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Lighting Buying Guide

The right lighting plays a key role in creating relaxed, romantic or welcoming looks.

 

Lighting can transform a room. You can use light and shadow to create dramatic, welcoming or purely functional effects. The right light can bring out the best in your décor and pull a look together. How do you determine the best type of lighting for a room? This guide offers the basics to help you make the best decision for your lighting needs.

Lighting Basics

First, consider whether you require an overall balanced lighting effect. Generally, your lighting plan will combine three types of lighting: overhead (also referred to as ‘ambient’ or ‘general’), which provides the overall illumination for a room; task, which is lighting designed to assist with activities like reading or cooking; and accent, which draws attention to a particular feature or part of the room. Keep in mind that spaces within your decor can be emphasized through the use of several lighting sources, not just one source on its own.

 

Overhead Lighting

A ceiling fixture supplies general or ambient lighting. When purchasing pendant lamps, hanging fixtures or chandeliers, consider any height or space restrictions. If you're hanging a pendant lamp in a stairwell, ensure that there is enough clearance to safely pass underneath it. In a dining room, chandeliers and hanging fixtures should hang no lower than two feet from the tabletop so that people seated can see each other.

Task Lighting

The purpose of task lighting is to place direct light where you need it most – whether for reading, kitchen work or other activities. Increasing the amount of focused light directed onto a task can help your eye compensate for small print size or poor contrast.


Choosing the Right Task Light

Important factors include the lamp’s height and its angle of illumination. A light that can adjust to your circumstances and preferences might be helpful. Adjustable-arm task lights can accommodate both posture changes and changing light levels and shadows in a room.

Lighting for Reading

Reading requires task lighting that comes from behind your shoulder. Whether you choose a table lamp or a floor lamp, the shade should be at your eye level to prevent glare on your pages.

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting draws attention to a particular feature or part of a space. It is most often decorative, intended to illuminate pictures, plants or other elements of your home’s interior or exterior that you wish to highlight. Some accent lighting results are dramatic, some are calming and some are functional. A post light is an elegant option for lighting a path on your home’s property, while spotlights are an effective way to draw attention to a piece of art, trophy or a prized possession.

Lighting Specific Rooms

Bedroom

Bedrooms require a variety of light sources, from indirect overhead lighting to sharply focused bedside lighting. Consider your needs when planning your bedroom lighting scheme – from bedtime reading to getting dressed in the morning. To achieve a soft light within the bedroom, you can use downlights or directional fixtures to angle the lighting toward walls and closet spaces rather than onto a bed. Lights focused toward the walls will bathe the room in light by reflecting it off surfaces.

If you require more concentrated light for bedtime reading, one option is a wall-mounted reading lamp. This lamp can fully adjust to help you eliminate glare on your pages. Or consider an accent lamp, a less adaptable but effective option.

Kitchen

A kitchen can be a potentially dangerous place and requires a versatile lighting plan. Consider where you'll regularly perform more detailed work and ensure that this space is sufficiently lit for the task. Many place a 2- or 4-light decorative fluorescent light at the centre of a ceiling. While several smaller fixtures with halogen or LED lighting at various locations can distribute light evenly and in a concentrated manner helpful for the various work areas of a kitchen.

Bathroom

To best see your reflection for shaving or applying make up it is recommended that you install a fixture 24 inches or greater across the width of your mirror, as well as one wall sconce on each side.

Home Office

For your home office or study, choose a ceiling fixture to provide yourself with some general lighting and individual lamps or fixtures to provide focused beams of light where they are most needed. Consider an adjustable lamp for your desk and try to position the light a little more than one foot above the desktop.

Living Room and Family Room

When designing a lighting scheme, consider the activities that will occur in the room. You'll likely need general lighting for watching television, task lighting for reading and accent lighting for room features like framed photos or artwork. You may require 5 to 10 different light sources. Create layers of light that can be used independently for different effects.

A brick or stone fireplace can be highlighted with recessed downlights installed in the ceiling above the mantle. Paintings can be emphasized with low-voltage halogen picture lights mounted above the frame. Game tables require bright and even overhead light; shaped pendant lights are an ideal solution. Large focuses, such as bookshelves, collections or pieces of art are nicely illuminated using a wash of light across the wall. You can create this effect with a valance that uses soft fluorescent bulbs.

Outdoors

Solar lighting is a simple and safe way to brighten your home's walkways or landscape at night. You can outline your walkways, enhance a patio or flower bed, and highlight specific aspects of your landscape, such as a beautiful garden view. In addition to their reduced environmental impact, a benefit of solar-powered lights (versus standard plug-in lights) is the ease and low cost of their maintenance.