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 special effect.
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 ceiling panels.
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 and style.
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.
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.