Home Decor: Choosing the Right Lights for Your Style and Needs

A successful lighting scheme that meets practical needs and creates atmosphere plays an important role in establishing the style and character of your home.

There’s more to home lighting than a central pendant light supported by a pair of wall or table lamps. A well planned lighting scheme should be both practical and decorative.

On the practical side, the right type of lighting provides illumination for cooking, cleaning, sewing, reading, and many other everyday tasks. Decorative lighting helps create a relaxed atmosphere and should complement your color scheme and furniture.

A successful home lighting scheme is made up of several different elements. Most rooms will need a carefully thought out mix of these effects to work well.

lighting options

General lighting provides general or background lighting and should be used in all rooms.

A pendant ceiling light is a common type of lighting fixture that offers a variety of shade styles in materials as diverse as fabric, paper, or metal. A ceiling pendant that is the only light source in a room is a limiting option; provides a bright central space with shadowy edges.

Low wattage recessed or semi-recessed lights placed along the ceiling will provide a good level of clear light. Depending on the type of bulb used and the housing, a recessed downlight can spread light over a wide area or in a narrow beam. Recessed down lights (sometimes called eyeballs) can be rotated.

Controlling your low beams with a dimming system is a good idea because you can turn off some of the lights while others are on and you can vary the brightness.

Task lighting is designed to provide concentrated directional light over a small area and can be used in conjunction with general and accent fixtures. The type of task lighting you choose depends on the activity you have in mind.

A flexible arm desk lamp is the perfect example, as it can be adjusted to provide light exactly where it’s needed.

A reading lamp should be tall enough to shine on the pages of the book, but not on your eyes. A floor lamp placed behind the reader is ideal.

The light for writing, sewing or any other hobby should be placed so that it shines on the work. Rise and Fall pendants come in handy for this, especially if you work at the dining room table. Recessed lighting strips are useful for illuminating a kitchen counter. Accent lighting is used to display interesting plants, paintings, collections, and architectural features. There are many different types, which can be used to illuminate objects from above, below or behind, or at an angle.

A narrow beam halogen downlight can be used to illuminate a single vase or piece of china. The bottom of the object remains in shadow, giving it a spectacular floating effect.

Images are often lit from above. It is worth considering an adjustable eyeball or image-focused ceiling spotlight, or special framing spotlight, which will flood the painting with light but leave the walls around it in shadow, as well as the traditional brass picture lamp.

A table lamp with a wide-based shade will cast a beam of light onto the surface below it and is an attractive way to illuminate a small collection or a few framed photographs.

Standing drum torches can be placed under large plants to create dramatic leaf patterns on the walls and ceiling. You can illuminate objects on glass shelves very effectively by placing a row of small halogen spotlights under the bottom shelf. Wall mounted sconces, wall washers or tall floor lamp designs will illuminate the detail on an interesting cornice or ceiling.

Small floor torches placed behind a sofa or armchair will bathe the walls in light and make the room seem larger.

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