Illumination — moods, effects, ambience


The right lighting with the appropriate placement, control and selection not only pulls the aesthetics of an interior together but also the integrated unity. It translates shapes and textures into moods. It creates dramatic effects. It accentuates artwork and room areas. It creates paths and it composes an overall balanced interior.

When talking about lighting, one can venture through a whole spec- trum of the effects, illusions, moods, concepts, accents, plus the psychological and physical effects that light plays in our everyday lives. Light, like color, is everywhere from the sun that pours into our environment during the day to artifical light at night, all of which we must control and create for the effects of the mind and body.

Many people think that planning lighting is a simple task. You have
a sofa, you put an end table next to it and set a lamp on the end table, and bingo, you have light. Perhaps! Whereas lamps are an important part of a room’s decor, having both aes- thetic and functional aspects, there is a lot more to it. Many thoughts need to be considered when planning your lighting.

Planning the right lighting starts in two places. First, if you are decorating a room, the furniture arrangement and the type of light source must be considered at the time of laying out the furniture design.

Second, if you are building a new home, adding an addition or remod- eling, the placement of the outlets, built-in lighting and placement of fix- tures is planned at this time. It is a lot easier to changean electrical outlet, based on the furniture arrangement, on a floor plan (blue-print) than after work has started.

The size and layout of a room will indicate some of the lighting require- ments, and there are different kinds of lighting to consider — General, Ambient, Task, Accent, Mood and Natural.

With light we see color and light gives emphasis to the elements and components of an interior, and also exteriors. You need to control and make your lighting effective and practical for the activities of your interior.

General lighting provides an overall and a balanced light throughout an area. It provides a uniform source of light for general use.

Recessed-down lights is preferred to give an overall general light for the whole area with, perhaps, a hanging fixture over a table.

Lamps are also used for overall lighting in living rooms, dens and bedrooms, but recessed lighting can be used in any room.

Hanging fixtures can also provide general lighting but are usually confined to areas over dining-room tables, where height is important, and over breakfast areas, game tables and in entries. Some hanging fixtures only throw light upward and may be okay for eating at a breakfast or dining table, but would be inadequate for reading at the table.

Ambient, much like general lighting, illuminates an area in-general and
usually comes from an indirect source. However, it contributes to the atmosphere of an interior. One example is if you have a fireplace and you have recessed-down lights in the ceiling around the perimeter of the room. Over the fireplace, you would have a wall-wash recessed fixture that washes the wall area above the fireplace with light.

Another popular ambient lighting effect for indirect light is an up-light — a fixture that sits on the floor and casts light upward onto the ceiling. An example of this type of lighting is to place an up-light under a palm tree. The effect of the light casting the palmy leaves onto the ceiling is very dramatic and still provides light.

Task lighting is lighting that directs light to an area where it is needed
for specific uses such as reading or writing. It is also used for work areas that have tube lighting under kitchen cabinets for work on the counter space, over the sink or range. Task lighting is also used in bathrooms around a mirror to give a balanced light.

Accent lighting is created to draw the eye to a specific item in an interior, such as a sculpture on a pedestal or work of art on a wall. Accent light is done to create drama and interest with its effect.

Mood lighting, much like accent lighting, is used to create a feeling of coziness with a low, soft light. Natural light is one of the first thoughts that comes to a lighting designer or interior designer. For that matter, the placement of windows is one of the first thoughts of an archi- tect when designing a house. They take into consideration the northern, southern, eastern and western exposures of the sun.

For instance, you never get sunlight from a northern exposure, which is a cooler light, and only during the winter months do you get the southern exposure, which is a warmer light.

Not only do you have to control it but it is important to note that the color of light varies from morning to noon and in to the evening. Light reflects off the environment and brings this into the interior. An area with a lot of greenry will be reflected into an interior and can very well change the color of the walls. Light reflected off the ocean or a blue swimming pool will bring a bluish tone into the interior.

Understanding the effects is also important when doing lighting. In- candescent lighting is basically your light bulbs. Flourescent lighting is tubes.

Remember when planning your lighting, general, natural, accent, task and ambient lighting should all be planned and combined. If your furni- ture arrangement is placed away from the wall, think of floor outlets.

Without light there is no color. Know the effects of an interior done with natural or incandescent as opposed to flourescent. Think about lighting for reading and writing, and placement of lamps on a desk or table for basic illumination. Equally import- ant is to remember glare. Take your time with lighting, it is just as im- portant as color, fabrics and furniture arrangements. It sets the mood.

Ken Dean is an award-winning professional interior designer, interior design teacher and writer for 40 years. His website is www.deaninteriordesign. com. He can be reached at (661) 251- 0170.

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