Guide to Choosing Lighting

The key to creating a comfortable lighting environment is to use a mix of general lighting (also called ambient), task lighting (for specific activities, like reading) and accent lighting (to highlight objects or architectural features).

Ambient Lighting

What are recessed lights?

Starting from the ceiling, the most common type of lighting are recessed lights, which are usually installed by a contractor.  Also called can lights or downlights, they look clean overhead and they offer a practical and affordable way to light up a room, but don’t overdo it … you can always add task and accent lighting later.

Courtesy Melanie Freundlich Lighting Design

Courtesy Melanie Freundlich Lighting Design

What are ceiling mounted fixtures?

Ceiling mounted fixtures include chandeliers, pendants, flush mount fixtures.  They can cast light upward or downward, and they add an important decorative element to a room.

– Generally, chandeliers work well in large rooms with high ceilings.  They are perfect for larger spaces like entryways, dining rooms, living rooms.  If you do not have any furniture underneath your chandelier, remember to hang it up high so that the bottom is at least 6’6″ – 7′ from the floor.

Courtesy Homebunch

Courtesy Homebunch

 

Pendants are great for hallways, especially on the first floor.  They light your pathways and add visual interest to these spaces.  Pendants will also make a kitchen feel more like a living space.

Courtesy Veranda Magazine

Courtesy Veranda Magazine

 

Finally, flush mount fixtures are ideal for spaces with lower ceilings.  We love them in secondary bedrooms, mudrooms, large closets, and laundry areas.  But of course, they can look good anywhere:

Kitchen by Zoldan Interiors

Kitchen by Zoldan Interiors

Where do you use wall lamps?

Wall lamps are frequently used in pairs – to frame mirrors, console tables, and sideboards.  They look smashing in powder rooms and master bathrooms.

Courtesy Lucas Studio

Courtesy Lucas Studio

 

As they are installed closer to eye level, it’s a good idea to look for fixtures that look beautiful during the day.  We love ones with mirrored finishes!

Alexa Hampton Madeline Sconce

 

Task Lighting

What are good task lighting fixtures?

For task lighting, the two most popular kinds of fixtures are floor lamps and table lamps.  If you are planning to install floor lamps in the middle of a room, remember to ask your electrician to install outlets nearby.  As for table lamps, this is a good way to bring in a bit of color into a room.

Courtesy Visual Comfort

Courtesy Visual Comfort

Accent Lighting

How do you light artwork?

The most common ways to light artwork is with track and recessed lighting because you have so much control over large areas and they are infinitely flexible.  But for lighting individual pieces, our favorite method is to use picture lights.  They can not only enhance the rest of the lighting fixtures in your space, but they will make your piece look precious.

 

Alexa Hampton Dean Picture Light

Alexa Hampton Dean Picture Light

Outdoor Lighting

What do I need to know about outdoor lighting?

Outdoor lighting is key in creating a welcoming environment as you come up to your home, but it also does something else: it adds an element of security.  Here are a few tips to get you started:

– Lead the way to your front door by using pathway lights that direct the light downward.  Do the same in the back as you move into your yard.

– Add bits of lighting around your flower beds.

– Welcome guests to your front door with a large ceiling mount fixture (pendant lamps are great for two-story homes) or sconces.

– Install sconces around your garage entrance and deck.

– Accent special trees or water features using spotlights.

– Use motion-sensor lights to increase security at night.

 

Courtesy Home Ideas

Courtesy Home Ideas

Energy-Efficient Lighting

What are LED lights?

LED (light-emitting diode) lights are super-efficient forms of lighting.  Compared to incandescent lights, they consume much less energy, last longer, and turn on more quickly.  As they are becoming the standard in residential lighting, you’ll probably be seeing them more frequently when you shop for lighting.

I’m confused by the kinds of LED lights available.  What should I get?

LED lights are available in different color temperatures so you can choose whether you’d like a warmer or cooler light.  The lower the number, the warmer the light.  Here are some suggested guidelines:

– 2700K (warm white) – ideal for homes, restaurants, and hotel lobbies

– 3000K (warm white, slightly cooler) – ideal for stores, offices

– 4000k (neutral white) – ideal for showrooms, offices

– 5000k (cool white) – ideal for museums, jewelry stores, hospitals

In the home, we usually recommend using 2700K throughout.  If you prefer a slightly whiter light for the kitchen, or if you have  a more modern style, then go with a cooler white.

And this is what they look like:

Image courtesy Superbright LEDs

 

Lighting Placement

KITCHEN LIGHTING

I’m designing a new kitchen and I’d like to learn how to light it properly.  Where should I start?

The best kitchens have a combination of overhead lighting (such as recessed lights) and task lighting (like undercabinet lights or pendants above the island) so you can avoid having strong shadows.  Aesthetically, pendant lights work well because they fill up the vertical space between the island and the ceiling.

Designer: Victoria Hagan

Designer: Victoria Hagan

How many pendants should I hang over my island?

Pendants look best in odd numbers, approximately 4 feet are apart.  So, if you had a 6 – 8 ft island, you could hang two lamps above it, whereas for a 9 ft island and above, you’d be better off with three.   For a modern look, choose a cluster of smaller pendants (around 5 in diameter); traditional rooms look best with larger lamps (around 14 in diameter).  Remember to hang them approximately 30 – 36″ above the island so that you can chat comfortably while you are seated.

How many recessed lights do I need in my kitchen?

If there are no tall cabinets in the perimeter of the room, place them 2 feet away from the wall, and every 6 or 7 feet apart.

– You do not need any lights right when you step into a room, so the first one can be placed about 3 – 4 feet inside a room.

– For hallways that are 9 – 14 feet, you’d need two recessed lights; above that, you’d need three or more.  The smaller lights look more elegant, so we usually use 4 in – 5 in diameter lights.

If there are upper cabinets, move them farther away from the wall so they are not shining directly at the edge of your countertop.  We usually center them along the walkway, so they are 3.5 – 4 feet from the wall.

Where do I need additional task lighting?

Under cabinets (to illuminate your countertops) and above the sink.

 

Image courtesy Fine Homebuilding magazine

Image courtesy Fine Homebuilding magazine

 

DINING ROOMS

How do I light my dining room?

We prefer dining rooms to feel more relaxed, so we usually just go with one ceiling fixture (like a chandelier) and two sconces on the wall on either side of the buffet or side table.  We do not used recessed lights unless the room is very large (more than 18 ft along any edge).

Courtesy Thomas Pheasant

Courtesy Thomas Pheasant

BEDROOMS

How much light do I need in a bedroom?

To determine the total number of watts you need in the room, multiply the width of the room (in feet) x the length of the room (in feet) x 1.5.

So for a 14 ft x 14 ft room (14 x 14 x 1.5 = 294), you’d need approximately 300 watts.   This is a lot of lighting, but you would spread this over different lighting sources so you can layer the brightness.  For example in a bedroom, you could do a flushmount ceiling lamp (for general lighting, with 2 x 60 watt bulbs), two bedside lamps (60 watt each), and a desk or floor reading lamp (also 60 watt).  Instead of the ceiling lamp, you could also install recessed lighting.

phoebe_howard_bedroom

Courtesy Phoebe Howard

What size chandelier should I get for my bedroom?

– Add the length and width of your room (in feet), and convert this number to inches.  This will be your diameter.

Example: for a room that is 20 ft long x 15 ft wide, you would need a 35″ rd chandelier.

– Measure the height of your room.  For every foot, allow 3 inches of height for your light fixture.  This will be your height.

Example: for a room that is 9 ft high, you would need a 27″ high chandelier.  But remember, when hanging your chandelier, leave approximately 6’6″ – 7′ clearance from the floor so that you and your guests have ample room to walk under the light fixture.

Courtesy Suzanne Kasler

Courtesy Suzanne Kasler

To view our selection of table lamps, floor lamps, wall lamps, ceiling lamps, bath lamps, and outdoor lighing, click here.

Like this post? Sign up for our email list to get news and special offers!

2 replies
  1. Ernest London
    Ernest London says:

    I really like that recessed lighting is practical and affordable. They also make a room look bigger because they don’t take up any space. I am trying to decide what kind of lighting I want to put in my new home. Recessed lighting seems like a great option, I will have to do a little more research on it.

  2. Barbera Peters
    Barbera Peters says:

    This article really helped me choose how I wanted to place lamps throughout my house. Since this is my first time ever decorating a house of my own I wanted to make sure I did the lighting right. You made a great point on how lamps are frequently used in pairs to frame mirrors, tables, and sideboards. I never thought about putting them in a bathroom until you mentioned it. Thanks for the great tips, I will keep them in mind when browsing for lamps to go with my bathroom mirror.

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *