Friday, November 22, 2013

How to light up your living room in four steps

How to create ambiance in your living room - lighting is everything
Beautifully designed interiors look great only if the lighting is right, and the opposite is true just as well: even the most beautiful decor would look kind of "blah" in bad lighting. I think the reason why so many of us overlook the importance of lighting is because it's sort of like your body. You don't really notice it, unless it hurts. when looking at a beautiful room from a magazine, you probably don't notice the lighting, but you sure will if the lighting was not done right.
So how do you create a lighting plan if you're not an expert.

Let me start with a few important guidelines to remember:
1. Layer your lighting - add lighting at a variety of heights and directions. For example: a table lamp usually sits low and shines up and down. Recessed lights shine down from the ceiling, wall sconces can shine either up, down, or to the sides.
2. NEVER rely on one single light fixture in a room, even if you load it with 300 watt. You'll have a "glare bomb" and lots of unflattering shadows.
3. Dimmers - always install dimmers on fixed lights, so you can easily change the mood of the room. When you have guests turn the lights down a little to a softer, warmer feel. Try and remember your favorite upscale restaurants. They are often dimly lit, so people wont feel too exposed, and will more likely feel comfortable talking to each other. 
4. Use soft warm light bulbs - "day light" CFL's are actually cooler then the soft warm kind.

How to light your living room in four steps 
Let's focus on the living room, since its one of the most important rooms in every home, and perhaps at the top of your list of rooms to invest in good lighting. 
Below is an illustration of a living room which I sketched for you. We will add up lighting as we go through the four steps.

living room (before)
1. Start with task lighting - if you like to read, play an instrument or board games with your family in that room, you'll need bright focused lighting. Typically, I use table lamps, task lamps and floor lamps for that purpose, simply because they are fairly cheap and movable. You need that flexibility to direct the light exactly where you need it most. This step is the cheapest of all steps, but probably the most important.

Task lighting (table and floor lamps)

2. Next - accent lights. These are intended to light anything you want to accentuate, such as artwork, architectural features like an alcoves, high ceiling, built ins etc. You might need to install (directional) recessed or wall sconces for that purpose. This step is obviously more expensive the the previous.

accent lights ( directional recessed , alcove wall sconces)

3Decorative lighting - Decorative lighting is any lighting fixture that adds style and artistic flare. The focus is on the looks, not necessarily the amount of light, but obviously you can combine both form and function and find lighting fixtures that have both style and sufficient wattage for your needs. Decorative lighting examples: table lamps, floor lamps, wall sconces and ceiling mounted pendants or even flush or semi flush ceiling lights.
decorative lighting (ceiling pendant, table lamp)

4. Ambient lighting - this is essentially what we call "general lighting". It's a fairly low amount of light, enough to see your way around a room. 
Now, at this point of your lighting project, you might already have enough lighting, so you can skip this step.That's why it's the last step, not because it's less important, but because it might already be taken care of.
However,if there are still dark areas in the room, your best options for lighting them are recessed lights. or ceiling mounts (flush/semi-flush mounts). 

ambient (general) lighting - recessed

Lighting is an art, and you never know EXACTLY how a room will look and feel with the lights on, until they are "on". That's why adding lighting in stages, is a safer, more economical way to go. You start with the easiest, cheapest method and add on as you go. Play around with the "movable" lamps (table lamps and floor lamps), and make sure the light bulbs are of soft warm lighting.
If you need further help with picking out the right lighting for your personal style, or figure out exactly where to install those recessed lights, contact me 617-584-9965,


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