Lighting has come a long way since it's original start in1879. Today many lighting engineers and designers manipulate lighting to create a spirit, or state of mind. Lighting can add drama, excitement and create all sorts of fun sensations (without alcohol, or overdose binges of sugar)
Lighting can dramatically affect a space's atmosphere and comfort level, so it is very important to consider it when remodeling or building a home. There are three types of lighting:
Task lighting-this is used to read guilty pleasures, dial 411 for take out, so we can pretend we actually cook food, and many other visual tasks that we will profess we can do like sewing, and doing office work (is that really necessary?) Task lighting is generally lighting that is focused directly onto a work surface.
Accent lighting-Similar to task lighting, due in part to its directional purposes, but it's used primarily for decorative stuff. Like artwork, architectural features, and sets "moods"(dammit I left my mood ring at home!)
Ambient lighting-This is the most common of terms in our industry. Everyone throws this word around like it's a politician at a bunny ranch caught on tape. This light is appropriate for hall ways, entertaining, watching TV and any other areas needing privacy control for unmarked cars. (a-hem.. bunny ranches) It is a soft level of light that diffuses the spread of illumination with a soft wash or kiss of light to the point of velvety darkness:
As a big "D" (DESIGNER for you laymen's) I often have the opportunity to work on homes that start in the blueprint stages. This allows me to draw in a beautiful lighting plan (note the need for crayons, preferably the 96 pack with built-in sharpener) that takes advantage of all the lighting discussed above and take in to consideration all the homeowners good loot, I mean VERY expensive art. Some of the more common fixtures are:
1) Wall washers: ( no these won't be doing ANY of your dirty work!)
Wall washers are an incredible work horse. They create fantastic, dazzling patterns on the wall, (remember shiny, sparkly things excite me) and they are the best at accenting and highlighting surfaces and artwork. Generally they are placed on the ceiling 12"-24" from the wall. BUT a word of caution, if you have high ceilings you may have to place these suckers as far as 8 feet out to get the correct angled direction for the wall, or art you are trying to highlight.
Here is an example of wall washing:
2) Standard recessed can.
Another work horse, this standard fixture can be found in every home. What makes them different and perform different are the trim's. They are available with reflector trims, black alzak, black or white baffle and various others. Black and white baffle are by far THE most common recessed fixture in America, in a good Ol standard 6" size. I do not recommend these BIG OL' honking things. Here is one example (they are few and far between) where GO BIG OR GO HOME, does not apply!! The smaller the fixture (3"-5") the better.
Standard recessed can with reflector trim:(shiny and sparkly)
This is a great example of Standard recessed can lighting, in combination with accent and wall washers. This also shows why smaller cans are better. Lighting puts a lot of holes in the ceiling. Smaller less obtrusive is better.
3) Pinhole aperture
Pinholes trims are great for direct down light. These can be used to highlight art or create a dramatic lighting effect in a niche, or corner. This pic is a great example of genral down lighitng and pinhole niche lighting.
In this entry, Rosemary placed a beautiful sculpture at the base of the stairs. The mood and drama of this space is created with the help of a spot downlight on the sculpture art, making the piece come to life with lighting high's and lows. (and after two shots of vodka, and a bag of M&M's, you can move the sculpture and pretend you are trying out for American Idol!)
4) Slot aperture
These fixtures are ideal for controlled lighting. They not only create a spot, they give you flexibility. The trim has a 35 degree rotator inside the trim that allows precise placement of light.( we designers like OPTIONS!) They are typically used for art and places that movement and correction are needed, but are typically found in dining rooms on either side of the chandelier and hallways.
Lighting can make or break a space. I don't care if your furniture is made of cardboard or candy (do you mind if I gnaw on your furniture, I LOVE candy!) Lighting can make EVERYTHING beautiful. Of course the booze can accomplish this too, but it requires unlimited consumption. At some point you have to show up to the office and pretend to work!
The BEST Home lighting book for layman's by far is Sunset's Home lighting book
It is very easy to read and understand, and it is an inexpensive introduction to the basics of lighting! Shiny, sparkly things!
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Additional images courtesy of homehues, woova, autojogja.com, and kabmurungraya.net