Beautiful fabric, quality construction, accessories lovingly selected to align with the design vision… all are important considerations when planning a space. However, without appropriate lighting all other elements of a design plan will fail to live up to their potential. Proper lighting doesn’t always receive the credit it is due… when it is done well, the space is easy to live in, even if the inhabitants don’t know exactly why they enjoy the space so much. And when it is not done well, people may dislike the space, and think to themselves “I really don’t like this place” without realizing that a solution might be relatively simple.

If you don’t like a space, take the first step by understanding why you don’t like it:

If you aren’t happy with a space in your home, take the time to dissect and understand what exactly you don’t like about the space. Is it something functional? Do everyday tasks seem like a chore? Perhaps the issue is with layout of the rooms, placement of the furniture, or organizational issues. But if the issue is that your home feels dark, flat and lifeless, it makes you feel weighted down or maybe even depressed, or if your eyes hurt at the end of the day… the problem might be improper lighting. Does the room have windows? If there are windows, are the windows covered with heavy drapery materials, or otherwise blocked from letting light in? What kind of lighting do you have in the room? And what do you use the room for? What kind of coloring is in the room? This is not to say that everything has to be light and bright, but if you are going to have deep moody colors in a room, pay particular attention to the lighting. Dark colors absorb light, while lighter colors reflect it.

I should back up for a minute. Let’s begin by talking about different kinds of lighting in a space:

Natural Lighting

In a word: Sunlight. Natural light can do wonders for a space, but it is constantly changing… from mid-day to sunset, summer to winter, clear skies to cloudy. It is important to pay attention to natural light in a space. When you are considering finishes like paint color in a room, they may often appear to look different depending on these factors, which is why most professional designers will suggest placing a sample of a finish in a room to see what it looks like under these varying conditions (as well as at night with the other types of light described below). 

(source: Pinterest)

Ambient Lighting

Is a source of light that illuminates a room, spreading out rather than being focused in a specific direction or on a particular object. Think of it as the overall wash of light in a space… it’s base that allows people to navigate. Ambient lighting may have functional purposes, but it is mostly responsible for creating a sense of “mood” in a space.

(source: http://www.securatel.co.nz/ambient-light-wellington)

Task Lighting

Task lighting is used… well… for tasks. This is the working light that should be used when you’re paying bills or using the computer at the desk, reading a book on the sofa at night, or cooking and doing homework in the kitchen. Task lighting illuminates the work area, and saves your eyes from becoming strained and tiered.  

(source: http://www.candlesofeden.com/the-different-layers-of-lighting-for-your-office-space/)

Accent Lighting

Also known as directional lighting, it focuses the attention on something like an object or a surface that you want to draw attention to. Table lamps and track lights are examples of accent lighting. I personally also consider spotlights (used to highlight a sculpture, painting, etc.) as accent lighting, although there are other people who would put lighting like this in its own category of aesthetic lighting.

(source: www.interiordesignarticle.com)

Now… what about the light-bulbs?

So… you have decided on the best light source for the space. And unless you’ve determined that you need more natural light, and want to remove walls or enlarge windows, you’re probably thinking the rest is easy… Put in an LED light-bulb and call it a day, right? They last so much longer after all, right? Let’s take a quick look at the difference between various types of bulbs: Incandescent, Halogen, CFL, and LED.

(I am not the technical expert on light-bulbs, and have sourced the following information from Mike Prospero www.tomsguide.com and https://www.superbrightleds.com/blog/led-vs-incandescent-vs-halogen/707/)

Incandescent:

This well-known lighting type is the most dated and least efficient. Much like in a space heater, an electric current passes through thin filament wire, which heats the filament until it glows. Heat radiates outward from the space heater as it does in an incandescent bulb, and only a small portion of the energy created is converted into usable light; the considerable amount of heat burns the bulb’s tungsten filament until it breaks.

What you should know:

  • Incandescent bulbs use—at most—10 percent of the energy they consume to make visible light; the other 90 percent is wasted heat.
  • They produce a considerable amount of infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) radiation that can be damaging to fabrics and artwork.
  • They’re designed to last just 1,200 hours.
  • Incandescent bulbs have a fragile glass envelope and brittle filament wire.
  • These bulbs are relatively cheap but consume a lot of energy  
  • They create a warm yellow light.

Halogen:

Halogen bulbs are similar to incandescent bulbs but with a couple minor differences. They contain a tungsten filament, but unlike in incandescent bulbs, a small amount of halogen gas mixes with tungsten vapor and deposits it back onto the filament instead of on the inside of the bulb envelope. This process extends the bulb’s lifespan and allows it to work at a much higher temperature than incandescent bulbs, which increases light output. A quartz envelope is used instead of glass because of its ability to handle higher temperatures. 

What you should know:

  • Halogen bulbs come in many shapes but are commonly used as PAR, BR, AR, and MR spotlight or flood light bulbs.
  • They produce a considerable amount of infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) radiation that can be damaging to fabrics and artwork.
  • These bulbs require an extremely hot running temperature to produce light and can cause burns if touched; the high temperature also prevents these bulbs from functioning as well in cold environments.
  • Halogen bulbs are extremely sensitive to skin oils, which can cause them to malfunction or burst.
  • They last approximately 3,600 hours—three times longer than incandescent bulbs—but are not as efficient as compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) or LED bulbs.
  • Halogen bulbs have a fragile quartz envelope and brittle filament wire.
  • Because they operate at higher temperatures, halogen bulbs have higher color temperatures and produce brighter light than incandescent bulbs.

(source: https://www.superbrightleds.com/blog/led-vs-incandescent-vs-halogen/707/)

Compact Fluorescent (CFL):

CFLs contain mercury gas that produces ultraviolet (UV) light when electricity is introduced to the gas. CFL bulbs are ugly… so… moving on!

(source: that’s from me)

Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs):

LEDs produce the longest-lasting, most energy-efficient lighting available today. A semiconductor rich in electrons and a semiconductor rich in holes are used to create an LED. Passing a current through the junction of these two materials combines the electrons with the holes and produces photons, which is the light that you see. LEDs have endless application possibilities, such as under-cabinet, landscape, vehicle, work, home, industrial, and commercial lighting.

What you should know:

  • LEDs run much cooler than incandescent and halogen bulbs, which greatly increases their longevity and enables them to function in cold temperatures.
  • Unless an LED is specifically infrared (IR) or ultraviolet (UV), it produces little to no IR or UV radiation, which can be damaging to fabrics and artwork.
  • They can last up to 50,000 hours—42 times longer than incandescent bulbs and 13 times longer than halogen bulbs.
  • Power consumption is the lowest compared to all other lighting technologies—80 percent less than incandescent bulbs and 75 percent less than halogen bulbs.
  • The shatterproof bulbs are shock resistant and have no brittle filaments.
  • LEDs require higher initial investment but produce greater energy returns over time.
  • LEDs contain no mercury, harmful gasses, or toxins.
  • They are available in many different whites and colors.
  • Because of their low power consumption, LEDs are great alternative lighting solutions for solar-powered systems.
(source: https://www.superbrightleds.com/blog/led-vs-incandescent-vs-halogen/707/)

LED color temperature

When they first came out, LED bulbs emitted a bluish light that many found harsh compared to the “warmer” light cast by traditional bulbs. However, LED makers now offer LED bulbs that emit different color temperatures, measured in Kelvin. Here are a few that you’ll most likely find at a home improvement store:

2700K: These bulbs will be labeled “soft white,” and will cast a gentle warm glow that’s good for the bedroom, as well as table and floor lamps.

3000K: “Bright White” bulbs have a more neutral glow, being neither warm nor cool.

5000K: Lights that are 5000K and higher will typically have a “daylight” label, and edge towards the bluer part of the spectrum. However, they will best approximate actual sunlight.

(source: Mike Prospero www.tomsguide.com)

Hopefully this information shows you that lighting should not be taken lightly :). It is a key piece in any design plan for creating a space that is welcoming, user-friendly, and conveys the subtlety or drama that you want it to.