“Turn off the lights! Who do you think we are, Thomas Edison’s cousins?” This phrase was uttered so many times in my house that I thought for sure this Edison guy was going to show up for Sunday dinner. My dad may have had other reasons for turning off the lights, but from a design perspective he wasn’t wrong. Most of the design experience is visual. Lighting plays a major role in establishing the atmosphere and is the key to how a person should feel in that space.

To perfectly light a room, you will want to layer it with what is known as ambient, task and accent lighting. First, establish a plan that begins with the ambient lighting. The goal of the ambient lighting is to clearly illuminate the space. Think overhead lights or pathway lighting. Examples of these are chandeliers or recessed can lights. This will give you a fighting chance to make it through the room without tripping over a toy or stubbing your toe.

Next on the hit parade is the task lighting. These illuminate specific activities like reading, writing, and working in the kitchen. Pendant and under-cabinet lights are used for this as well as table and floor lamps.

My absolute favorite of all the layers is the accent lighting. Count on these to add drama to your space. It will surely highlight an object, a piece of art, or an architectural feature. Another tool in the lighting design toolbox is the invaluable dimmer switch. Have you ever had a romantic dinner for two with a 1500 watt halogen bulb? Not a good look for the room, or for that matter, you. The good news is that dimmers are easy to install and very reasonably priced. Perhaps the news that would have made my dad the happiest is that they save energy. So go ahead and turn off or on the lights. Either way, the room is going to benefit.

Here are a few of our favorite lighting resources:

Visual Comfort

Posted by:Sue Haggblom

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