Beautiful Lighting Tips 101 - A Crash Course in Lighting Design
Many people cannot immediately identify why they may like or dislike
a particular room or interior. Proper lighting and illumination
is the single most critical factor in designing a pleasing interior
environment. A successful lighting design is pleasing to the eye,
focuses attention on key room features and eliminates shadows and
"hot spots". There are several lighting applications that
can be used to meet specific lighting needs or to achieve a desired
GENERAL or AMBIENT LIGHTING refers to an even overall level
of light provided to make a room or space comfortable and safe for
its intended use. Recessed lighting is very popular as a general
lighting source. Recessed lighting may be in the form of 3"
to 8" diameter "can" type fixtures consisting of
a "trim" and a "housing. Recessed "trims"
are the visible portion of the recessed light fixture and are available
in hundreds of styles and colors to control the spread of light,
reflect the light and/or match a particular decor or theme. The
"housing" is the actual enclosure that is installed into
the attic and connected to the power system. Different housings
are available for new construction and remodel construction where
attic access is difficult. Where recessed lighting may be in contact
with building insulation, an "IC" rated housing is required
to prevent a potential fire hazard. In may office environments,
general lighting is provided in the form of luminous fluorescent
TASK LIGHTING typically refers to the higher level of light
provided on work areas such as kitchen islands, countertops and
desks. Additional light is directed to these areas using recessed,
track or pendant fixtures. Concealed under-cabinet lighting is also
frequently used by lighting designers to provide task illumination
without seeing the source (fixture). Fixtures with either low or
line-voltage halogen or xenon bulbs provide a whiter, warmer light
than fluorescent under-cabinet lighting. 5 watt xenon or halogen
lamps spaced 6 inches apart are suitable for most task lighting
purposes where the fixture is within 24" of the work surface.
Whether recessed, track or under-cabinet style, low voltage halogen
or xenon lighting fixtures are smaller than line voltage lighting
but require a transformer to change the voltage from 120 volt to
12 volt. The transformer is included inside many low voltage fixtures
but is also sometimes separate depending on the particular fixture
ACCENT LIGHTING. To be effective, accent lighting should
be approximately four times the level of ambient (background) light
in an area. Focusing light on an "accented object" or
"area" draws attention to a picture, vase or other focal
point. Here again. Halogen lighting type fixtures provide a whiter,
brighter appearance than standard incandescent or fluorescent type
fixtures. The selected fixture should be directional, either a swivel
or gimbal type fixture to aim the light exactly where it is needed.
Adjustable surface mount fixtures, track fixtures and even recessed
style fixtures are available with "aimability" in mind.
For a dramatic museum-type effect, some fixtures can include a focusing
lens for pinpoint accuracy. The "Lighting Illumination"
PDF attached to this file is a good guide for estimating the illumination
or brightness of various bulb types and wattages.
WALL WASHING is a type of Accent Lighting that creates an
area of uniform illumination that may desirable for a series of
photos or artwork. Wall Washing reduces the texture of the wall
surface. Often the reflected light can create ambient light in the
remainder of the room that is pleasing and restful. WALL GRAZING
is opposite from Wall Washing in that it creates a dramatic highlight
and shadow effect on surfaces such as draperies, stone or brick.
Ceiling light fixtures for Wall Grazing are placed closer to the
wall than Wall Washing in order to highlight the three-dimensional
DISPLAY LIGHTING consists of small low voltage lighting
fixtures to illuminate cabinets displaying keepsakes, ornaments,
dinnerware etc. Many under-cabinet fixtures (as described above)
are suitable for display lighting. Small space xenon fixtures used
on a "Mini" or "Linear" track have unparalleled
design flexibility. Tiny fixtures may be spaced anywhere along the
track making it possible to create an even distribution or highlight
task areas. Lamp choices from 3W to 20W allow illumination levels
from a subtle glow to a brilliantly lit area. A "Light Baffle"
often serves as a holder for the track and as a visual shield, concealing
the halogen or xenon bulbs. An innovative use of the baffle is as
a rigid support, such as spanning the edge.
COVE LIGHTING gives a room a more open appearance by illuminating
the perimeter of the room where the walls meet the ceiling. A large
crown mold or soffit is built around the perimeter of the room providing
a concealed space for a continuous halogen or xenon track lighting.
Cove lighting looks best with a smooth, even wash of light. Fixtures
should be placed at least 4" from the wall with 6" to
9" being ideal to minimize scalloping. The ceiling height above
the lamps should be not more than twice the distance from the wall.
The lamp spacing and wattage will depend on distance and brightness
level desired. For a medium light level, a good starting point is
with 5-watt lamps spaced 6" on center, with a track spaced
6" from the wall and 10" from the ceiling. From this reference
point you can design the light level up or down as desired. A room
with a dark ceiling, or a brightly lit room may need a higher light
Lighting that is thoughtfully considered can make a world of difference
and will be an improvement that lasts for many years. Many home
improvement stores include sample displays of the various lighting
systems and fixtures mentioned above. As with most appliances and
electronics, there is a wide variety in the quality of lighting
fixtures available. Be sure your purchase is from reputable well
known company with fixtures that are either UL or ETC listed. There
are numerous online retailers that offer name brand fixtures delivered
to your door at very competitive prices.
Brian Starr is the owner of IPN Lighting.com ( http://www.ipnlighting.com
). His company is an authorized retailer of WAC Lighting products,
including transformers, dimmers, low voltage pendant glass, linear
systems, surface mounts, and lights.
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