The right lighting can make or break a room. Here, how to get it.
Written by Lauren DeCarlo Photo: Courtesy of Lindsey Adelman
Have you ever walked into a room and marveled at how the light was diffused? Probably not-and for good reason. When lighting is impeccable you hardly notice it. "If a room is lit the right way, everyone looks their best and feels relaxed and comfortable, but they don't know why," says Lindsey Adelman, a New York-based industrial designer who specializes in light fixtures.
Carefully considered bulbs and fixtures create an inviting environment that encourages people to linger. One of the biggest missteps is overly bright lighting. "You don't want guests in your home to feel like they're waiting in a hospital emergency room," says interior designer Andrew Galuppi. Here are a few tips to help strike the right balance.
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#1: Localize your light source.
A common misconception is that you need to light the whole room. Try instead to incorporate multiple points of light. "The best-lit rooms have layers of light that blend well together," says architect and designer David Rockwell. "Choose your light source, and then determine how to diffuse it." The right lampshade can make all the difference. Rockwell suggests bringing your low-wattage bulb to the store to try it with different shades.
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#2: Always add a dimmer.
For multipurpose rooms, dimmers are essential. "They allow for flexibility depending on the time of day, event, or mood, and they're a great energy saver," says Rockwell, who recommends a licensed electrician for any electrical work. Consider it a worthwhile investment, as dimmers reduce energy consumption and increase bulb life. Aesthetically, Adelman says it's nonnegotiable. She believes every overhead light should be wired for a dimmer. "If you only have one light source in the center of the room, you're looking at your shadow all day long," says Adelman. "It makes for a depressing base."
#3: Know your bulbs.
Fluorescent tubes should be avoided at all costs. "They make everything look off color and can lead to fatigued eyes," says Galuppi. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are a great option, however, but you need to be careful disposing of them. Screw-in LEDs have a long life, but can be pricey. Adelman prefers the dimmable white A-19 LED light bulb from TheLEDLight.com. "It's good for any incandescent replacement, and I love the warmth and the shape."
#4: Consider the function of the room.
What will the space be used for: Cooking? Watching television? Doing homework? In the dining room, an overhead chandelier with a dimmer works best. If you're using track lighting, be sure not to shine the light directly into the faces of guests around your table. Kitchen lighting is more complex. Pinpoint your work areas and light them directly. "Ideally, lights should be below your eye level," says Adelman. "Set up task lights under the stove range or cabinets to light countertops."
In living rooms, use a combination of floor lamps, table lamps, and down-lights (recessed or track lighting). "Here the lighting should be part of the decor," says Galuppi. Bathrooms are trickier. Some say to go the clinical route-the brighter the better-especially at the vanity. But others prefer a softer glow from dimmable sconces. Compromise and incorporate both with the addition of candles. "Candlelight helps you unwind while you soak in the bath," says Galuppi. Master bedrooms should feature good reading lights at the bed and desk, and a task light for getting dressed. Any overhead lighting should be fit with a dimmer.
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