Lighting is key to how our eyes perceive color, shape, contrast and details. It affects our moods as well as our abilities to focus or relax.
When I arrive at a consultation, my clients are all atwitter, ready to tell me about the amazing ideas they have for countertop and flooring options, cabinetry and wall colors. In the meantime, I’m shrewdly peering from room to room, figuring out how much natural light we have to work with, if there are ways to bring more natural light into the space, and how I can work to decrease the glare over here and increase lighting in that shadowy spot over there.
While it’s not often a client’s favorite thing to learn about, astute interior designers know that without a thoughtful lighting plan, all their hard work will fall flat – or will never be viewed in the way they envisioned it in their minds..
Steps to Create a Thoughtful Lighting Design
This is why it’s important that clients to understand a little bit about lighting before they move too far into their design choices. Some colors will work better than others, depending on the amount and quality of light in a living space at any given time.
Here are some of the steps involved with creating a thoughtful lighting plan that shows your future home renovation in its best (literal) light, while also providing the right amount of task and ambient lighting, and a balance of light and softened shadows.
Where Do You Need Light?
Have you ever thought about where you actually need light in your home? Probably not. You simply flip on a switch or move a lamp from here to there. An interior designer takes it a step or two further. We consider the orientation of your home and even the existing landscaping.
Where does light enter you home in the morning? What about at noon, or at dusk? Do evergreens keep light from entering your home in certain locations? Or do surrounding deciduous trees open a window for light during the darker months of the year? What does each room look like throughout the day when all the lights are switched off? Would your home benefit from skylights or solar tubes?
These are the types of questions we think about and answer in order to create a general lighting plan – subtracting or diminishing light where it isn’t needed and adding it where it’s lacking.
How Can We Optimize Light Quality or Quantity?
There are lots of ways to tackle this one. Of course, we use a balance of natural and artificial light. But, as you know, artificial lights are not created equal. The types of lights (LED, halogen, incandescent or CFL), the wattage and the use of a shade – or no shade/filter – makes a huge difference on the way our eyes perceive light. Ceiling height will affect the quality of overhead lighting and suspended light fixtures. Certain fixtures may have decorations that accentuate or inhibit the flow of light.
Speaking of flow of light, how does light move from one room to another? Apart from the type of light fixtures I recommend, I might also suggest a client use glass cabinet doors in the upper cabinets between the kitchen peninsula and the adjacent living space to maximize the flow of light. Or, we might decide on a different type of window treatment to enhance the quality of light that comes in to a particular room – you may want a different quality of natural light in the kitchen than you do in the bedroom, for example.
What Are Your Personal Lighting Needs?
Lighting needs for a young couple will be very different than the lighting needs for an elderly couple or family. I might install a different type of fixture in a corner used for reading or homework than I will in a corner that’s used for yoga or meditating. Then, there are accent lights to consider – those that have a fixture design that adds visual interest as well as those lights that are specifically directed to highlight a specific design feature.
A thoughtful lighting design will always take the home occupants’ needs into consideration, and will also include a plan for the future if necessary.
Choosing Lights That Fit the Design
Now that we have the plan’s foundation in place, it’s time to build it out with the right fixtures. Typically, this means a mix of recessed lighting and suspended fixtures, as well as table and floor lamps. Things like energy-efficiency are also important, especially if you are planning a sustainable home renovation. Ultimately, we want light to be balanced in terms of task, ambient and accent lighting, but we also need to ensure the fixtures we select are the right aesthetic fit for your home.
Work with an interior designer who understands the importance of lighting when it comes to showing an interior design to its optimum advantage. Get out of the shadows and glares, and learn to see your home in a new, improved light.