Shining a Light on Home Design

Photo courtesy of Highmark Builders

Photo courtesy of Highmark Builders

It’s common knowledge that functional spaces need enough light for the given activity. A chair needs a lamp to read by and a desk needs a desk lamp for office-type tasks. It’s even come out that certain colors of lighting in the bedroom can impact sleep patterns.

The team behind Light’n Up has helped countless homeowners properly light their spaces. And, really, why not leave it up to the professionals, trusting their experience? Lighting designer Jeannie Thompson says that lighting needs “are different for each room in your home because you use the spaces differently.” Homeowners should layer the lighting in each room to suit personal needs and tastes.

According to David Johnson, an interior designer, scale is one of the major factors to consider when creating a lighting plan. Just imagine how out of place a tiny chandelier looks hung high above a grand dining room table. There are guidelines to follow, such as the common knowledge of hanging a chandelier so that there are 35 inches between the top of the table and the bottom of the chandelier. But Johnson also offers design knowledge that homeowners might be unaware of or simply don’t think about when shopping for lighting. He says, “You should also select a piece that is 12 inches narrower than the width of your table so that your dinner guests won’t hit their heads when they stand up from the dinner table.”

But it’s not just about the dimensions of the fixture. The lines, weight, finish, and negative space all factor in when selecting the right piece for a space. Johnson’s best tip is to consult with a friendly neighborhood lighting designer who can help make the most of a lighting design. He says, “Whether you’re creating a completely recessed lighting scheme or showcasing a dramatic chandelier, there are truly endless lighting tips to learn and discover.” This is a free service at Light’n Up which can help save homeowners from costly and time-consuming mistakes.

Lighting designers can also help buyers sort through the various trends making their way into the lighting world. Just as in fashion, lighting fixtures experience their share of trends. Thompson noticed, “Just like gold jewelry is back, gold tone finishes have a strong showing in lighting. Don’t worry, this is not your grandmother’s polished brass chandelier. The ‘new’ gold is a subtle blend of gold and silver, which is very versatile and can complement most interiors.”

Photo courtesy of Highmark Builders

Photo courtesy of Highmark Builders

While many lighting designs may appear to be timeless, they are usually part of a larger trend that waxes and wanes in popularity. Trends in lighting are a reflection of what is happening in the fashion industry with just as many options available to reflect each person’s personal style. Johnson describes, “As vintage clothing designs have gained in popularity, so have vintage fixtures. Choosing pieces that are a reflection of your own style will enable you to enjoy your lights long after the life cycle of any single lighting trend. For example, barrel shades and orbs are current hot trends, but they need not become quickly outdated in your home if they reflect your personal style and overall home design.”

Today, there is a greater variation in style with a lot more creativity than there was five or ten years ago. Tammy Jacobson, another lighting designer with Light’n Up, observes that lighting is a lot cleaner than it was five to ten years ago. “We don’t see as much of the heavy Old World that we once did.”

According to Johnson, the biggest lighting trend today is variety, variety, and more variety, with more to chose from today than ever before. “This is due in large part to the acceleration of new lighting technologies such as LED as well as the broadening spectrum of popular home designs today,” he says. “While there are endless options available, it can be just as difficult to find the perfect pendants for your kitchen island as it is to find the perfect pair of jeans.”

While Thompson says that the most common misconception homeowners have is that “a single source of light can provide adequate lighting for all the ways we use each space in our homes,” Jacobson sees more people believing that it needs to be expensive to be creative.

Johnson says, “People often mistakenly think that they have to forgo their personal style and strictly follow the design of their home. But it’s really not that simple. Of course you need to consider the overall style of your space, but your lighting scheme can also become a unique and high-impact juxtaposition against the backdrop of your home.”

Sculptural lighting, or fixtures that have high design built into them, are also up for debate among buyers in terms of their usefulness. Thompson says that consumers purchase their lighting largely for its aesthetic qualities, so if there is a space with architectural aspects to showcase, it is definitely worth it.

Photo courtesy of Highmark Builders

Photo courtesy of Highmark Builders

However, Johnson says there may be more to it; this is an area where personal taste guides the selection process as buyers balance the need for illumination with the sculptural elements of the fixture. “Oftentimes more sculptural lights do lack in light output,” he says. “However, if you utilize recessed can lights to illuminate your space, this will allow you to select fixtures more on their sculptural merit than their sheer light output. On the other hand, you can certainly utilize light to highlight sculptural elements of your design and also architectural elements of your space.”

While Light’n Up’s lighting designers can help buyers sort out their design needs, they can also help buyers through the process of deciding which type of lighting to purchase for their home. Lighting can greatly change the mood of a room. Each type of lighting has its pros and cons.

According to Johnson, some main points to consider are what the buyer needs or wants from the light. “Do you need overall ambient light or task lighting? Do you want to feature a painting on your wall with a spotlight or add additional dramatic effect to an architectural element with recessed lighting?”

Even beyond the fixtures available for selection, buyers have a wide array of light bulbs to choose from. Bulbs come in many shapes, sizes, and color temperatures that affect the look of the lighting and the feel of a space. For example, candelabra bulb base fixtures can often be given a more contemporary look with a globe bulb compared to a traditional torpedo bulb.

Buyers should direct their attention to efficiency versus efficacy, in terms of light bulbs. Efficiency refers to the overall cost to use the light source, whereas efficacy basically means the lumens per watt of a lamp in comparison to the power consumed to produce it.

Similarly, bulbs will come with a CRI (color rendering index) measurement, which is a measurement of how the light source affects the colors in a room, which is exactly why it is important. As a quantitative measurement, CRI looks at the ability of a light source to accurately reveal the colors of objects in comparison to natural light. Naturally, Jacobson says, it is important for people and objects to look their true color. Thompson suggest that, for excellent color rendering, look for a lamp with a rating of 90 or more. Anything with a rating less than 80 is considered poor.

For anyone who has walked into a lighting showroom and been overwhelmed by the number of choices, both with bulbs and fixture design, the use of a lighting designer’s expertise is a welcome sigh of relief. But even for those who have a tighter grasp of things, a consultation with a professional is never a bad thing and may result in opening up doors the buyer would have never considered walking through before.

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