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Light It Up

Using proper lighting and illumination is one of the most critical factors and decorative elements necessary to create a pleasing environment both inside and outside your home. A quality lighting design is visually stimulating while focusing attention on specific room features and eliminating shadows. It is also necessary for providing safety and general background light. So, make a statement in your home and light it up!

Background Lighting
Begin by considering ambient or general lighting. This is the overall level of light provided to make a room or space comfortable and functional. Depending on the room and its intended use, several different types of overhead lighting are available. Some lighting methods work better in some rooms while different methods are better suited in other rooms. Consider recessed lighting in spaces such as the great room or home theater. Track lighting works well in various places in the home including the kitchen. A pendant fixture may be the best choice for the foyer. Luminous fluorescent ceiling panels are well suited for spaces such as the garage or laundry room where light is essential but fancy fixtures are not needed. Cove lighting is another option that enhances a variety of living spaces. This method illuminates the perimeter of the room where the walls meet the ceiling. No matter what type of lighting you choose, you may want to install dimmer switches in each room allowing you to further control the amount of light illuminating each space. Once you have established the general lighting throughout your home, you can move on to more specific lighting.

Accent Focal Points
Accent lighting is used to focus attention on specific objects in a room – a painting on the wall, a piece of pottery on the mantle or another focal point in the room. As a general rule, accent lighting is most effective when it is approximately four times brighter than the level of ambient light in a given space. Choose fixtures that allow you to aim the light at the accented object, such as track lighting or adjustable surface mount fixtures. Consider wall sconces to highlight a painting or a mirror. Keep in mind when choosing accent lighting halogen light fixtures provide a brighter and whiter light than fluorescent and incandescent fixtures. No matter what item you want to accent, and no matter what room or space it is in, accent lighting will catch the attention of anyone who lays eyes on it.

Brighten the Task
There are always areas of the home that even when properly illuminated with general lighting will require task lighting. This type of lighting is a necessary higher level of light needed to make a particular space function the way you intend it to be used. Think about a desk in a child’s bedroom, the dining room table, your favorite reading chair in the den or even the kitchen island. Additional lighting is needed in these areas to make them functional and efficient. Place a 20-24 inch lamp on a writing desk, or if there is a shelf or cabinet above the writing surface, consider under-cabinet lighting concealing the fixture. Think about the dining room table. You may choose cove or recessed lighting in the dining room as background light, but the table should be well lit. Generally, a chandelier is the method of choice when illuminating the table in a formal dining room. The actual chandelier should be in good scale with the table brightening most surface space. A good rule to follow when choosing a chandelier is to select one that is half the width of the table plus six to nine inches. Now think about the reading chair in the den. A lamp is the best way to brighten this space. If a floor lamp suits your style, it should be at least 40-42 inches in height and should be placed behind the reader’s shoulder. Table lamps work well for this type of task lighting too, and should be approximately 28-32 inches tall. It is important to remember the table lamp should not be placed in the middle of the table, but rather more forward and closer to the reader. Now consider the kitchen. Task lighting can enhance the chores of meal preparation. Typical choices include pendant, track and even recessed lighting to illuminate the main work areas including the island and countertops. With so many lighting choices, brightening your tasks will be easy.

Decorate with Light
You may find that a particular space in your home is lacking character or pizzazz. Bring it to life with fun and/or colorful lighting. Shop various lighting stores for fixtures that will complement your décor. Choose lampshades of different colors, textures and patterns. Select novelty and pendant light fixtures of colored glass or other materials such as crafted metal. Try string lighting in the kids’ rooms. It makes a fantastic accent in a well-decorated room, and string lighting is available in a wide selection of colors and themes such as cars, flowers, baseballs, animals, stars, etc. Not only does string lighting add a little fun to the room, but also the lights can be used at night, perfect for children who do not like sleeping in a dark room. Using lighting as a decorative element, you can incorporate function and style into each room of your home.

Beyond the Interior
When night falls, your home can take on a whole new look with exterior lighting. A beautifully landscaped yard and well-trimmed façade will stand out when spotlighted with outdoor lights. Illuminate sidewalks and porches as well as the front of your home with path lighting, wall lighting and projector lights. Path lighting also works well in backyard gardens and around patios. For your garden pond or soothing water fountain, consider pond and mood lighting of various colors. Many outdoor lights are of the solar variety eliminating the need for electrical wires and timers making them easy to install. Turn your dark home into a focal point on your street with just a few outdoor lighting elements.

Think Safety
It is no secret that we all stumble around more in a dark house than we do in a well-lit house. Keep safety in mind as you light your home. Install motion sensors in dark areas and adjust the lights to come on when a door opens. Try the basement stairs or walk-in closets. Motion sensors are particularly helpful for families with small children who cannot reach light switches yet. Consider a dusk-to-dawn light on the front porch or other entries commonly used after dark. Finally, install motion lights at the front and back of the house ensuring everyone’s safety. Not only will you find your way to the door easily after dark, but also motion sensor lights are excellent for keeping intruders away. There is an outstanding selection of residential safety lighting fixtures available. Using a few of them will help guarantee continued enjoyment in your new home.

The types of lighting you choose for your home will show off your personal tastes and style. Use these suggestions to illuminate every room keeping style, form and function in mind. Check out local home improvement stores and lighting websites to find just the right fixtures for you. Remember the lighting you choose inside and outside your home will enhance the look and function of every space.

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