Interior Home Lighting

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Home lighting is probably the most important element in home interior decorating, because it is instrumental in setting the mood of any room. It can affect performance, mood, morale, safety and security. When deciding what lighting to use in your new home it's important to consider how each room will be used, what fixtures are appropriate, energy efficiency and cost. To ensure that you will achieve the desired effect for your rooms, you first need to understand the four basic types of home lighting.

Ambient or general lighting illuminates the whole room. It is a good idea to install a dimmer with your track and recessed lights so that you have the flexibility to adjust the brightness. Examples of ambient lighting are recessed downlights, cove lighting, soffit lighting, valance lighting, wall washers, sconces, surface-mounted lights, pendant lights, track lights, chandeliers, under-cabinet lights and portable fixtures.

Task lighting provides sufficient light to help you perform the task at hand, for example reading, cooking, shaving, etc. Task lighting should be glare free and it should make things easy to see without tiring or straining your eyes. Examples of task lighting are valance lighting, pendant lights, under-cabinet lights and portable fixtures.

Accent lighting is focused lighting that is used to illuminate an object in your home like a sculpture, piece of art, or architectural element. Accent lighting is about three times as bright as ambient lighting. Example of accent lighting are wall washers, sconces, track lights and under-cabinet lights.

Natural lighting comes through windows, doors, and skylights and depending on the time of day, season, or weather, it can vary in brightness and intensity.

Types of Lighting Fixtures

Once you've considered what types of activities will be taking place in a room and what type of lighting is needed, you'll need to decide what fixture will work best in each room in your new home and don't be afraid to use multiple types of interior lighting. In fact, mixing and matching different light fixtures can help create a dramatic look and aesthetically pleasing room. The type of lighting you choose can also help make a room look larger or smaller.

Be prepared: Walking into any light fixture store can be overwhelming, so be sure to have a list of the types of fixtures your considering and how many you will need in each room. Before purchasing any fixtures, make sure you ask your builder if there are any restrictions on the types of fixtures that can be used in any specific room, because sometimes things such as ductwork, insulation or ceiling height can affect whether or not a fixture can be installed properly in a room.

Tip: Your local American Lighting Association (ALA) showroom is the best place to view the many different styles, sizes and shapes of lighting fixtures that are available to deliver the ambient/general, task, and accent light you need. Below is a list of the different types of lighting fixtures.

Hall/Foyer Fixtures can create a harmonious atmosphere, while providing you with the general lighting you need to greet guests and move safely from room to room. Use ceiling, chain-hung, or close-to-ceiling fixtures in hallways, stairways, and entranceways.

Chandeliers can add sparkle and style to your dining room while giving you the ambient/general lighting you need for dining and entertaining. They are also used in large bedrooms, foyers, or over a living room grouping or a grand piano. Some are designed with downlights to provide task lighting for homework or table games. Chandeliers are available in both incandescent and tungsten-halogen. The addition of a dimmer control lets you alter the intensity of light to suit the mood and activity going on in your room.

Pendants can provide both task and ambient/general lighting. Equipped with shades or globes to avoid glare, they are usually found hanging from the ceiling over dinette tables, game tables, kitchen counters, or other work areas. When used over end or night tables, they free up the space occupied by table lamps. For added flexibility use a dimmer control.

Ceiling Fixtures usually provide general lighting and are very practical in busy areas such as foyers, hallways, bedrooms, kitchens, baths, laundry rooms, playrooms, and dens. They are available with incandescent, fluorescent, and energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.

Wall-Mounted Fixtures can provide ambient/general, task, and accent lighting. Many are designed to match and supplement dining room chandeliers, or to provide hallway, bedroom, or living room lighting. Wall brackets are often used for task lighting at the bathroom mirror. They are available with a choice of incandescent, tungsten-halogen, and energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.

Bath/Vanity Lighting Strips provide task lighting, while supplementing the general lighting provided by ceiling fixtures. Similar to the lighting in theater dressing rooms, these soft glowing strips of globe-shaped incandescent bulbs provide excellent lighting for grooming.

Portable Lamps provide ambient/general, task, and accent lighting and give you the added flexibility of moving the light whenever you want. Table lamps, floor lamps, and torchiers are available in a variety of styles to complement your decor. Small specialty lamps, such as clip-on lights, uplight cans, adjustable task lights, mini-reflector spotlights, desk and piano lamps fill a variety of task and accent light needs. These lamps are available with incandescent, tungsten-halogen, and energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.

Track Lighting can provide ambient/general, task, or accent lighting all at once in one flexible lighting system. You can move, swivel, rotate, and aim the individual fixtures in any direction along the track, giving you the versatility to change your lighting scheme whenever you want. You can also hang chandeliers and pendants from the track. Track fixtures are available in standard or low-voltage current, and a choice of incandescent, tungsten-halogen, and energy-efficient compact fluorescent light sources.

Recessed Lighting can provide ambient/general, task, or accent lighting inconspicuously. Installed in the ceiling with only the trim showing, recessed fixtures can be used anywhere in the home. They are ideal for low-ceiling areas, and with a special adapter they can also be used in cathedral ceilings. They are available as downlights, adjustable accent lights, and wall washers in both standard and low-voltage current and a choice of incandescent, tungsten-halogen, and energy-efficient compact fluorescents.

Undercabinet/ Undershelf Fixtures provide both task and accent lighting. Under kitchen cabinets they light a countertop. In a display cabinet they show off special collections. They include slim, energy-efficient fluorescents, miniature track lighting, and strips of low-voltage mini-lights.

What About the Bulbs?

Certain fixtures are designed for a specific type of bulb, such as a two- or four-pin fluorescent bulb. Others can accommodate the more common screw-in type. When choosing fixtures, be sure to note what type of bulb it requires, so that you won't be surprised to find the bulb you bought isn't the right one.

Incandescent bulbs are the most heavily used in homes. Unfortunately, these bulbs are inefficient and expensive to operate. Fluorescent bulbs have come a long way from the humming, glaring office lights we've all been exposed to. Today's fluorescent bulbs don't hum, and they provide light that is almost identical to incandescent bulbs. The best part is that fluorescent bulbs have significantly longer life than incandescent bulbs (almost 10 times as long), use less energy and are affordably priced for use in your home. Halogen and LED bulbs are also available for the home market. Both are more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs, but are more expensive than fluorescent lights.

Room-By-Room Home Lighting Ideas

When you start shopping for lighting fixtures, you'll find that there are literally hundreds of home lighting options, so think of lighting from two perspectives - function and aesthetics. Functionally, your home lighting needs to provide the right type of light in sufficient quantity for your intended purpose. Aesthetically, you can configure your lighting to create the desired mood through its intensity, style and color.

Below are some ideas for lighting the various rooms in your home.

Living Rooms

- Place a lamp about 42 inches above the floor in areas where you plan to do reading.
- Highlight a framed piece of art with halogen track lighting or by attaching a picture light.
- Use accent lights to illuminate bookcases or display shelves.
- Install recessed lighting as your general lighting or to accent beautiful wall textures, but be sure your lighting comes with a dimmer.
- Slim strip lights come in just about any length and can stick to the edge of shelves or ledges to highlight displays.


- A grid of recessed ceiling cans will provide great general lighting and flexibility.
- Install individual recessed down-lights as task lighting for the sink and cooking areas.
- Place halogen pendant lights over bars and countertops.
- Under-cabinet lights make excellent task lighting.

Dining Rooms

- A chandelier with a dimmer over the dining room table creates a beautiful setting.
- Highlight a framed piece of art with halogen track lighting or by attaching a picture light.
- Install halogen strip lighting inside your china cabinet to highlight china or collectibles.
- If don't care for a chandelier and you have a long table, try using a trio of pendant lights.


- Place table lamps on your bedside tables, but avoid halogen lamps in children's rooms because they can get very hot.
- Wall sconces can provide good general lighting without being too bright.
- If space is limited you should consider recessed lights or pendant lights.
- If you want to create a romantic setting, place candles around the room.


- Use shadow-free fluorescent or incandescent lights around mirrors for grooming.
- To avoid shadows, place mirror lights on the side rather than directly overhead.
- It's always a good idea to install a night light.

About the Author:

Tammy Crosby is Editor and Author for Dream Designs, The Homebuilding Club, and TheHouseDesigners. The House Designers award winning residential house plans, architectural home designs, floor plans, blueprints and house plans will make your dream home a reality!

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Anonymous said...

Having recently transformed my house, I had some troubles I would like to pass onto others so they can dodge the issues I had. First of all don’t trust anyone else’s opinion on furniture except yours and people living in the house. Don’t ask why I’ve put this just listen to it. Also if you are going to attempt to have contemporary lamps make sure you buy them from somewhere reputable so you know they are contemporary and they will last. Also make sure your dining tables big enough for all the family/friends when they come round to dinner to judge all your hard work. Nothing worse then having a few people on patio chairs eating off the corner of the table.

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