Understanding What Makes Good Lighting

Good lighting is highly underrated.  As a design professional I KNOW you don’t consciously notice good lighting, but if lighting lacks, oh how we’ll adjust/contort our bodies, bend our habits or otherwise compensate. TRH asks why not look to adjust the lighting instead?

  • More time at home, more working from home these days makes lighting deficits more noticeable, more important to fix.
  • It’s impossible for the eye not to look at light. Lighting leads you to “see” a space; particularly valuable for your listing photos if you’re selling.

Good news is many times I see they’re easy fixes. BONUS: cool looking, efficient, and reasonably priced fixtures are also plentiful.

Best to start by understanding what good lighting isn’t: it’s not obvious. It’s not just about a room being bright, and it doesn’t look like a lighting showroom. More than just a number of fixtures or bulbs, good lighting is a plan. So it looks and works its best, it considers the people, the room, and its functions.

There are many different lighting scenarios, and all sorts of different type bulbs, but here we’ll speak to the basics: placement, scale, and type of residential, interior lighting fixtures.

So consider these categories of lighting: Ambient, Task, and Accent.

Ambient lightingUnderstanding What Makes Good Lighting

  • Ceiling lighting, it’s broad, the starting point of most rooms. General illumination for immediate surroundings.
  • Any kind of ceiling fixture-recessed, flush or semi-flush fixtures, tracks, or fluorescent panels like you’d see in a basement/lower level.
  • Shouldn’t be the only light in a room.Unless you’re going for a Close Encounters look, throwing 3-100 watt bulbs in fixture only creates harsh glare and even worse shadowing.
  • There will always be shadows because your body is between the light source and what you’re facing.
  • Most of this light dissipates at about 2 feet from its source….so in an average room with 8′ high ceilings, the top of your head will be well lit….but you’ll have trouble reading that recipe.

Understanding What Makes Good LightingTask lighting

  • It illuminates a specific area so you can get things done
  • Desk, end table, and reading lamps are some examples; chandeliers, bathroom vanity fixtures, and under-cabinet kitchen lighting are others.
  • Light is positioned and scaled to provide the most direct light to whatever is happening.
  • Imagine the trajectory of light on two lamps at left. Back lamp is a task light. Taller, it illuminates a wider work surface. Front lamp is an accent lamp. Because it’s lower, the area of direct illumination is much smaller.
  • Desk and end table lights correlate to sitting and work surface or table heights. Both typically 29-32″ tall, desk lamps will often be more streamlined in style, to make the best use of desktop space.

Accent lighting

  • It can be decorative or can help guide you. Usually added last, it fills and balances a space, and calls your attention to something specific.
  • If you really looked, you’d be surprised at how many types of accent lighting there are.
  • Eyeball spots directed at wall art, or an uplight behind sculpture; there’s lighting in bookcases and curios, as well as wall sconces, pendants and buffet lamps.
  • Strip lighting set into crown molding (aka cove lighting) gives ceilings a soft glow, or it can be embedded under a stair tread bullnose to safely light the way.

Good lighting makes me happy, helping fix bad lighting makes me even happier. Talk to me today if I can help make this part of your space better!