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Monday, April 2, 2007

Answer Day: Lighting


I received a question during the week, asking me to share some thoughts about how best to light a room, and what kind of fixtures were best to use. I like this question because I have very definite feelings on the subject, and I hope you will find this illuminating (sorry I couldn't resist).

Fundamentally, there are two types of light, one that falls on vertical surfaces (walls, artwork etc) that provides depth to a room, and light that falls on horizontal surfaces (floors, tables etc) that provides drama to a room. You can use different types of fixtures to provide the different types of light. For instance, a recessed ceiling light will provide almost exclusively light on horizontals, while a wall sconce almost all the light falls on vertical surfaces (remember that when people are in the room, you are usually vertical, so this kind of lighting is good for rooms where you entertain, and is considered flattering).

So the short answer to the question, is that you want to create a mix of different light sources, so that the room has a good dynamic feel.

Here are some tips you might find helpful:



  • Start with the light on horizontal surfaces, use it to create a visual path through the room, it will stop the space from feeling too chaotic.


  • Fixtures that provide this kind of light include recessed lights, ceiling lights that are very close to the ceiling, not hanging low, and table or standing lamps with opaque shades.


  • Remember that the ceiling is usually part of the horizontal surfaces in the room, make sure you place some lamps in a way that will get lighting up there too, it will make a huge difference.


  • When adding lighting onto vertical surfaces, pay attention to where people are going to be sitting and standing, you don't want light falling directly in your eyes.


  • Try and create one or two focal points on the walls around the room, that can be lit a little brighter, this will make the space feel larger and provide some depth.


  • When there are other spaces leading off your room, be sure to pay attention to their light, you don't want black holes!


  • Lastly experiment with bulbs of different wattage and color, it can make a big difference too and enable you to create warmer and cooler spots more easily.

I hope this brightens your day :)

5 comments:

The Peak of Chic said...

Thanks Mark for these pointers! It's an area in which I have some difficulty. Perhaps I'll go home tonight and assess the lighting in my living room!

J Lee said...

thanks for the lighting post. many people don't understand the importance of light in a space and how it can dramatically change the atomosphere of the room!

Mark Cutler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
casapinka said...

Mark, this is very helpful. I'm one of those people who doesn't understand the importance of lighting but I know I hate sitting in a dim room when it's pitch dark outside. I'm learnable, though. Thanks for the post.

prostaff said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.