Lighting techniques for your home

31 Oct 2012

Your house is likely a hive of activity, with family members doing a number of things in different rooms -and the right lighting in each room will set the mood, whether it be to encourage relaxation, for study or to enhance family gatherings at mealtimes.

Your house is a hive of activity, which means that rooms may need a variety of lighting in order to cater for everyone's needs.

There are many lighting techniques you can use to create a mood for every room. These techniques are broken down into four basic lighting effects and each one is essential to creating that special 'homey feel'.

Lighting effects

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting refers to lighting that is used to illuminate rooms well enough so the occupants can see everything and move around freely. It is usually created through a combination of natural light filtering in through windows, as well as overhead light fittings.

Task lighting

Task lighting is used to illuminate an area that is used for a visual task, such as reading or sewing. Task lighting is essential to every room, as you do a variety of tasks in different rooms. There is a selection of light fittings that can be used for task lighting, and combined with ambient lighting they create a well-lit room.

Accent or decorative lighting

The Steam light fitting is completely sealed, splash proof and has 2 globes for great light output, which makes them perfect for the bathroom. They sell for R399.95 and there are smaller versions available from The Lighting Warehouse.

Accent lighting is used to add drama or style to a room by highlighting a specific area or object in it. It is also referred to as decorative lighting and is used at parties or can be used to help light a room if your task lighting is not bright enough.

Mood lighting

Mood lighting is exactly what it says it is, lighting that is used to create a certain mood or atmosphere within a room. A combination of small light sources, it is typically used in bedrooms and sometimes dining rooms, depending on the occasion. Mood lighting is created with coloured light bulbs, dimmed lights and candles.

Lighting your home

Tip: Natural light is obviously the best and you should try to use it whenever possible during the daytime. Open blinds and curtains throughout the day to allow light to fill the room.

Catering to everyone's needs

The living room or lounge is a room that every member of the family uses at some point in the day. Therefore, it has to cater to a variety of activities. So the lighting you choose has to be adequate for all of these activities.

The Princess 10 light chandelier is R2 499.95 at The Lighting Warehouse and lets off dazzling crystal light. Choose warm white globes, not cool white globes for the dinner table. A dimmer switch is also a great option especially for dinner parties.

“You do not need one dominant light fixture in the living room, downlighters that are recessed into the ceiling are great for lighting up the general space of the room," says Melissa Davidson of The Lighting Warehouse and adds that the general rule is to have one downlighter for every 2 square metres. She says this is dependant on other factors like the height of the ceiling or how much natural light there is already. However, you will probably need additional lighting in other parts of the room.

Floor lamps and desk lamps (which are task lights) should be placed on side tables near couches that are commonly used for reading. The light should be focused towards the edge of the seat and should be bright, but not glaring. Dimmer switches can be installed with your down lighters and are great when it comes to watching movies with the family.

Tip: Find the dominant feature in the room, which in this case may be the television, and make sure there is one strong light pointed towards it. Beware of glare across the screen, so place the light source at an angle.

Beat the kitchen blues

Your kitchen does not have to be shrouded in bright lights. Although certain areas should be well-lit, your kitchen can have a cosy feel to it. Davidson says if you layer the lighting in your kitchen, you won't have a “clinical white kitchen” all the time.

A fluorescent light in the centre of your kitchen provides a reliable source of light and depending on the size and shape of your kitchen, you may need two.

Tip: You could add a chandelier or pendant on a separate switch above your kitchen table. Or, if you have a breakfast bar, you could add 2 to 3 spun aluminium pendants under the bulkhead.

The Tube fitting sells for R349.95 and is a popular choice to fit above the bathroom mirror to avoid casting shadows across the face.

Avoid having lamps or free standing lights in the kitchen as these cause clutter. You can opt to have cabinet lighting or under counter lighting, which is placed under overhanging cabinets and offers light onto the counter for specific food preparation.

Five star feel

You can easily have the feeling of a five star restaurant in your dining room. A dining room should have a dominant light fitting that hangs directly over the table. It should not be too bright, so a dimmer switch is perfect for this room.

Chandeliers are very common in dining rooms as they create an elegant focal point. Depending on the style of the dining room, an antique chandelier is a great conversation starter, and they are not limited in size, as they used to be. Chandeliers come in a variety of sizes, designs and shapes, and do not have to be huge bronze atrocities glaring down at your guests.

Tip: When hanging a chandelier, Davidson advises people to have a minimum clearance of 0.75 metres above the table to the lowest part of the chandelier, so that it doesn’t block anyone's line of vision across the table.

Wall mounted lights or wall sconces with pastel coloured light bulbs can really accentuate the style and décor of the room. They also provide additional lighting without glaring over the wall, as well as being decorative. Wall sconces also come in a variety of unique designs and sizes.

Hallways and stairs

The Lighting Warehouse also has Osram’s Nightlux for R119.95. This LED motion sensor light can be placed anywhere as there is no wiring involved. It is battery operated and also has a day/night activation, which makes it perfect for stairs and hallways.

Hallways and stairwells should be well-lit to avoid accidents. Avoid pendant lights or large lights in order to save space, unless you have a double volume staircase where a big fitting can create a focal point.

Small wall sconces and recessed light fittings are good for this space, as they are out of the way but still bright. If you want to give hallways and stairwells a warm, welcoming glow, Davidson says choose warm white globes or if you prefer a “white” light, choose cool white globes. If you have an open staircase, recessed lights fixed into the skirting rail can be stylish and effective in lighting each step, minimising the chances of missing one.

Illuminate the bathroom

Bathrooms are one of the most accident prone rooms in a house, so they should always be brightly lit. This is another room that requires a combination of lighting to suit a variety of activities.

Neodymium light bulbs are good as they simulate sunlight and give a true colour spectrum when applying makeup. These light bulbs can be put in wall lights that are placed on either side of the mirror, to avoid creating shadows across the face. Davidson recommends a good bright light, with 1 or 2 globes, in the centre of your bathroom ceiling as your first layer of lighting, and depending on the size of your bathroom, may be the only light necessary.

Setting the mood

A bedroom is an intimate, cosy place, whether you sleep in it alone or share it with a partner. This is also the room you can have the most fun with when trying lighting effects. The most common effect used in a bedroom is mood lighting, as it creates a romantic, relaxed atmosphere. A pendant light with a dimmer switch can be used to create a circle of light in the middle of the room. Placing floor lamps in the corners of the room will illuminate the outline of the room. Lamps or spotlights should be placed over vanity mirrors and on bedside tables for reading.

Pastel light bulbs can be used for floor lamps to create a dramatic effect, and coloured candles are always great for setting an intimate mood. If you want your bed to be the focal point of the room, putting a recessed light at the head of bed can create a dramatic effect.

Lighting is essential to your home, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring, and you can create designer looks without breaking your budget. – Victoria Taylor

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