Lighting 101

It goes without saying that lighting plays a critical role in the overall impact of a design scheme, however, did you know that it also can also have either a positive or negative effect on energy, emotion, and comfort, not to mention vision health? For many Lighting Designers, the main goals of most lighting plans are to provide appropriate and effective levels of natural lighting, while disbursing multiple types of sources throughout the space. In consideration are the overall effects, task requirements, quality, and color of light, direction of natural lighting, which changes from minute to minute before it transitions to a new space at night. Since there are so many considerations, where do we start?

Beauty under candlelight is simply enhanced, but if that is not always sufficient, try a gold-lined lampshade. According to Lighting Designer, Barbara Cosgrove, "sitting near the right proportioned shade with a gold lining can make the person's skin look positively radiant!" Just note that the shades do not all need to necessarily match color, height or size (unless, of course, they are a pair). In fact, that should be avoided and variation is actually another key to creating more interesting effects. Cosgrove also believes that "everyone should have a lamp with a black shade." It's is the little black dress of lighting!

Keep in mind, the goal for almost every room should be to apply direct, indirect and accent or spot lighting, but first consider the source. Different bulbs (lamps) cast different qualities and colors of light. Whereas incandescent bulbs create a yellow and warm cast, halogen creates cooler, whiter, and sparkling effects. Frosted bulbs create fewer shadow lines while smaller bulbs create more. Natural lighting is more cool and blue when north facing and warm towards south-facing walls. Fluorescents are blue and will make you look blue too. Since there is a  fairly wide variety of bulbs it may be necessary to buy a few and try for effect, but also consider these tips in the process:

1. Provide sufficient outlets to minimize electrical cords, but keep them low and discrete
2. Determine the main source of light, it's appropriateness for the function and style
3. Light up dark corners
4. Provide task lighting for work-related applications
5. Add dramatic lighting for high impact


A basic rule of thumb is that if one lamp in a room is providing most of the light then more lights are required because an unequal distribution of light can create glare while inefficient levels of lighting will render shadows in the wrong places. In either case, the eyes are strained. Although the room should not be lit up like a bonfire, varying levels of voltage and light sources will have a strong impact on the overall effect. Here are some more considerations:

1. Provide wall-washers or up lights to open the space or draw eyes upwards.
2. Provide accent lights behind plants or shapely accessory to create good shadow lines.
3. Provide attractive and low glare task lighting for workspaces.
4. Provide low-voltage, small halogen ceiling lighting in areas where functions are fixed, such as hallways, over kitchen counters, or bathroom sinks.


Usually, if a space furnished but still lacking, consider the lighting plan for solutions.

- Sharon Hess