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Lighting 101 - Light Up Your Life

By Sarah Van Arsdale on June 08, 2003

Interior Design & Lighting Tip

Many times good interior design counts on a certain kind of sleight-of-hand: The very best job is the one you don't notice, because it doesn't call attention to itself.

Good lighting, in a home or business, is one of those things that's invisible - if it's done well. You only notice the lighting of a room if it's too bright or too dim, not if it's just right. Our goal in offering this series of articles on Lighting is to give you some concrete advice on how to light a room so effectively that no one notices whether you're using florescent or incandescent lights, track lighting or standing lamps. They'll notice only that the room feels comfortable, and that they want to come back again.

When thinking about lighting, first, consider the NYIAD Guidelines of interior design: function, mood, and harmony. You have to think about what the function of each room is, decide what mood you want to create, and consider how the different lighting types will harmonize in any given room.

We'll start our series with Function.


Light Up Your Life

Consider first the various functions of the lighting you will provide. Most importantly, you need illumination in certain areas of the room for specific tasks, such as reading, writing or playing a musical instrument. This type of lighting is referred to as task lighting.

In addition, you need sufficient overall illumination so people can simply see where they're going, and so they don't trip over that great furniture that you have carefully placed in the rooms. This general lighting is referred to as ambient lighting, which is the overall lighting that permeates the entire room.

Of course, it's hard to separate the function of the lighting from the function of the room, and the two should work together. For example, if the function of a home study is to provide a place for reading, working on the computer, and sitting at a desk, you want to have lighting that will help with those functions; you'd want some kind of soft ambient lighting, with reading lamps strategically placed.

Light Up Your Life
Light Up Your Life

However, the function of a kitchen is very different; here, you need brighter ambient lighting, as well as task lighting for particular areas, such as the cutting board and the kitchen sink.

In our next issue, we'll take a look at how different types of lighting can create a particular mood in a room.