Monday, March 14, 2016

Light It Up!

By Jen MacEwen

Light it up, make the switch!

How many times have you noticed those (ahem…) beautiful builders choice old-school ceiling lights in hallways, equally questionable pendants above a kitchen island, and/or an underwhelming dining room chandelier?

I’ve been there, I’ve lived with these lighting selections for a time, but once I settled into my space and got a feel for how I lived and worked in it, I formulated a design plan, and finally upgraded!

Lighting has come a long way in affordability and design in the last few years. The wide assortment of styles and equally attractive price points has made switching out to upgraded lighting an easy choice.

In the past, lighting was viewed as more utilitarian than an integral part of a design plan. For me, lighting is the icing on the cake, the cherry on the sundae… well, you get it! I love great lighting and take joy in selecting the perfect pieces to add that little bit of interest, bling, whimsy, whatever that space is calling for!

While there has always been a wide variety of beautiful selections at your local lighting stores, price points were usually pretty intimidating. If you were looking to add a light as a focal point, it was more likely for a formal dining room where you needed a bit more drama. These days, however, look no further than your local home improvement store for current, and affordably priced selections for all areas of your home, as shown below:

Consider looking for a fixture that adds and serves double duty by adding pattern to your ceiling and walls when lit. The pattern projected from this kind of light (whether intentionally or otherwise) can serve as a beautiful focal point as shown on the ceiling below. A few years ago, I purchased a large pendant light from a popular furniture store that I lovingly referred to as my “dandelion light.” To my surprise, when turned on, the light reflected through the large flower-shaped ends, making the walls display a wallpaper-like pattern. This was simply a happy accident, but any quality lighting store will be able to assist you in finding such a showstopper!

While I’ve been known to break a few rules, these are some great guidelines for proper lighting placement (unless you prefer to not see the person across the table!) Generally, chandeliers should be 30 – 40 inches above your dining table, approx. 12 inches narrower than the table and always centered in the middle of the table… oh, my OCD! Lastly, if your ceiling is over 8 ft tall, add 3 inches to the hanging height per additional foot of ceiling height.

If we need to get into the nitty gritty of the way lighting affects the feel of a room, another design tip is to add three layers of lighting; ambient, accent, and task. Let’s clarify these three types specifically…

Ambient refers to general lighting, mainly ceiling type lighting, that work to serve as the main lighting for a room and more of a utilitarian application. Secondly, accent lighting refers to fixtures that provide that extra bit of warmth to a space by adding an extra layer of light (specifically, floor and table lamps), it also can serve other purposes such as highlighting art, accessories, or other room features. This is my favorite type of lighting, as this layer makes things feel that much more cozy and inviting while also bringing the design to another level (and/or allows the clients own design personality to come through). Lastly, task lighting is the final layer that serves the specific duty of offering additional light needed for completing tasks such as kitchen prep or homework. This type of focused lighting can be provided as under cabinet lighting and desk lamps. All three of these layers serve specific purposes and are equally important in good design.

Dimmer switches are another great way to add interest to a room. They can help to control the intensity of a light, allowing you to adjust it as needed, whether dimmed for a romantic dinner, or full wattage for the best visibility during cleaning. This simple adjustment can make a big difference in the ambiance of your home and can work wonders by adding a touch of warmth when needed.

I couldn’t complete this blog without mentioning a specific part of lighting that has recently been a point of contention between the masses (well, maybe only us designers). The energy saving, eye fatiguing, cold feel of energy efficient bulbs compared to the less environmentally friendly, warm glow of the incandescent lightbulb. There's nothing worse than a beautiful lighting plan complete with the blue light of an energy efficient bulb! Luckily, advancements are being made with these bulbs and the way they light, and I'm happy to say I have stopped stockpiling the old incandescent kind (my closet is full!).

So take a look at your homes fixtures. Perhaps it’s time to for an upgrade?

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