A Comprehensive Guide to Lighting Your Home Beautifully
Light your home beautifully and effectively with this expert advice
There’s one beautiful statement that Le Corbusier, the French pioneer of modern architecture, left us with: ‘Light creates ambience, light makes the feel of a space, and light is also the expression of structure.’ I feel this quote perfectly sums up what lighting does for us as humans.
To begin to understand lighting design, know that the quality of light is assessed by three main things: an individual’s wellbeing, architecture and economics.
There are four main lighting functions that each provide different effects for different uses. First you will need to determine what an area is used for, then these lighting functions will help you to implement the correct lighting for the task needed.
Ambient lighting, also known as ‘basic’ or ‘background’ lighting, is what provides an overall illumination so that people can comfortably navigate a space. This type of lighting is seen in this home through the recessed halogens and natural light.
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Task lighting, also known as ‘directional’ lighting, focuses on illuminating a particular area for a specific task that needs to be carried out. You would use task lighting in your study, above the kitchen worktop, in the bathroom, in your wardrobe and anywhere that a task needs to be carried out. This home office has a recessed halogen for ambient lighting while an anglepoise-style lamp provides task lighting as it focuses on a particular area.
This type of lighting is crucial, as working under bad lighting is a risk to your wellbeing and physical health.
Accent lighting is used to highlight a particular area or feature within a room. Accent lighting deals with the architectural and design elements within your home. This form of lighting is what creates drama within a space. In this interior, the accent lighting comes in the form of a recessed ceiling light and accentuates the living room’s textured wallpaper.
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Decorative lighting fixtures are used to draw attention to the fixtures themselves. The decorative lighting in this living room is the gorgeous pendant light above the dining room table. Notice that this light is not only decorative, but also acts as a task light and as an ambience light source (one light can have more than one function). This pendant light draws attention to the fixture itself, would provide light for the task of eating and also creates a great ambience in the room when the light is switched on.
Now you understand the functions of light, we can look at the three different sources of light and you can choose what type of light is best for its function.
Produces visible light by heating a material – usually a thin metal filament. This heat is visible in the warmth of the light. The best place for this type of lighting is if you want to create a warm atmosphere. Notice how incandescent lighting has been paired with the warm timbers in this study.
Common Light Types: Incandescent and halogen.
Note: This type of lighting is considered the most energy inefficient, so consider using this light carefully. Only 10% of the energy goes to creating actual light; the other 90% of energy is lost in heat.
Produces light by creating an electrical discharge through gas. This type of lighting is usually used in workplaces and shopping malls as it’s cheap to buy and run. These lights usually last 13 times longer than incandescent lighting, but, under long exposure, can cause headaches, eye strain and anxiety/stress.
The overhead light in this kitchen acts as task lighting, however the diffuser blends the stream of light down so it is not fully directional, creating more of a soft light.
Common Light Types: Fluorescent, metal halide and sodium lamps.
Produces electromagnetic radiation (usually visible light) in response to an electric current. This type of light is the most efficient, both cost wise and for the environment. LEDs are also very flexible, allowing you to choose anything between a cool and warm light (the temperature/colour of light is measured in Kelvins, which we will go into in further detail below). There are even LEDs available that allow you to change the colour and warm via a remote control.
The ceiling slots used in this home provide a controlled and directional light, they accentuate the room and direct your eyes down the area, making it feel long and creating a lovely ambience.
Common Light Types: Electroluminescent panels, light emitting diodes (LEDs) and organic LEDs (OLEDs).
A bulb’s ‘colour temperature’ (how warm/yellow or cool/white a light is) is measured in kelvins. You will see this represented as a ‘K’ on some light bulbs. The lower the colour temperature, the more yellow the light, and the higher the temperature the more blue the light.
Stick to either a warm or cool light in one single space. Try not to mix the two, as they don’t usually work well together, unless you plan on using the two separate lights at different times. Say you have an open-plan kitchen and living room: you may want a clean and cool light for cooking – this could be applied through overhead lights. Then you may want a warm light you can turn on when you’ve moved from the kitchen into the living room and need a nice ambience. This warm ambient light could be applied in recessed LED strip lighting underneath the cabinets. These two light sources with different temperatures would then be used at different times.
The most important thing for you to think about is whether daylight can provide most of the lighting requirements during the day. This is the healthiest type of light for us as humans, the best for the environment and it’s free! Luckily for everyone, advances in technology have given us options to reduce the amount of energy we use by using improved lighting sources, which allows us to refine how we use light.
Is a material that disperses or scatters light. It allows light to pass through while softening the beam from the source of the light.
Is the light that falls onto a surface.
Is the light that we see, which is the light reflection from the surface.
A complete light fixture.
The international standard unit for measuring light levels.
Measurement of the angle (narrow or wide) of a beam from a lamp with a reflector.
The term used for built-in, hard-wired or direct-wired lighting fixtures.
A lighting fixture that includes a cord and a plug.
How have you designed the lighting in your home? What is your favourite type of lighting? Please share your photos and tips in the Comments below.