When redecorating a room, or even an entire house, contemporary lighting is a major concern. Dimly lit areas are uninviting and even depressing since human beings naturally crave the light. Some rooms, of course, invite subdued lighting ... a bedroom doesn't need glaring light whereas a dramatic entryway or living room might be stunning with bold, dramatic spotlight.
The older the home, the greater the challenge when planning for modern lighting. Here are twelve issues to contemplate when planning your lighting update.
1. Consider your natural lighting first. In what direction are your windows facing? Northern light is usually cooler and whiter whereas daylight from southern-facing windows will be warmer and yellower. This is perfect for plants, but not as satisfactory to artists, who prefer the truer white of the north. Northern light is a more even hue and is more shadow-free, which isn't as comfortable in a relaxing den.
2. How is the light affected by your architecture and landscaping? Do you have trees that shade the light, or bushes that block the lower parts of the windows and decrease the over-all quantity of illumination? Does a roofline cast a shadow in an important area of a room? Can you increase the quality and quantity of accessible light without spending a fortune?
3. What activities take place in your rooms? Do some of them require more light than others? A desk that hosts homework or needlework requires strong and steady light that covers the entire work area. However, someone relaxing on a recliner and watching TV at the end of a busy day does not want this kind of focused brightness.
4. Do you need variable lighting? You might require a bright light focused on a dining room table while it is being set and dinner is served. However, once all diners are seated and have loaded their plates, a softer lighting is more appropriate and a dimmer switch will nicely provide for multiple intensities.
5. Are there details in your room upon which you wish to focus attention? Perhaps you own a spectacular fireplace or exceptional art? In that case, spot lighting might be appropriate. There might be other necessary, but not-so-attractive areas, that you might wish to downplay by muting the light. Or you might own a spectacular view that is especially enchanting at night. In that case, lights reflecting from the windows will make it more difficult, or even impossible, to see out.
6. Can you add light to a room by changing your decorating scheme? We recently brightened a dark-paneled den by painting all the woodwork and cabinets a creamy white and adding 2" white wood blinds. With this relatively simple change, the entire room has taken on an entirely new appearance and brightened dramatically.
7. How do your window treatments affect the light? Some homes with heavy drapes are either "on" or "off": that is, either the drapes are closed, making the room dark and frequently gloomy, or they are open and sunlight isn't filtered in any way. Blinds or certain shades can diffuse light while still allowing a large percentage of it to access and brighten a room.
8. Decorating features in your home may add light or take it away. For instance, a mirror will add a sense of spaciousness and illumination whereas outside shutters or awnings may block the sun's rays. It might be wonderful to shut out harsh sunlight on a 95 degree summer day, but in the middle of winter we want every sliver of light we can grab.
9. What about the natural traffic pattern of your room? A floor lamp placed so that people must detour around it isn't the wisest use of your light sources. Is an off/on switch conveniently located near all entrances? Groping around on the wall in the dark isn't favored by most people. If this is your situation, a simple sensor that turns on lights when a human enters a room is a clever solution.
10. Which areas are underlit and which are overlit? In my bedroom, for example, there is an exceedingly bright overhead light as part of a ceiling fan. It is great when finding an appropriate color of socks to wear in the morning, but completely unsuitable for reading in bed before going to sleep. A pool table needs strong lighting whereas a romantic seating area in a garden room does not.
11. What kind of lighting does your room need? Fluorescent fixtures might be perfect above a kitchen island but would be repulsive directly above an eating area. Schools and other institutions might welcome such unflattering lighting, but incandescent lighting might be more appropriate at home.
12. What is the condition of your wiring? Old and outdated wiring often cannot accommodate sleek new lighting systems without some work. Updating wiring can be expensive and disruptive, but it is also the opportunity to add new switches and cause updates for new computers, high speed Internet connections or high-tech TV or sound systems.
If you consider all these situations before spending a single penny updating to more contemporary lighting, your end result is certain to be more satisfying to everyone who lives in your home.