Residential Indoor Lighting
Indoor Lighting for the Home
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Below, we break down the main types of lights that can be found throughout the modern home in 2021.
This broad range of fixtures is, as its name implies, mounted directly to the ceiling, and typically features a glass, fabric, or plastic shade that conceals the lightbulb and helps diffuse light more evenly. Ceiling-mounted fixtures tend to be used to provide ambient light in a room as opposed to accent or task lighting because they provide more general, dispersed lighting.
Pendant lights are lights that hang from a cable, cord, or pipe from an attachment at a ceiling, ending in a shade enclosing a light bulb that primarily provides light in a downward direction, known as a downlight. Pendants are often located over a table or kitchen island because they provide ambient or task lighting, and usually have strong stylistic elements that bring character to a space because they’re so visible.
Recessed lights are installed above a ceiling so that the body of the light— the mechanism and wiring—is hidden in the ceiling with a flush bulb or lens. Unlike ceiling-mounted fixtures, which are easily seen, recessed lighting tends to be more demure because it is level with the ceiling, but it does require about four to eight inches of space above the ceiling for installation. The lighting they produce can be used for a range of functions from ambient to accent to task, depending on the number and type of fixtures.
Track Lighting and Spotlights
Track and spotlights are fixtures that are attached to a track that is mounted to the ceiling or hung off the ceiling, depending on the fixture. The linear housing contains several heads that can be moved along the track and reoriented to focus on different directions. This ability to adjust and reposition the lighting makes track lighting ideal for kitchens or gallery spaces where task or accent lighting is needed, but where the desired focus may change.
Wall sconces are some of the most decorative fixtures in the lighting market because they are frequently installed at eye-level in most rooms. They can be either uplights or downlights, providing ambient or task lighting, depending on the fixture, but are rarely powerful enough to provide enough illumination alone to light a large space. They're often found on either side of a fireplace or bed for additional illumination, highlighting these visual focal points in a space.
Desk and Table Lamps
Desk and table lamps are largely used as task lights because they’re flexible and can be positioned in various locations as needed (like adjacent to a comfy chair for reading, or atop a desk for work). They typically provide light in a downward direction, illuminating the surface directly below it rather than providing a general glow, which prevents them from often being used as ambient lights. However, like wall sconces, they can be a major design feature in a space because of they are highly visible.
Cove lighting is an elegant type of lighting that is usually mounted to or incorporated into the upper portion of a wall or ceiling. Usually hidden from direct view, it provides uplighting along the edges of a room onto the ceiling. Today, most cove lighting is provided by a thin strip of LEDs along a cove, or niche, that is already created in the room. It provides diffuse, ambient lighting.
How to Choose the Best Dining Room Light Fixtures
There are many different types of dining room light fixtures, and each light serves a different purpose. For example, a wall sconce, although lovely in a dining room as supplementary lighting, won’t work well for dining table lighting. Once you can decide where you need lighting in the room, you'll then need to measure the space to determine the sizes of lights you will need. If you are placing a chandelier or large pendant in the room, be mindful of dimensions like height, diameter, and weight. With size and purpose in mind, you can then refine your options by colors, finishes and other important design features that can blend in with your dining room's existing decor. Taking all of these things into consideration will ensure that your dining room lamps serve the intended purpose and match your personal style.
How to Pick the Best Light Bulb for Every Room
The lighting in a room isn’t just part of the decor; it can affect everything from your sleep schedule to your brain power. So it’s understandable that you want your home, the place you presumably spend a big chunk of your life, to be lit nicely. But there are so many different options to choose from!
Consider each room’s function
Generally, lighting function falls in one of three categories: ambient, task, and accent.
- General or ambient lighting acts as the overall lighting of a room. It illuminates all of the room and is considered the room’s “natural light.” You might use a chandelier, pendant light, track lighting or wall sconces to create ambient light that fills the room.
- Task lighting lights up a work or reading area. You want this lighting to be brighter than your ambient lighting, so the contrast focuses the light in the specified area. Desk lamps and under-cabinet kitchen lights are common task lighting options. But pendants and track lighting can be used for task lighting, too, but it depends on how you layer the lighting in your room, and how bright your bulbs are (which we’ll cover in a bit).
- Accent lighting highlights a particular area, like a work of art or a bookcase. It usually creates shadow around the object for a dramatic effect. Wall lights and landscape lights are common accent lights.
Then, think about where that lighting will go in the room. Don’t worry about the fixtures yet, just think about where you want different lighting to fall in the room. If you’re not sure where to start, consider these general, room-by-room suggestions:
- Living room: In addition to ambient light, Real Simple suggests using an accent light in one corner of the room. Focus on an object, like a piece of art or a chair.
- Kitchen: Add your ambient light overhead, then add lower task lighting to illuminate the counter space where you work. If possible, the sink is also a good spot to add task lighting.
- Bedroom: It’s common to have task lighting in your bedroom on nightstands. Real Simple also recommends pointing any light away from the bed. They suggest angling overhead ambient light away from the bed and toward the dressing area, specifically.
- Bathroom: Bathroom lighting can be tricky. You want task lighting for the mirror, but an overhead task light can create shadows. Consider lighting the mirror on either side. Then, use an overhead ambient light to fully illuminate the room.
‘Lumens’ equals brightness
The more lumens, the brighter the bulb. A typical home bulb produces about 800 lumens, which is the equivalent of 60 watts. So how many lumens do you need for each room? That’ll depend on how big your room is, what color your walls are, and, obviously, intensity of lighting you prefer.
- Kitchens: 5,000-10,000 total lumens
- Bathrooms: 4,000-8,000 total lumens
- Bedrooms: 2,000-4,000 total lumens
- Living rooms: 1,500-3,000 lumens
- Dining rooms: 3,000-6,000 lumens
- Home offices: 3,000-6,000 lumens
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