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Lighting and Window Treatments for the Home Office (4 of 4)

Lighting for home offices is something that most people don't spend much time contemplating. Just think back to the old movies where you would see a guy at a typewriter, his desk covered in scattered papers, a coat rack in the corner with a hat perched neatly at the top, and a single bare light bulb hanging from the centre of the ceiling. Times have certainly changed.

How to approach the lighting concept for your home office will depend on a few things. The first, and most important, is to determine where light is needed, and how much light is required.

In general, there are three types of lighting: general, task, and ambient/decorative. Ceiling-mount fixtures should be able to provide general light. If you don't have an overhead fixture, and don't intend to rewire for one, you'll have to opt for a combination of floor lamps, table lamps, and possibly wall-mount fixtures (commonly referred to as sconces). Recessed "pot" lights should not be relied upon for the only light in a home office -- instead, use them to accent specific items by angling them, if they are adjustable, much the same as you would in any other room.

Lighting is one domain where the old saying, "you get what you pay for," tends to ring very true. It is usually worth paying the extra couple of dollars for quality light fixtures, and quality light bulbs too. The number of pieces capable of breaking or malfunctioning on a fixture is amazing -- there is the mechanism that turns the light on and off; the internal wiring; the part that holds the bulb (the socket); the pieces that attach the shade; sometimes a transformer... Being electrical, the risks of a malfunctioning fixture are not worth taking chances with. Let's not forget the $20 halogen floor lamps, popular a few years back, which were prone to over-heating and catching fire, or setting nearby items ablaze because of the excessive heat emitted. With that said, here are some pointers on choosing lighting.

Floor lamps are capable of providing a good source of general light, but not all do. The best way to ensure a good general light is to speak to a salesperson at a lighting store. Unfortunately, you cannot rely on the lighting advice of the staff at a large hardware store or department store; these people are generally trained in sales, not in lighting. Someone with a knowledge of lighting and lighting products can help you choose based on the size of your home office and your specific needs and preferences. Make sure you have at least the approximate size of your home office with you when you go shopping for lighting; even better would be to have a floor plan, no matter how roughly done.

Lighting has become very creative in recent years. You can purchase a floor lamp with a built-on shelf, a side table with a built-on table lamp, lamps and fixtures in almost any size, shape, colour and more.

Next you have to select your task lighting. You have to decide what, if any, task lighting you need. It really doesn't hurt to have a small lamp at your computer for those times when you will need some light, but the larger general light is not necessary, like on a slightly cloudy morning when there is natural light still coming in, but not quite enough. If you have an area in your office where you will be performing a task involving anything small, detailed, more difficult to see, you will also want a task light there. Task lights can be floor lamps, table lamps, wall-mounted, clip-on, or ceiling-mounted. If your work is dependent on colour accuracy, opt for a lamp that holds both an incandescent and fluorescent bulb, or purchase specialty lightbulbs that emulate natural light.

The final step, which is somewhat optional in a home office, is ambient, or decorative, lighting. This can be anything from a small table lamp that looks like a shell covered turtle, to a wall-mounted light that has changeable face-plates depicting different things (such as a coffee cup, a smiley face, etc.), picture lights to accent things hung on your walls, or almost anything else. These are all little touches that allow you to add to the ambience of your home office while introducing a personal touch.

My favourite source of light is the window. But the light provided from a window, and sometimes the view, has to be controllable. Some days you won't want to see your neighbour tossing a football around with his kids when you are stuck working. Other times the sun may hit at the wrong angle and be nearly blinding. And, of course, there will be times when both the sunlight and the view will be just perfect. When choosing window treatments, keep the following in mind:

Vertical blinds can make quite a racket if you have your window open on a windy day. But you can choose to direct the light to the left or right, or open or close them completely.

Horizontal, or mini-blinds, aside from being difficult to clean, can cast shadows in and around the room. The shadows can be controlled to some extent by angling the slats up or down. Mini-blinds tend to be the least expensive of the window treatment choices, and are available in plastic, metal, and wood (or wood-look).

Pleated shades do not offer the option of angling the light that comes in; the can be opened, closed, or anywhere in between. They are available in opacities ranging from sheer to black-out though, which is nice.

Roller shades, the traditional solid colour, plain ones, should not be used as the sole treatment on your window. These require a valance and usually side panels as well in order to look good. There are roller shades easily available now that are made of bamboo, textured material, or just funky colours, and these can be used on their own.

Draperies and curtains (window treatments made of fabric) tend to be more expensive. They also require mounting hardware, rods, tie-backs, and so on. The ready made curtain panels tend to be more reasonably priced, but are only available in a couple of "standard" sizes and the colour/pattern selections are usually quite restrictive.

North-facing windows require less thought to the function of the window treatments because you will not have much direct light coming in at all.

Window treatments that provide you with options relating to both view and light are the best. This can be done in a few different ways, but involves using combinations of window treatments. For instance, you can use a semi-opaque pleated shade with a fairly sheer curtain in front of it. There are also many other options available, such as shutters, and screens, to name just a couple.

The important thing when choosing lighting and window treatments is to consider function first, then aesthetics.

About the Author:

Karen S. Weiner is the owner and principal interior designer of Idealspace Design. Established in 1997, Idealspace Design offers a full range of interior design services to home- and business-owners alike. Serving Montreal (QC) and surrounding areas.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com

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