Lighting Design


Achieving a lighting design that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing is all about planning well in advance and knowing what your options are.

It is not necessary to pick out the individual fixture this early in the process, but you must know what "type" you are using.

Be sure to think about even the most insignificant of tasks that may be performed in each room such as reading or children playing.

Here is a list of questions your contractor will probably ask and need answers to before starting the rough wiring process to achieve your desired lighting design.

  • Which rooms will receive recessed lighting and their approximate location?
  • On which walls will sconces be located and at what height?
  • Will there be any accent or task lighting such as rope, under counter, monorails or fiber optics?
  • Are there any heavy hanging fixtures requiring additional support in the ceiling?

Take your time and think through the process; look in lighting design magazines. As you can see there are many things to consider. By breaking it down in this manner, you will easily be able to identify the type of lighting required.

Types of Lighting

As with most areas of design, your particular decorating style will have a lot to do with your ultimate lighting design selections.

With so many choices available, it's hard to know which manufacturers have the best type and quality for your particular budget and style.

And as always if you are working with an interior designer or decorator this process will be much easier. You can also learn lighting design 101 by going to your local showroom and talking with a lighting designer.

Your contractor and electrician will be able to assist you with some of the process.

Additionally, most local lighting showrooms and design centers usually offer free services to help you sort out what each manufacturer has to offer and will even help you create your lighting design plan.

For our purposes, we will look at the different types of fixtures available and what functions they serve. It is important early on in the construction process to decide what type of lighting will go where.

General - General lighting is used to light large areas and does not usually provide a specific function. General lighting should be bright enough to light walkway areas safely.

Two exceptions are lamps and wall sconces. Although considered decorative and general, both do provide enough illumination to do certain tasks such as reading, shaving and putting on make-up.

Task - Task lighting will illuminate areas where tasks are performed such as kitchen countertops. This type of lighting is much more concentrated on a specific area than that of general lighting.

Recessed lights above in the ceiling or under soffits provide good quality task lighting. They create a dispersion of light starting at the source and creating a cone shape spread of light to the surface of floor. Under cabinet lighting is also a good choice for task lighting.

Ambient - Ambient or mood lighting is used to create a certain mood in the room or space. It may be bold & dramatic to highlight an architectural design or be subtle & low key for casual encounters. Rope lighting hidden in a trough or behind a valance creates a wonderful soft mood light.

Focal Point - Focal point lighting is used to illuminate areas of interest such as artwork, sculptures, architectural elements & displays.

Decorative - Decorative lighting is used as its name describes for decoration. Although lamps and sconces provide adequate lighting for certain tasks, they are most usually thought of as decorative.

Other types of decorative lighting include flush ceiling mounts, chandeliers, pendants, monopoints and monorails.

As you can see, there is much to think about early in the process. Deciding a rooms' function and having an overall sense of the layout will help simplify the process.


Lighting Use and Affects

Lighting can add dimension and interest to a space depending upon its use.

Here is a brief list of the major types of fixtures.

Wall Washers are used to gently light a wall or object. The light reflects off the ceiling to create a soft glow. Wall washers are generally recessed into the ceiling.

Downlighting is a technique to where an object is illuminated from above.

Uplighting is used to highlight an object from below. This is great for both indoor and outdoor lighting.

Spotlighting is used to focus a beam on a particular item you want to highlight such as a sculpture.

Art Lighting are similar to wall washers but create a smaller more direct light onto a painting or other hanging object.

Valance or Cove Lighting can be either up or down but the light fixture is hidden creating a soft glow. Fluorescent types or rope lighting are good for this application

Mixing different styles, sizes and shapes in a room will create a more flexible lighting plan.

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