Light Your Home in Layers

by Lee Cameron

There is more to lighting a home than hanging a single fixture from the middle of a room. Proper lighting can create a mood, update a home's style, and just make everyday life a lot more comfortable.

When planning a lighting scheme, think in terms of layers:

First Layer: This is the type of ambient or indirect lighting that you receive from windows, pendant lamps or overhead fixtures.

Second Layer: The second is a focused lighting on specific work areas, such as under cabinet lighting in the kitchen or reading lamps.

Third Layer: In this layer you accent details in your home such as architecture or artwork with the use of track lighting, or spotlights. Try low voltage MR16 bulbs to bring out color and make your artwork stand out.

Fourth Layer: The final layer is all about using lighting as a form of decorating, and includes such items as chandeliers, stain glass lamps, candlebra, or sconces.

Lighting Tips:

When highlighting different areas people tend to think in terms of light pointed downward. Create a more dramatic yet subtle effect with uplighting. Place spotlights behind furniture, shining out, or hide rope lighting in crown molding to highlight a wood ceiling.

Dimmer switches not only contribute to mood lighting, but they save money and energy by extending the life of your bulbs.

Especially when arranging lighting for large jobs, consider hiring a professional to assess your requirements and provide a lighting plan. Often a lighting store will provide this service for free if you agree to set up an account for your lighting purchases.

The layered approach works exceptionally well when lighting a kitchen, or other room with multi-uses. Attempting to light an entire room with one or two high voltage lights results in unseemly shadows and glares. Instead, use 100 watt bulbs in the undercabinet lighting, and use 20 watt bulbs in the hanging pendant lamps for a more ambient feel.

Recessed lighting is intended to provide light without drawing attention to itself. Sometimes, however, in a fairly nondiscript room, your pot lights may appreciate a little glitter. Consider adding some of the decorative trims, a beveled glass shade, or an acrylic colored lens.

A lighting scheme also means taking into account sources of natural light as well. While those large sunny windows are perfect during most of the day, there are times when it may need to be more subtle. Consider different types of shades or screens that allow you to enjoy the sun, not be blinded by it.

Don't be quick to shy away from corded ceiling or wall-mounted fixtures. They're easy to hang and don't require an electrician.

Outside the home, install recessed spotlights under the eaves, allowing the light to shine down the walls. This looks especially dramatic on stone exteriors.

Yes, this is old news, but the value of LED lighting cannot be emphasized enough. Save valuable energy and money every time you flip the switch by using LED or compact fluorescent bulbs. Just think, it may be 12 years before you have to change that bulb again.


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