One of the easiest ways to make your home feel like new again is through changing how you light the different parts of your house. This blog will look at the various aspects that go into how you can turn a dim drab home into one that more aligns with your dreams.
Types of Lighting
Understanding the types of lighting will assist you in determining the aesthetics in which you feel most comfortable. Generally, lighting function falls in one of three categories: ambient, task, and accent. This basic overview comes from the article How to Pick the Best Light Bulb for Every Room.
- General or ambient lighting acts as the overall lighting of a room. It illuminates all of the room and is considered the room’s “natural light.” You might use a chandelier, pendant light, track lighting or wall sconces to create ambient light that fills the room.
- Task lighting lights up a work or reading area. You want this lighting to be brighter than your ambient lighting, so the contrast focuses the light in the specified area. Desk lamps and under-cabinet kitchen lights are common task lighting options. But pendants and track lighting can be used for task lighting, too, but it depends on how you layer the lighting in your room, and how bright your bulbs are.
- Accent lighting highlights a particular area, like a work of art or a bookcase. It usually creates shadow around the object for a dramatic effect. Wall lights and landscape lights are common accent lights.
Your bulb is your light source, so the type of bulb determines what the light will look like. Different bulbs perform differently, and there are four basic types:
- Incandescent: These are the traditional bulbs most of us have used for decades, and they’re starting to phase out in favor of more energy-efficient options. They produce a warm, glowing light.
- Compact florescent bulbs (CFLs): These use 75 percent less energy than an incandescent bulb. They also last longer. They usually emit a cooler tone, but you can find them in a range of brightness levels and temperatures. It’s worth noting that CFLs do contain mercury, and while the amounts are small, they still require more careful handling and disposal.
- LEDs: These are just as efficient as CFLs, but they can last up to three times longer. They used to be mostly used for task lighting, because they only provided a harsh, direct light, but like CFLs, they’ve come a long way. They now offer the same look as incandescents, but they’re efficient, less hot to the touch, and last a long time. For these reasons, they can also be more expensive, but there are utility rebates available.
- Halogen: These give off a bright, white light, similar to natural daylight. Great for task lighting. They also use 10-20 percent less energy than an incandescent bulb.
Lumens Recommended by Room Type
The more lumens, the brighter the bulb. A typical home bulb produces about 800 lumens, which is the equivalent of 60 watts. So how many lumens do you need for each room? The following is a generalized breakdown of recommended levels by room type.
Kitchens: 5,000-10,000 total lumens
Bathrooms: 4,000-8,000 total lumens
Bedrooms: 2,000-4,000 total lumens
Living rooms: 1,500-3,000 lumens
Dining rooms: 3,000-6,000 lumens
Home offices: 3,000-6,000 lumens
Beyond brightness, you also want to consider the color temperature of the light. CFLs weren’t great years ago, because they mostly only produced a very blue, cool light. But they’ve come a long way, and you can now find them in warmer, yellower tones. The following is a brief overview of the types of temperature in relation to bulbs and lighting.
- Soft white/warm white (2700 Kelvins): Best for bedrooms and living rooms; providing a traditional warm, cozy feel to them.
- Bright white/cool white (4100 Kelvins): Best in kitchens, bathrooms or garages; giving rooms a whiter, more energetic feel.
- Daylight (5000-6000 Kelvins): Best in bathrooms, kitchens and basements; good for reading, intricate projects, or applying makeup—provides the greatest contrast among colors.
Psychological and Physiological Effects of Light
There have been many studies demonstrating the effects of lighting on various aspects of mood and behavior. The following information came from the article Room-by-Room Interior Lighting Guide: Indoor Lighting Tips.
- Emotions (both positive and negative) are felt more intensely under bright light.
- Excessive light at night, including electronic media, can create difficulties sleeping and exacerbate sleeping disorders.
- Students and workers are healthier, happier, and more productive when there is more natural light (daylighting). “Daylighting also decreases utility costs and improves the well-being of building occupants.”
Studies have also been conducted on rats and other mammals that demonstrates the effect light has on melatonin, which has been found to determine the body’s output of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood, behavior, appetite, sleep, memory, and desire.
Lighting is both an art and a science — it can affect our mood, appetite, and sleep. In order to implement an effective lighting strategy for your home, you will need a professional that fully understands electrical systems and lighting design. Besides the technical knowledge required, the person installing your lighting should also be concerned with mood, aesthetics, safety, and enjoyment.
Tips for Improved Lighting
The following are the top tips by room as specified in the article 19 Secrets for Getting Good Lighting in Every Spot Around Your Home.
General tips for the whole house:
- Include at least three sources of light in each room: General lighting (overhead or pendant), Specific lighting (task or table), and Ambient lighting (sconces, candles, or decorative).
- Maximize natural light by keeping your windows clean—it’s cheap, simple, and really does make a difference.
- Choose the right shade for your fixtures: White shades let more light pass through but can create a colder tone, while colored shades will tint light, making it appear creamier, warmer, or cooler, depending on the hue you choose.
- Incorporate reflective surfaces into your home; mirrors, glossy floors, and metallic finishes will bounce light around a room.
- Swap in more decorative lighting for builder-grade fixtures to change the look of your room.
- Under-cabinet lighting can be extremely useful. It can illuminate your countertops while you work and can be turned off with the flick of a switch when you need more ambiance.
- Light the dark corners of your kitchen that include features like shelves, counters, cupboards, and pantries. Areas like these are often neglected, but they become more functional and beautiful when properly lit.
- Pendant lamps can be a fun and functional option above kitchen sinks, islands, and breakfast nooks. In the first two cases, they can help to illuminate the work triangle, which is where home chefs do their most prep, cooking, and clean up.
- Use candles safely for ambiance. Nothing helps to set the mood like a row of tealights in votives or a scented candle on your nightstand.
- Bedside lamps with warm bulbs are a must. No one wants to leave the comfort of their covers to turn the lights out after reading—or to have to try to find the way back to the bed after flicking the switch at the door.
- The latest techy alarm clock lights serve as a unique way to wake you up in the morning. They work well with your circadian rhythm by imitating a sunrise and will always feel better than flicking on harsh overhead lights.
- Consider scale. Table lamps are great, but sometimes a large lantern, an oversized pendant, or a big sculptural floor lamp can add a focal point that every well-designed room should have
- Add a dimmer switch to your overheads. This allows you to easily change the mood and brightness of your lighting depending on the time of day. It’s also perfect for making those at home movie nights feel like they’re happening in a legit theater.
- Make sure to light darker corners. There’s always that one dim spot in the living room that makes it impossible to do anything once the sun goes down. Add a lamp for a subtle glow that’ll instantly cozies up your space.
Install vanity lighting or lights around your mirrors. When you get ready in the morning, you’ll be thankful for the soft glow that radiates from these types of lights versus the typical harsh overhead lighting that can cast odd shadows.
Opt for daylight-simulating light bulbs. If you’re someone who wears makeup, you’ll be able to see how your face will actually look outside of your home much better than under fluorescent bulbs.
Bring in candles to use for bath time and unwinding. Nothing compares to the soft glow of candlelight, so it’s worth having a few on hand when you’re doing a face mask or taking a bubble bath.
A quick note about hallway lighting from the article The Best Type of Lighting for Every Room in Your House.
As transition areas between rooms, hallways don’t pose as many specific lighting concerns as other spaces. Choose a flush-mount ceiling fixture for inconspicuous light, or attach a few sconces along the wall for indirect lighting. You don’t typically need particularly bright light in hallways, so 5-10 lumens per square foot is generally sufficient.