Get ready…this one’s a doozy! Have you ever walked into a room and immediately felt calm, energized, or even transported to another world? Chances are, the lighting played a huge role in creating that atmosphere. Lighting can make or break the mood of a space, and it’s no wonder that one of my clients recently asked me about the best practices for lighting her new build. 

I must admit, it’s a complex topic that goes way beyond just throwing a couple of bulbs in a room. But, when done right, lighting can transform a space and take it from okay to “this room is on fiyah.”

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Color Temperature

Did you know that the color of light is more than just an aesthetic consideration? It’s called color temperature, a vital aspect of lighting design. Color temperature is measured using the Kelvin (K) temperature scale, which ranges from “warm” yellows to “cool” blues. By understanding color temperature, you can choose the perfect light bulb and lighting fixtures for any space.

Do you want a cozy, relaxing vibe in your living room? Opt for warm white bulbs that measure around 2700-3000K. Need bright light for cooking, reading, or working? Choose cool white or daylight bulbs that measure around 4000-5000K. With the right color temperature, you can create the desired atmosphere and function for any room in your house.

photo depicting 3 lighting Kelvin colors of the same view - warm white, cool white, daylight
Source

Warm White (2700K-3000K)

Warm white light emits a soft, yellowish light that creates a cozy and inviting atmosphere (like candlelight or the glow from a lit fireplace). It’s perfect for living rooms, bedrooms, and other areas where you want to relax and unwind.

Cool White (4000K -5000K)

On the other hand, cool white light provides a cleaner, crisper light that’s ideal for workspaces, kitchens, and laundry rooms. They help enhance visibility and keep you alert and focused. They also are preferred in a bathroom.

Daylight (6000K and above)

If you’re thinking about using daylight bulbs with a blue tone, Just Say No. They’re designed for commercial spaces like retail or entertainment, not residences. After all, blue light glasses were invented for a reason! [Chuckling]

Natural Light: The Lowdown

Natural light is a game-changer when it comes to interior design and architecture. And let’s face it, no one wants to live in a dungeon. Most people prefer a home filled with natural light – it’s not just a source of lighting. Still, it has a myriad of benefits that are often overlooked:

  • Improves mood and comfort – Exposure to natural daylight has been shown to boost serotonin, improve sleep, and reduce depression. Natural light creates a more pleasant environment.
  • Reduces energy costs – Taking advantage of natural daylight reduces the need for artificial lighting during the daytime, saving $$$$ on electricity costs.
  • Enhances aesthetics – The changing color and shadows from natural light can make a space more visually appealing. Natural light brings out the textures and colors of design elements.
  • Promotes health – Natural sunlight provides vitamin D and regulates circadian rhythms, which are essential for physical and mental health. I am the type of person who needs LOTS of sunlight in my life.
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photo of modern home with large windows looking over greenery, mountains, and a lake
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However, natural light also presents some challenges:

  • Glare – Direct sun shining into a space can create uncomfortable glare. Solutions include window shades, tinting, and careful furniture arrangement. Try to avoid placing your TV opposite the west-facing windows.
  • Heat gain – Sunlight streaming through windows can quickly heat interior spaces and increase air conditioning loads. Strategic window placement, glazing selection, shading, and thermal mass help control solar heat gain. 
    • PRO Tip: When building or renovating, be mindful of where the thermostat is located – you don’t want it on a wall that gets direct sunlight because your summer AC bill will be $$$$.
  • Fading – Sunlight can fade and damage furnishings, fabrics, artwork, and floors over time. Window treatments and careful material selection can reduce damage.
  • Variable availability – Natural light availability changes with time of day, season, and weather conditions. Supplemental artificial lighting helps provide consistent illumination.
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With careful planning, the benefits of natural daylight can be harnessed while minimizing the potential drawbacks of optimal interior lighting design. That careful planning is most often performed by an architect and interior designer working together.

Artificial Light: The Scoop

Lighting is much more than just flipping a switch on and off. It’s an art form that can transform any room in seconds. To truly set the mood and create the perfect ambiance, you need to understand the three main types of lighting: Ambient, Task, and Accent lighting.

Ambient Lighting

This is the foundation of any good lighting design. It provides general illumination by filling the room with a soft, uniform light. This type of lighting comes from fixtures like ceiling or wall-mounted lights and is designed to avoid shadows or dark corners. But ambient light alone can feel flat and dull, which is why it’s usually combined with task and accent lighting.

Task Lighting

As the name suggests, it’s focused on specific tasks and activities. Whether reading a book or cooking a meal, having a desk lamp or under-cabinet lighting can provide directed illumination for the tasks at hand. Task lighting reduces eyestrain since it puts light exactly where you need it, making it an essential part of any well-lit space.

Accent Lighting

It’s all about adding drama and focusing attention on design details. It highlights special features or areas of interest in a room, creating visual interest and dimension. From track lights to picture lights or recessed lighting to spotlight artwork, accent lighting can transform a plain room into a work of art.

If you want to create a functional and fabulous space, you’ve got to combine ambient, task, and accent lighting. It’s like the ultimate trifecta of illumination! With all three layers appropriately lit, a space comes alive.

A selection of 12 different artificial light chandeliers and pendants
Some fave chandeliers & pendants

Avoiding Hot Spots

Let’s talk about hot spots in lighting. You know those intense beams of light that glare directly into your eyes? Yup, those are hot spots. They’re caused by poorly directed halogen lamps or lamp shades that are too low or short. Not only are hot spots visually uncomfortable, but they also make it difficult to see the rest of the room clearly.

The worst part about hot spots is that they create an uneven lighting effect. Instead of taking in the ambient lighting of the whole room, your eye is drawn to these overly bright spots. This makes the illumination seem unbalanced and harsh rather than creating a comfortable atmosphere. Plus, hot spots limit visibility by forcing your pupil to contract. While the hot spot is brightly lit, the surrounding areas seem dimmer by comparison, which makes it hard to view and appreciate the rest of the décor.

So, how can we avoid hot spots? The key is to avoid pointing light sources directly at eye level. Instead, try directing the light toward walls and ceilings or focusing on artwork and tasks. For halogen lamps, use shades to diffuse the light and place lamps higher rather than too low. The ultimate goal is a smoothly lit room without blinding anyone.

Lighting Fixtures

There are several types of lighting fixtures commonly used in interior design:

  • Flush Mount or Semi-Flush Mount – These domed fixtures are installed in the ceiling and provide ambient lighting. They spread light evenly over a space.
  • Downlights – Recessed downlights direct light from the ceiling and are often used to highlight art or architectural details. Adjustable directional downlights allow targeting the light.
  • Pendants and Chandeliers – Suspended lighting over tables, kitchen islands, seating areas, and more. Pendants are a single light, while chandeliers have multiple lights. They provide both ambient and task lighting.
  • Sconces – Wall-mounted fixtures that typically provide accent lighting and are often decorative. They work well in hallways, bathrooms, bedrooms, and living rooms.
  • Wall Washers – These are installed above artwork or architectural details to “wash” the surface with soft, even light.
  • Uplights and Torchieres – Uplights use the ceiling to reflect and diffuse light. Torchieres are a type of uplight in a floor lamp format.
  • Spotlights – Produce a narrow, focused beam of light. Often used to highlight art or architectural details.
  • Track Lighting – Light fixtures mounted to a track allowing flexible placement. Used to spotlight areas or objects.
  • Strip Lights – Thin continuous lights installed under cabinets, shelves, etc. Provides task lighting.
  • Table and Floor Lamps – Freestanding fixtures that provide task lighting and ambiance. Allows flexible placement.
A 2nd selection of 12 different artificial light chandeliers and pendants

Choosing Bulbs

When selecting light bulbs for your home, there are four main types to consider:

Incandescent

Incandescent bulbs are the traditional bulbs that have been used for over a century. They don’t break your wallet but are inefficient – 90% of the energy they consume generates heat, not light. They also have a relatively short lifespan of 750-1000 hours. However, their warm, yellowish light is attractive in many settings.

LED

LED bulbs are the most energy-efficient option, using at least 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs. They can last 25 times longer, up to 30,000 hours. The initial cost is higher, but LEDs save money in the long run through energy savings and not having to replace them as often. The light color can vary from warm to cool.

Halogen

Halogen bulbs are a type of incandescent bulb with halogen gas added. This allows them to be more energy efficient, lasting around 2000 hours. They produce a bright, white light good for task lighting. However, they still operate at high temperatures.

Fluorescent

Fluorescent bulbs use 25-35% of the energy of incandescents and can last 10,000-20,000 hours. They come in a range of color temperatures. However, they contain mercury, require proper disposal, and usually take time to warm up or produce an annoying buzzing sound. The light quality has improved in recent years.

Smart Bulbs

Smart light bulbs and lighting systems have revolutionized home lighting in recent years. Smart bulbs can be controlled remotely through smartphone apps, voice assistants, and smart home hubs. Some key benefits of smart lighting include:

  • Convenience – With smart bulbs, you can turn lights on or off, dim, change colors, and set schedules or automations from anywhere via your smartphone. No getting up to flip a switch.
  • Energy savings – Smart bulbs can be scheduled to turn off automatically when not needed. You also have more control over dimming, which can reduce energy use.
  • Enhanced ambiance – Tunable white bulbs allow you to adjust the color temperature from warm to cool White. Colored bulbs let you pick from millions of shades to set the perfect mood.
  • Integration with other smart devices – Connect smart bulbs with doorbell cameras, motion sensors, voice assistants, etc., to create automations like turning on lights when someone arrives home.
  • Security – Make it look like you’re home when you’re away by automatically scheduling lights to turn on and off.
  • Works with existing fixtures – Replace standard bulbs with smart bulbs without replacing entire light fixtures.

With features like grouping, rhythm, and scenes, you can customize your lighting environment to match your mood, style, or astrological sign! And if you’re all about health and wellness, you’ll love circadian rhythm bulbs supporting your body’s natural rhythms. SmartBulbs…so now you know.

A 3rd selection of 12 different artificial light chandeliers and pendants

Let’s wrap it up with some Best Practices to guide you. 

  • Layer your lighting using a combination of ambient, task, and accent lights. 
  • Consider lighting from multiple angles. Illuminate a space from overhead, table lamps, sconces on the wall, or even lighting on the floor. Light from different directions creates a more dynamic effect.
  • Use dimmers. Dimmer switches allow you to adjust the lighting to create the perfect ambiance for any activity or time of day. 
  • Please don’t overdo it with overheads. Ceilings washed with high-intensity halogen lighting give your ceiling a Swiss cheese look. Opt for several smaller light fixtures rather than a few harsh overheads.
  • Hide the light source. Place lamps behind objects or use indirect lighting to avoid glaring bulbs. The light should be visible, but the bulb should not be seen.
  • Consider color temperature. Match the color temperature of bulbs to the room and activities. Cool White for kitchens and workspaces, warm for living rooms and bedrooms.
  • Use lighting controls. Smart home technology makes it easy to control lighting via apps, voice activation, and automation based on schedules or room occupancy. [Cue seduction scene with Barry White playing in the background.]
  • Focus on sustainability. LED bulbs use far less energy and have long lifespans. Choose fixtures made from sustainable and non-toxic materials.
  • Plan lighting during design. Factor in lighting early in the design process. Identify focal points, required task areas, opacity of window treatments, etc. This is when an interior designer can work magic for you.

Need help with your lighting plan? I got you! Book a Discovery Call here.

Keep Dancing, Darlene