The best home lighting balances function with form for maximum comfort and style. The key to achieving this is ambient lighting. It provides a room with general lighting and sets the mood. Ambient lighting requires the right fixtures and placement location. With this lighting type, even the darkest room can be turned into a bright and lively space. As long as the proper techniques are implemented, you can create your desired look.
Choosing Your Lights
Ambient lighting should be soft, warm, and provide enough light to safely navigate a space. This requires multiple light sources. Wall lights are great for ambient lighting. If the fixture is wired into the wall is considered direct-wire and requires electrical experience to install. Wall lights are controlled by either a built-in switch or a separate wall switch. If you’re on a budget or want to avoid the hassle of wiring, then opt for plug-in lights. This less expensive option plugs directly into an existing outlet. However, their exposed cord can be an eyesore. Direct-wire wall lights are best when the fixtures are part of a room’s general lighting. Use plug-in lights if you plan on using the lights on their own.
A wall sconce sits close to the wall and offers many styles that emit light differently. Some shine light upwards to illuminate the space or downward to accent specific areas. Swing-arm wall lights are adjustable space-saving fixtures that extend from the wall. Install them bedside to have task lighting for nighttime reading in bed.
Increase your ambient lighting with table and floor lamps. Make sure table lamps are proportional to the table for best results. The bottom of the lamp shade must be at eye level to protect your eyes from direct light. The shade must be 2/3 the lamp base height and 1 ½ the lamp base width. This is not a hard and fast rule since lamp design will impact measurements. Recessed lighting is commonly used for ambient lighting or to supplement natural light. Space recessed lighting on the ceiling according to its height for evenly distributed lighting.
If you have a dimly lit room, take advantage of any natural light. The best lighting is in rooms with south-facing windows. East and west-facing windows provide adequate natural light. Supplemental artificial light sources are required in north-facing rooms. Place mirror across from a window so it reflects the natural light and increases illumination.
Considers the light reflectance value (LRV) of your wall paint. This measurement shows how much light the paint reflects which helps in determining the best paint hue for the room. This is especially important for windowless rooms or rooms with minimal natural light. The lighter the paint color, the brighter the room. Glossy surfaces and other reflective material will also boost illumination.
So, now that you know how to create ambient lighting, it’s time to control room mood. Fixture position, light output, and bulb type determines the overall look and feel of the room. These factors allow you to personalize your space.
Use accent lighting as a focal point to create visual interest or direct it towards specific areas. Recessed spotlights, track lights, sconces, uplights, table lamps, and floor lamps are accent lighting options. Light output is 3 times the room’s normal light level. Highlight artwork by pointing lights at a 30 degree angle towards it. Try wall washing and flood the wall with light. Install multiple accent lights in linear fashion on the ceiling 2-3ft from the wall and point them towards the opposite wall. Extend the distance to 3 to 4 ft on higher ceilings. If you want to illuminate textural surfaces, then install a row of track lights or recessed lights 6 to 12 ft opposite the wall you’re accenting.
Your bulb choice depends on the mood you want to create. Bulbs have color temperatures that range from warm to cool light. This is measured in Kelvins where warm temperatures have a yellowish hue, while cool temperatures create a blue lighting effect. The lower the temperature, the warmer the bulb light. A color temperature of 2700K emits soft warm lighting. For a balanced blend of temperatures, use 3500K. Lighting resembling daylight, requires a cool temperature of 4000K. This is ideal for rooms regularly used during the day. Many typically choose color temperatures in the 2900K to 3200K range. The temperature should match your home style. Traditional homes look best with warm colors similar to incandescent or candlelight. Cooler temperatures with whiter light pair complement modern styles.
Brighter lighting enhances productivity. Increase ambient lighting in task areas, such as the kitchen, living room, and home office. Opt for soft white bulbs over clear or colored. LEDs are best for energy-efficient, bright white light. Plus, they have a long lifespan. Though these bulbs are expensive upfront, they save you money in the long-run. A less expensive option are low-voltage bulbs, followed by the Halogen MR16 bulb. However, if you’re looking for an energy-efficient, cost-effective, bright light source that emits very little heat, fluorescent lights are it. Once considered a light to avoid, advanced technology has substantially improved its performance. These bulbs now come in various styles, not just the long tubing. Consider glare when you choose your bulbs. Lower the wattage if the light is too harsh.
Attach dimmers to all lighting fixtures to control light intensity and mood. There are various dimmers styles available, such as toggle, rotary dial, and touch sensitive. Keep in mind, lights must be dimmable. Another option is lamps with three-way bulbs which let you adjust lighting levels. Separate the lighting into different zones so you can control multiple locations individually. Add perimeter lights to a designated zone and put them on a separate circuit. That way, you can adjust light reflection with greater precision.
Customized ambient lighting provides ultimate comfort. Think about factors that impact the amount of light you need, such as age, health, and eye color. If your lights are direct-wire, check building codes first. Consult a lighting expert for help with developing a lighting plan. As long as you apply the tips above you can have your desired atmosphere at any time.