Lighting: The Basics

With all the planning involved in a home remodeling project, one item is often overlooked, lighting. Lighting can often make or break a room. A kitchen is one example where a good lighting plan can ...

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With all the planning involved in a home remodeling project, one item is often overlooked, lighting. Lighting can often make or break a room. A kitchen is one example where a good lighting plan can bring out all the best aspects of the room as well as providing adequate light to perform the many tasks this room demands. Today's kitchens are not just for cooking. In most homes the kitchen is the hub of the house and you can find people doing their bills and children doing their homework.

Let's first look at the basics when it comes to lighting. There are three types of lighting:

General or Ambient - is the light needed to illuminate a room so you can walk about safely. It is sometimes referred to as the substitute for sunlight. General or ambient light is an essential part of any lighting plan. This can be accomplished by ceiling fixtures, wall sconces, chandeliers, track lighting or recessed lighting.

Task Lighting - is the light needed to perform specific tasks such as cooking, cleaning, doing homework or paying bills, applying makeup to name a few. The key to good task lighting is placement and brightness so you can see what you are doing without glare and shadows. Task lighting can be accomplished with track lighting, recessed lighting, lamps and low voltage tracks and pendants.

Accent Lighting - is used to bring attention to an item or detail. Some examples would be illuminating a painting or a tile backsplash, a piece of art glass, a plant or tree inside or out or a crown molding with some cove lighting. Accent lighting can really bring a room to life and add interest. This type of lighting can be accomplished with low voltage track lighting, recessed lighting and other specialty light fixtures.

As you can see, all three types of lighting come into play when designing a lighting plan for the kitchen. There are so many great things you can do with lighting in a kitchen. Illuminating the inside of a glass cabinet with glass shelves allows you to show off your fine glassware. In some cases where it's possible, lighting above the crown molding over the cabinets can turn a beautiful kitchen into a stunning kitchen. A tile backsplash that looks wonderful in the sunlight can be rather drab and dull at night. Some nice low voltage linear lighting under the cabinets has a very dramatic effect.

Another aspect of lighting that is important is the controls. Grouping the lights in smaller groups and adding dimmers can give the room a lot of flexibility. The use of 3-way and 4-way switches can also enhance the lighting plan by adding more control. There are some great products available today such as the X-10 system that will allow you to create different moods with switching and dimming.

I have mostly dealt with kitchen lighting in this article but that is by no means the only room that can benefit from a good lighting plan. Every room in your house has the potential to look better and feel better through lighting design. Take a dining room for instance. In most cases a single chandelier or hanging fixture is all that is expected. There isn't anything wrong with that, but by adding some wall sconces and or some small recessed lights, the room can suddenly become so much more.

In future upcoming articles, I will discuss lighting design in other rooms in your home. If you have any questions please feel free to visit my website or email me.

This month's tip: Change your fluorescent light bulbs once a year. Fluorescent bulbs, unlike incandescent, don't just go out. They get progressively weaker over time and in a year you may only be getting 60-70% of the original light output. If left in for too long, when the ends are completely black and the bulb is flickering, it puts a lot of strain on the ballast and shortens its life.