Interior Design: How to Light Your Home for Maximum Effect

From time to time I hear from fellow interior designers who wish to contribute to my weekly blog posts. I’m very open to the idea, particularly if we’re hearing from experts in their respective fields. Lisa Wetherell got in touch and I love her very informative blog about lighting. As my first guest designer Lisa shares her expertise about how to light your home for maximum effect!

Lisa Wetherell is an interior designer living in Australia who specializes in lighting. Lisa also runs the blog Lighting House - where she writes about her knowledge gained from 10 years of industry experience in the lighting and interior design field. To learn more about how lighting can improve your space, you can follow her blog.

So, over to Lisa…

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Did you know that something as simple as lighting can completely transform your home? In fact, the right type of lighting can make the difference between ‘regular’ and ‘astonishing’!

Today’s homeowners can have their pick from a wide array of lighting solutions in different colors and tonalities, shapes and sizes. However, without the right guidance, the same variety can be overwhelming and confusing, thus putting a brake on your momentum.

So, to help you see the right direction, we put together a few ideas that can be helpful during the planning phase of your lighting project. Have a look at the ideas below and try to adapt them to your needs.

Understand the Different Types of Lights

Interior design specialists differentiate lighting solutions in three main categories:

  • General lights – their purpose is to create a welcoming atmosphere and ambiance (which is why they’re also called ambient lights);

  • Task lights – these are usually angled, so you can focus on a certain type of task (working at a desk, cooking, writing, and so on);

  • Accent lights – their role is decorative and interior designers use them to set a mood and highlight areas or objects.

Recessed lights - General

Recessed lights - General

Table lamp with swing-arm - task

Table lamp with swing-arm - task

Single bulbs - accent

Single bulbs - accent

To create the perfect lighting situation, you will have to use a combination of the three types. This way, you will build a flowing and harmonious lighting design that guides the eye through space in a natural way.

Each Room is Different

Good lighting must be adapted according to each room’s purpose, in order to set the right mood and atmosphere.

For instance, you won’t use the same lighting solution in the living room and in the laundry room. Furthermore, you may not use the same light bulbs and fixtures in two rooms that have such different purposes.

A functional room such as the laundry will benefit from the light provided by glare-free CFL fixtures that light up the entire room. On the other hand, a living room will need a combination of task, general, and accent lights to showcase different elements and create texture and depth.

So, before you order LED recessed lights for the entire home, make a plan for each room and decide on the type of lighting to use. For this, think of the room’s purpose and try to pinpoint each task that can be accomplished in that space.

Think in Layers

The best way to create an ambiance that fits the room’s purpose is to use layers of light. This can be achieved with different types of fixtures and light sources.

Lighting up the Living Room

Let’s have a look at the lighting design in a regular living room; the room where most social activities happen. You should start with a general light that’s powerful enough to create a welcoming ambiance (low lit rooms don’t send out positive vibes).

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Next, you should place task lights around the room. These can be used for reading, working on a desk or simply relaxing with a nice game. Finally, the third layer should have accent lights, that focus on décor items such as paintings, artistic pieces of furniture, or even special areas in the room.

Solutions for the Kitchen

Another room that will require a layered lighting solution is the kitchen.

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Here, you should pay more attention to task lights placed under cabinets (to provide the perfect lighting system for the countertop area) or inside drawers and other tight spaces. Since each task light will be focused on a specific area, it’s best to use small spotlights with LED bulbs. These are energy efficient, create the perfect light intensity, and don’t need much maintenance (important for fixtures fitted in difficult to reach places).

Of course, the kitchen still needs a general lighting layer that blends everything together. However, this area should also make use of the natural light, so install large windows and maybe a skylight. In fact, the entire house should use clever ways to get as much natural light inside as possible.

Finally, if you have a dining area in the kitchen, specialists recommend pendant lights over the table. These are elegant, and modern bulb designs bring a fresh note in every setting.

Other Rooms

As you can see, each room has its own story when it comes to the light that makes it come to life. So, make sure to apply the same rules discussed above.

For instance, the bedroom benefits tremendously from using dimmable lights for the general mood but is also in need of some task lights for key areas (the closet, reading corner, nightstand).

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On the other hand, in the bathroom, it’s important to install a combination of general and task lights. Since the mirror is the general task-oriented element in the bathroom, focus the lights on each side of the mirror, to avoid creating any shadows.

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Finally, the in-between areas (hallways, stairs, entries) don’t need layers (unless you have art or special décor pieces you want to showcase), just general lighting.

Wrap Up

Once you understand how to use each type of light according to each room’s purpose, it’s quite easy to devise a plan that will completely change the atmosphere in your home. However, before you go over the top, make sure your solutions are eco-friendly and energy-efficient. This way, you maintain your home’s carbon footprint at a low level and keep the energy bill low as well.