We all know how important lighting is for creating a beautiful, functional space. The right lighting can help to promote productivity and it can also make us feel relaxed and comfortable; it helps define spaces and draws people together.
Lighting also affects how we perceive textures and colors, and manipulates the overall feel of a space (maybe more than any other design element). And then there’s the simple fact that light fixtures can end up being a major focal point in a room — it’s no wonder that pulling a lighting scheme together can feel a touch daunting!
But, today, we’re helping you do just that. Learn the basics and have the right tools to create your own lighting design plan:
First, Know the Basics
- How you physically feel in a space has mostly to do with the lighting
- More light isn’t necessarily better. Think more quality versus quantity.
- Good design is about matching light levels to the tasks being performed in specific locations – think a brightly lit kitchen island versus a lamp in your living room for reading
- Try to put light where it’s really needed and keep lower ambient light levels elsewhere
- Always think about both natural and artificial light when designing your space
Map it Out: Layer in the Light
Most people tend to rely on that darn ceiling light as their primary, if not only, source of light. The best thing to do in any space is to know how you are planning to use it and then to think in layers.
When it comes to lighting we look at 4 different types:
- Ambient (soft lighting that puts out an overall ambient glow)
- General (can be a combo of all sources but think mainly overhead lighting)
- Task/Directional (lighting a particular area where a task is performed)
- Accent (adding drama to a space, decorative)
The best lighting designs start with task and accent lighting – and sometimes end up not even needing that ceiling light at all! So when it comes to designing your space, make a little map of light based on how you are planning to use the space. Add in task lighting first — a floor lamp where you know you’ll want to read, for instance. Then any accent lights — a plug in wall sconce to fill up an empty wall and add some varying height. Finally, add in the general fixture, like the chandelier above the table. Every room should aim to have at least 2-3 sources of light to achieve a nice balance and that gorgeous ambient lighting!
Narrow Down Your Style
There are a lot of amazing options out there, so this can get overwhelming. But if you start by narrowing down your overall aesthetic, it will help! Is your space California cool, mid-century modern, or farmhouse chic? After defining your room (more or less), start to search for fixtures that fit within that design style. Also remember, a little contrast is always fun too! Try mixing styles to find the right combo…(more on this in the next point).
Create the Combo
Once you know the location, amount, and style of fixtures you need, you can round up your entire lighting scheme. The best tip we can give you is to take screenshots of potential lights and pull them onto a blank document to see them all at once. Think about how they are working together: do you have some mixing of metals? Do you include some varying textures (lamp shades for instance)? Is there a pop of color that works with the rest of your space? You don’t need to get matchy-matchy, but you do want the collection to feel cohesive.
Get to Know Your Bulbs
Finally, know that what you purchase at your local Home Depot can make a huge difference in the look and feel of your home – and can affect your energy costs. Here is a quick breakdown of some typical bulbs you would find…
- Incandescent – Most like the sun, provide warm light, are really typical in interiors, and are the least energy-efficient (a 60 Watt will only last about 750 hours) — the industry is starting to phase a lot of incandescents out. Best for floor or table lamps, chandeliers (Type C or B) or even kitchen pot lights.
- Halogen – Has more hours than a simple incandescent, can get quite hot to touch, have high energy consumption with a typical halogen lamp, provide warm light as well.
- Fluorescent – Energy-efficient, but not as good quality in terms of color rendering, provide more of a cool light, can be dimmed but not very well, are delayed in coming on. Fluorescents tend to be better suited for areas that are not as important for task or mood lighting – think more so in garages, basements, hallways that don’t get as much traffic, etc.
- LED – Expensive but last the longest and are the best on energy savings, typically make colors look great, the industry is continuing to develop the technology – lots of incredible options coming out!
Pro Tip: try and slowly change out your old incandescents for LED’s so the cost won’t be too much all at once.