Lighting Fundamentals

The only joy in the world is to begin – Cesare Pavese

It surrounds you. It moves you. But you may have never thought about it before.

It is lighting and we use it throughout our lives. Lighting is an integral part of any space. It conveys a mood. Enhances beauty. Extends a warm welcome. Adds drama. Provides safety and security. Inspires creativity. Lighting can do all this, and more. If we needed light only to see by, a simple candle would do the job.

Proper lighting creates atmosphere, highlights architectural details and furnishings, and helps us to safely and efficiently perform our daily tasks. Lighting should be planned to complement our lifestyle. After all, your home is a reflection of you, and lighting is a large part of that statement. From the kitchen to the bathroom, every room in your house is host to a wide range of activities and tasks. The kitchen may serve as an office, dining room and school room. The bath could act as a playroom, dressing room, and sauna room.

Decisions must be made as to how much light is required. Where it should be placed. Which fixture and lamp to use. And finally, which controls are required. The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) recommends different levels of illumination based on age, accuracy required, and tasks to be performed. Surface characteristics must be carefully considered. These technical essentials can be difficult to decipher.

Not only should a room function properly for all its various uses, it must also engage you. Who wants to live in an unalluring space? If you plan your lighting, the room will radiate your personal style. This is accomplished when you decide which elements to emphasize, the atmosphere you want to create and tasks you would like to perform. By integrating the technical as well as the decorative in your lighting fixtures and controls, you will be able to create a range of effects and make your house a home.

Lighting is an investment; learn as much as you can about it to maximize your benefits. If you begin your lighting plan early in the building process, you will lessen the chance of forgetting something. Generally, planning is probably the single best way to save you money.

We want to help you! We have assembled this guide to help you through the process of lighting your home and to introduce you to some theory, fixtures and ideas. We offer some things to think about and steps to follow. Remember - this is only an overview. For complete specifications you should meet with one of our residential lighting consultants. They are professionally trained and qualified to layout and suggest lighting combinations. Good luck and happy lighting!

Good Lighting Fundamentals

Basically, there are three types of lighting that work together to illuminate your home: General (or Ambient), Accent, and Task (or Function). A good lighting plan combines all three types to light an area according to function and style.

General Lighting provides an area with overall illumination. It enables you to move about easily and safely, defines a space and customarily provides a comfortable visual environment. It is fundamental to your lighting plan. General Lighting can be accomplished with pendants, chandeliers, ceiling or wall mounted fixtures, recessed or track lights and with lanterns outside your home.

Accent Lighting directs additional light to a specific area, adding drama and creating visual interest. It will focus attention on art, prized possessions, and architectural features. However, be selective: if you light everything, nothing will stand out. Wall washing and grazing are two popular techniques typically used to draw your eyes to the perimeter of the room and create space and texture.

Accent Lighting requires at least three times as much light on the focal point as the general lighting around it. This is usually achieved by track, recessed or wall-mounted fixtures. A line of low voltage lighting systems can be used in coves, shelves, niches, glass cabinets, and valances to create a beautiful accent.

What is more agreeable than one’s home? - Marcus Tullius Cicero

As the name implies, Task Lighting is light to work by: it illuminates areas where work is performed. The type, angle and amount of light should be determined based on the work involved. A reading area and hobby bench require different light. All Task Lighting should be bright enough to prevent eyestrain and be free of glare and shadows. It can be provided by recessed and track lighting, pendant lighting, portable lamps and under cabinet lights.

There are many different fixtures that will deliver the light you need. Faced with so many decisions, it helps to see the lights in our residential lighting showroom.

Hall/Foyer Fixtures: Use chain-hung or close-to-ceiling fixtures to create a comfortable and warm entrance. These fixtures will guide you through the house with a good general light. They also provide a smooth transition between outdoor and indoor light levels.

Pendants or Chandeliers: A hanging fixture creates a dramatic focal point in a room. It can be used to draw attention to a table, piano, alcove, bar, or counter. The soft illumination provides a general glow that invites conversation and entertaining. A chandelier typically provides general light, while a pendant can provide both general and task lighting.

Ceiling Fixtures: Ceiling lights are perfect for foyers, kitchens, hallways, bedrooms, and spaces where general light is needed and a fixture cannot hang down. The effect is practical as well as attractive.

Sconces or Wall-Mounted Fixtures: Sconces not only brighten your wall, but also make your room feel soft and spacious. If the light is directed up, the sconce or wall-mounted fixture enhances the illusion of high ceilings. Wall-mounted fixtures furnish general, task and accent lighting.

Bath Lighting: Begin proper lighting in your bathroom at the mirror. It is important to light the face, not the mirror. The light should be soft and shadow free. Bath lighting should always be controlled by a dimmer, supporting task lighting for grooming or soft ambient light for waking up. The lighting around the mirror should supplement the general lighting provided by ceiling fixtures.

Portable Lamps: The most flexible of all light fixtures, portable lamps can provide general, accent and task lighting anywhere you want it! Table lamps, floor lamps, and torchieres can be easily blended into your decor or can provide impact on their own. A wide range of portable lamps is available for any purpose.

Paddle Fans: Paddle fans supply comfort in all seasons. In the warmer seasons, they are the perfect cooling device, producing a breeze and circulating it downward. In the cooler seasons, paddle fans are put in reverse motion, pushing warm air back down to the living area. Light kits add a good ambient light source.

Track Lighting: Because it is so versatile, track lighting can provide general, task or accent lighting. The individual fixtures can be moved, rotated or aimed in any direction along the track. Track is going high tech, too, and offers many stylish versions.

Recessed: There is no more unobtrusive way to light your home than with recessed lights. Installed in the ceiling with only the trim showing, they are perfect for general lighting, task lighting, displaying artwork, and creating the illusion of more space. Downlights are flush with the ceiling and can fully integrate with the building construction.

Undercabinet: Kitchen countertops are typically difficult to light from the ceiling --undercabinet lighting is the answer. They keep you from working in your own shadow and highlight the wide range of countertop materials. Undercabinet lighting, fluorescent and halogen, can also be used in display cases and workshops or wherever you need it!

Outdoor Lighting: Outdoor fixtures, decorative or landscape, provides soft illumination for visitors as well as improve security. They enhance the beauty of your property and add value to your home. Wall lanterns, recessed, chain-hung or close-to-ceiling fixtures are all options for outdoor lighting. Save energy with motion- or heat-sensors, timers and photocell fixtures.

Landscape lighting: Enjoy your gardens even after the sun has gone down. Shed light on high use areas such as decks, paths and grills to insure ease of movement. You can highlight your favorite flowers and shrubs; dramatize trees, pools, and fountains; and accent statues or other decorative elements. As well as providing good lighting on steps, walks, and driveways for safety and security, landscape lighting is appealing and practical.

Who knows the flower best? -- the one who reads about it in a book, or the one who finds it wild on the mountainside? - Alexandra David-Neel

Lighting Controls: An often overlooked, but very important, element of your lighting plan are the controls. Because such a wide variety of activities takes place in every room of your home, it becomes crucial that you be able to adjust the intensity of the light to suit the task at hand. A dimmer or control system will do it! Controls allow you to alter the mood of a room with the touch of a button. They conserve energy and increase bulb life. And today, lighting controls can handle a single fixture or a whole house.