Thursday, September 7, 2017

Illuminating Guidelines For Lighting Your Home


Given that we tend to spend a gazillion dollars on renovations, remodels, and refurbishing our homes, it’s a little strange that one of the most important aspects - the lighting - is often forgotten about. That said, it’s not much of a surprise. After all, one person’s dingy hole is another’s dark and comfortable retreat - and there are certainly no hard and fast rules. However, whether you are looking for a bright and airy feel, or just want pockets of light for a more homely and relaxing feel, there are a few things you need to know. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some illuminating guidelines for lighting the home.

A question of science

First, some science - and a quick look at the basics of lighting. Light is measured by ‘Lux’ and ‘Lumens.’ Without getting bogged down in the technicalities (and it is very technical!),  lumens describe the amount of light emitted by a bulb, while lux describes the level of light encountered in a room. In theory, one lumen equals one lux - but there are a lot of other factors to consider. The decor, size, shape, and colour of your room, furniture, and even your wall hangings will all result in some loss of light. So, buying a bulb that is high lumens won’t necessarily mean a bright and airy room - it all depends on those external factors.

Confused? Don’t be. All you need to know is that the perfect lux level for each room depends on your needs. As an example, somewhere you relax will be more than comfortable with 120 lux, while a reading room or library (if you have one!) would need something like 200 lux. In comparison, a surgical theatre typically needs to be super bright to ensure clinical precision, and are often more than 1000 lux, while commercial buildings are often 500 lux. The key takeaway is this: if you decorate your room with dark colours, and that room is large, you will need a higher powered bulb to light it properly than you would in a small, brightly-coloured room.

So, the size and colour of your rooms must be considered before you start investing in lights. As obvious as it may seem, few people take size into consideration, and will often buy lights that end up being overbearingly bright, or completely ineffective. Also, lighting a room effectively isn’t just a case of hanging the brightest bulb you can find, naked, from the light fitting. Lighting is decoration - pure and simple - and the larger the room you have, the more decoration you’ll need to consider.


Natural light

Again, some people love their homes flooded with natural light, while others prefer hiding away from the sun. That said, if you were to ask any estate agent about homes that sell quickly, almost every one of them would tell you that natural light is a key selling point. So, whether you are a natural light lover or a sun avoider, it’s probably worth thinking about how to get more natural light in your home. Not only will it help you get a higher selling price when it comes to moving on, but it is also healthy - exposure to natural light is essential for getting enough Vitamin D, improves your well-being, and even improves your concentration.

But what if you live in a dark and dingy home, and want to increase your natural light? Don‘t panic - there is plenty you can do. First of all, take a good look around your garden and backyard area. Are there trees or tall bushes and shrubs blocking out the light? Trimming them back can leave the sun free to shine through your windows. Dark curtains and shades are also an obvious light block - as are dirty windows - so make sure you keep things lighter coloured, fresh looking and clean. You should also consider spending some serious time at your local design or furniture store - particularly in the mirror sections. Mirrors reflect light with almost zero loss, so if you are struggling with natural light, a few well-placed pieces will help you create the illusion of more light. Finally, homes with a lack of natural light will appear incredibly dingy if you use dark colours and hues for your decor. Using shades of white, pale greys, and bright, sunny colours will help the light bounce around your room with more aplomb.

Moving on, some homes seem impossible to attract the right levels of natural light. Whether it’s due to all the windows facing the wrong way or just that they are small, it can be painful for those that would love a more airy and brighter room. But there is a solution. You can consider door replacement, either at the front or rear of your home and go for an all-glass finish instead of the traditional wood. You could knock through your external walls - if safe, of course! - and install sliding doors or something like French windows. Concerned about privacy? Don’t be - just choose a frosted or tinted option to finish the windows so no one can see in, but the light still floods through. Skylights are another excellent choice for lighting, although you need to bear in mind that they do come at significant cost. Not only are they expensive to install, but they aren’t very thermally efficient - heat can escape, and your heating bills will increase!


Lighting types

OK, so now we have the basics out of the way, it’s time to take a closer look at your actual lighting options. There is plenty to choose from, but in essence, it all boils down to three distinct categories: fixed light; free standing; and special purpose lights.

Fixed lighting is your primary source of light for each room, and it will differ depending on where you are in the home. For example, it’s likely that your living area or bedroom will have an opened or enclosed ceiling dome - or pendant lamp - that hangs down from the ceiling and is the focal point of every room. How you cover that ceiling dome is a question of personal choice, but you have the option of everything from a chandelier through to a simple, lightweight paper covering. In your kitchen and bathroom, you might have surface-mounted lights - spot- or strip lights, for example. There’s recessed lighting, too. This type of light is extremely discreet and very contemporary. They are usually built into the ceiling to provide illumination in large rooms with an interesting focal point or for those that want their furniture and decor to speak for themselves.

However, while the primary light source of any room is important, it’s secondary lighting that helps brighten a room perfectly for any occasion. Floor lamps can reach the parts of a room that your primary light can’t reach - dark corners, or areas blocked by tall shelves and bookcases, for example. Table lamps can light up a work desk, allow you to read at night, and even instil an intimate atmosphere into any room. Try placing your table lamps at different levels of the room, and you can create a really atmospheric sense of warmth. Nightlights - with their soft and comforting glow - can provide your kids with a sense of security against the Boogeyman, without disturbing their sleep. And finally, you can consider arm lamps - perfect for studies or workspaces.

If you really want to show off, however, then you should consider investing in some special purpose lighting. Accent lights can draw the eye to specific features of your home - and old, beautiful fireplace and mantle, for example. Background lights can act as a stand-in for natural light and are also a good backdrop for introducing various light effects. If you are into your psychedelic fashion, you can also think about using backlights - they are perfect for a futuristic setting, or whenever you need low-level lighting - such as watching your home cinema.

Bonus Tips

So what, exactly, is the perfect lighting solution for your home? As you can see, it’s going to vary from room to room, but also person to person. As we discussed in the intro, there is no cut and dry approach, but there are a few simple tips you can use to ensure the special characteristics of our home are offset, highlighted, or contrasted with lighting.

First of all, avoid harsh, bright lights in the bedroom. Soft, single shade ceiling lamps and some bedside table lamps are all you need. The living room, however, has multiple uses - from watching TV and reading, through to entertaining and general use, so you need to think a little carefully about your lighting. A dimmer switch for your main ceiling light will be a valuable tool, while floor lamps and table lamps spread about at different levels can provide wonderfully atmospheric effects - for cosy nights in or social occasions.

The kitchen needs to be as bright as possible, so high luminosity spotlights - or even strip lights - are going to be useful in helping you keep your kitchen super clean and welcoming. You can also consider recessed lights - perhaps travelling all the way down your ceiling, and maybe even in walls near your prep areas.

Finally, the worst area of your home to light well - the bathroom. You will need a bright and clear light for getting ready in the morning, and something far more relaxing in the evening when you are trying to unwind. Try using two different types of light to give yourself options - an enclosed dome or some recessed lights, and install some accent lighting for the times you just want to relax in the bath.

We hope this guide has helped - leave any of your lighting suggestions in the comments!

xxo
Kim

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