Lighting up your home is no longer about putting bulbs on the ceiling and making sure there is enough light in your room. Making sure you can see in the dark is only 1 purpose of putting in lights in your home. A good home lighting design can serve several other purposes. It can help to set a mood, to brighten up an area so you can work well and it can glamourise a space by accentuating it.
You can make a good home lighting design keeping these 3 basic points in mind.
(1) Types of Lighting
There are 3 types of lighting.
Ambient or General Lighting:
Imagine a large window pouring light into a room on a bright summer day.
It lights up the room evenly all around. It’s bright enough to be able to see clearly in the room without being too bright to hurt the eyes. It would be great to have the room lit up like this at night too. We use ambient lighting to light up a room evenly, avoiding shadows and dark corners. This is the basic lighting requirement in every room, and the first step towards planning our lights.
We could use recessed ceiling lights, chandeliers, pendants or cove lights to provide ambient lighting.
Task lights provides enough light for particular tasks. Lights above your study table, kitchen counter or dressing table mirror would be task lights.
It is important to remember that task lights are not a substitute for ambient lights. You might have a brightly lit study table, but it will still strain the eyes if the rest of the room is dark. Also, you want the task light to shine brightly on your work surface, not in your eyes. Imagine a reading light at face level without a shade… it would blind you!
The purpose of accent lights is to improve the aesthetics of your room. The lights which focus on a painting, a niche or bring out the texture on your wall, are accent lights.
Here we have track lights accentuating the curtains and a spot light in the niche.
How To Use This Information:
- A good home lighting design goes a long way in giving your home a designer look. Use all 3 types of light in your home.
- Start with the ambient lights and light up the room well. Make sure there are no shadow areas.
- Then think about what you will actually be doing in that room and put in task lights where required. For example, if you like to read in bed before sleeping, make sure to put in bedside lamps which are bright enough for reading.
- Once your room is well lit, with enough light on your work surfaces, throw in some light on the focus areas. You don’t need fancy or expensive artwork to focus on. You might want to just highlight a beautiful, tall palm in your room.
- The accent lights need to be much brighter than the ambient lights to show up against them. I sometimes put the ambient lights on a dimmer. You can use them on full power when you’re working at something with your task light on, and turn them down to set a mood with the accent lights on.
(2) Colour Temperature of Light:
There are a lot of terms used with light colour and temperature which can be very confusing. So I have tried to put it here in layman’s terms. When you buy an LED bulb, the colour temperature, measured in Kelvin (K), is mentioned on the box.
Light, by colour temperature, falls in 3 basic ranges.
Imagine the light given off by a good old incandescent bulb. This would be our yellow light. This falls in the 2500 K to 3000 K range.
This is the most natural shade of light. It falls somewhere in between the other 2, without the yellowish or the bluish tinge. This would be in the 3500 K to 4500 K range.
Imagine the bluish white light that comes from fluorescent tube lights in offices. This falls in the 5000 K to 6500 K range.
Different bulb manufacturers use the terms warm white, cool white and day light differently. So depending on the manufacturer, yellow might be called warm white and neutral white might be day light. Another company might refer to their cool white as day light. So to get the colour you’re looking for, check the temperature of the bulb listed on it’s box.
How To Use This Information:
Choosing the right light colour for your home is obviously a matter of personal preference, but here is how I go about it.
- I don’t like cool white lights in a home at all. As far as I’m concerned, they’re meant for offices, schools and hospitals. Definitely not in the home.
- In the living room I usually stick to yellow light. Yellows are warm, cozy and inviting.
- For a work intensive area like the kitchen or home office, I prefer to use neutral white lights. These are the most natural and therefore easy on the eyes while working.
- Bedrooms are used for both rest and work. Here I usually mix up the lights. Children’s bedrooms are usually heavier on ‘task’ since they are also used for homework, studies, art, craft and other hobbies. I use neutral white for ambient lighting and task lighting, and the yellows only for the accent lights. In the master bedroom I might put in neutral white task lights if required, on a study table or work area. I will stick to yellow lights for the ambient and accent lighting.
(3) Light Output
Once upon a time we had a 60 watt incandescent bulb and a 40 watt tube light, and we knew exactly how much light we would get with both of these. Now we also have 9 watt CFLs and 3 watt LEDs and it’s shocking to think that a 3 watt anything could give you any light at all! ‘Watts’ only tells us how much power a bulb is using. How do we figure out how much light we’re getting in return?
So it’s goodbye ‘watt’ and welcome ‘lumen’. A lumen is a measure of the light being given out by a bulb. Along with the ‘K’ giving us the light colour, we now also have lumens mentioned on the bulb box.
A 60 watt incandescent bulb gives us about 800 lumens of light, which we would also get from a 14 watt CFL or a 12 watt LED. I find this table from Wikipedia very useful and I use it whenever I am confused about how much light I need for my home lighting design.
How To Use This Information:
Check the lumen value of a bulb when buying it and not just the watts. You know how much light you get from a 60 watt bulb. Use this as a reference point. Think about how many 60 watt bulbs you would need to light up your room, or a particular area. Choose the light output of your bulb and the number of bulbs you put in accordingly.
Home Lighting Design:
Just a few more tips to help you wrap it up!
- Once the type of light, light colour and light output are decided, it is only a matter of choosing your fixtures. These are available in a large variety, for all different types of bulbs, so pick the one you love.
- If you want to use recessed lights, you have to put in a false ceiling. Make sure the depth of the ceiling is enough to fit in the light fixture you choose.
- If you don’t want a false ceiling you can choose surface mounted fixtures, pendant lights or chandeliers.
- You don’t want your chandelier to be too big or too small for your room. Here’s an easy way to estimate the size of your chandelier. Add the length and breadth of your room in feet, and that number in inches should be the diameter of your chandelier. So if your room is 12′ x 10′, then 12+10 = 22. The diameter of your chandelier should be about 22″.
- All the lighting doesn’t have to go on the ceiling. Wall brackets often make great accent lights. You can think about using those too.
- You can also use table lamps and floor lamps to add accents.
- Remember that lighting is only one part of your electrical plan. You will also need ACs, fans, plug points etc. Keep these points in mind while planning the rest of your electrical layout.
- If you are wondering how to draw your lighting plan on paper, this will help.
I think this should be enough to get you started on your home lighting design, but in case I’ve missed something, do let me know. Would love to hear your questions, comments and tips too!
Until next time,