine light down and across the wall or mirror are better than 'bath bar' lighting, but can be challenging to wire in small spaces. Accent lighting can be incorporated into cabinetry.

3) Living and dining rooms.  Lighting should multi-functional, keeping in mind that reading and entertaining are likely done there. For living rooms, ambient light is easily provided with table and floor lamps, which serve dual function as task lighting. Since these rooms are often joined, a well-scaled pendant over the dining room table can also provide light for the living room.  Wall sconces are nice in either room, flanking a fireplace, a piece of art, a focal point piece or a mirror, and even lighting a dark corner.  Hanging a dramatic chandelier over and end-table is an updated look in lieu of lamps.  Accent lighting can take many forms, from a decorative fixture to lighting in moldings and cabinetry. 

4) Family and play rooms. With TV watching, reading, meeting, playing and relaxing all in one room, the lighting needs are very diverse. From dim lights for movies and TV to bright lights for playtime and homework, layered lighting is a must. Many family rooms have focal points of fireplaces, entertainment units, and even a combination of both. Place lighting first to light the general space, then where tasks are -  reading, eating, homework - and add decorative accent lighting as a final touch. Lamps deliver both ambient and task lighting with the ability to move light as needed. Clip on lights and small mounted lights can be used for bookcases, desk lights, piano lamps and even for artwork. If your room has a focal point, be sure to accent it - down-lights can be focused on a great fireplace, and shelf lights can highlight an entertainment center. Game tables generally require good task lights and pendants and chandeliers are a good choice.

5) Hallways and entries:  For safe and easy access, hallways should be well-lit. Recessed lighting is great for good floor coverage, so the width and length of a hall have adequate light. Wall sconces work well too, depending upon their placement. If your entry or hallway has the space, table lamps provide a decorative element when used on a console or hall table.  Dark hallways can benefit from solar tubes - depending upon the structure of your roof-line. Consider lighting for night if the hallway must be traveled for bathroom use.

In any lighting scenario use dimmers, low wattage bulbs (like compact fluorescent) and smart placement for the best results. Consulting a professional lighting designer is wise to maximize your lighting and conserve energy at the same time; not to mention having a beautiful aesthetic.