Let There Be Architectural Light. But What Kind?

The world of lighting has evolved into a universe of choices. There are CFL bulbs, halogen bulbs and now, LED bulbs. Whatever your preference (and even if you’re still enamored of increasingly hard-to-find incandescent bulbs), the broader question is what are you trying to achieve with your lighting? Drama? Mystique? Or maybe just plain old illumination.

Let’s start in the living room. Most people read, watch TV, play games or even browse the internet here. The lighting, therefore, should be soft and cozy, not glaring and direct. So instead of direct overhead lighting, consider lighting that bounces off ceilings or walls to create a warmer glow to the entire room. You can accomplish this with track lighting that faces walls or is directed at the ceiling. You can even create lighting valances or soffits to diffuse the light. If you still insist on a reading lamp, add one to the room. It doesn’t have to stay on all the time, and it should not be too bright to cause glare. If there’s artwork on the walls, you could go ahead and put some well placed accent lighting there as well.

Next, let’s head into the kitchen. Most folks spend more time here than they do in their living rooms, but let’s face it, this is a food preparation area that seems to double as a hangout for family and friends. The lighting here should help, not hinder. Recessed ceiling lights that shed light down should be over sinks, stoves, cabinets and center islands, not over chairs. For drama in areas where you eat and gather but don’t prepare food, try cove lighting to throw light off walls.

Then, head to the bathroom and turn that overhead lighting off. It’s garish at best and definitely unflattering. Go for some lights on either side of the mirror. You won’t need as much lighting as you think because the mirror will double the lighting effect. This lighting will cast fewer shadows and make the restroom a more pleasant place to visit.

Back in the dining room, you’ll want the lighting to focus on the table. The best way to accomplish this is to make sure the lights are directly above the dining table. A good recommendation would be to add a dimmer control to the dining room lighting, so it can be brightened for serving, and dimmed for ambient mood lighting once the meal commences. Don’t be afraid to experiment with soffit lighting or valance lights in this room.

Lastly, let’s head for the bedroom. This is supposed to be a restful place, not a gym. Avoid ceiling mounted lights that drop light into the room like an interrogation room. Go instead for soft lighting. Wall Scones near the dressers and table lamps on the night stands.

Before you go to bed, though, make sure you turn off the lights in the main entry. That chandelier over the front steps should be just enough to light the way without overwhelming anyone.

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