Lighting is one of the most overlooked aspects in home construction today, primarily because there is a perception that good lighting or custom lighting is expensive. Budgets are getting squeezed and homeowners prefer spending on things they think give a bigger "impact". And, people often go to great lengths to maximize windows and natural light, all very important considerations, but forget that a large amount of their leisure time is spent in the evenings, after dark, when relying on the artificial lighting in your home.
Our goal here is help you make the most intelligent lighting choices, choices that will leverage your substantial investment in that new home, creating a special environment that is comfortable, relaxing and accentuates the beautiful architecture that you are creating. A house plan that you purchase will have a basic layout that shows wall outlets and some ceiling lights and fans — a useful guide for budgeting and planning but this needs to be amplified by your conceptualizing your use of each space or room, and the furnishing layout you are planning. If you can fit it in your budget, an interior decorator at a local home furnishing or lighting store might be able to help you sketch out a more detailed lighting plan.
Ceiling fixtures, chandeliers and wall sconces are used to illuminate the way for movement throughout the home. Recessed can lights often are used to light hallways, stairs and circulation areas and do a good job of lighting the floor. However, a softer and more pleasant effect can be had by using indirect lighting such as wall washers that do double the duty of highlighting your artwork and, at the same time, provide attractive general lighting.
Try to anticipate where you will be hanging artwork — blank wall spaces — and place recessed can lights that are designed to wash that wall with light. Another way to soften your illumination is to bounce light off the ceiling through the use of indirect cove light and wall sconces. Wall sconces are easy to do almost anywhere but cove lighting often requires changes to the architecture and may be more applicable to high ceiling areas.
Kitchen counters and other work surfaces such as home offices and workshop areas require a higher level of illumination, usually provided by recessed cans, track lighting, ceiling pendants and, in offices, table, desk, or floor lamps. The key here is to provide light that is bright enough but free from shadows. Particularly in kitchens, it is better have more fixtures, spaced closer together, using a lower wattage such as 50 watt, par 20 halogen can lights. Remember that it is the counter you want lit, not the floor in front or the top of your head, so consider lining up your can lights on the front edge of the counter.
Mood or Accent Lighting
Lighting which is installed primarily for atmosphere such as lamps, ceiling chandeliers, specialty hi-hats and landscape lights fall into this category, as do most ceiling fans with lights. Art niches are popular and require lighting that is focused on them. Dimmers can also be used on general or task lighting to help create mood lighting.
The tendency to focus most of your attention to the inside of your home is common but, particularly in areas where you do a lot of your living outdoors, it is a mistake to forget these areas. Even if your landscaping is staged as a future project, you must think through where you will want lights and plan for adding the appropriate outlets and switches.
Landscape, driveway and pathway lights can also make a huge impact and do not add that much to the budget. Usually these are inexpensive, low voltage, fixtures that require a transformer conveniently located for connection to the house power and access for timers to control the lighting.
1. The focus is back on brilliant chandeliers in the entry and dining areas. A cozy formality and decorum is once again welcomed into the social spaces of the home. Chandeliers take center stage, carrying the mood of the room.
2. Many are choosing to downsize their homes and then maximize their use of space. Patios, balconies, and decks are serving as additional living/dining areas. Lighting and furniture design elements are being used to create continuity between the indoors and outdoors.
3. Solar powered landscape lighting is seeing more widespread use. As the brightness produced by energy-efficient bulbs improves, these handy outdoor lights will be getting more attention.
4. Color is going natural when it comes to fixtures. The neutrals; beige, ivory, taupe, gray, and white are paired with organic and spice colors. Grays coupled with organic tones deliver the soft, enveloping atmosphere that is the perfect counterpoint to today's busy lifestyle.
5. Everyone is paying attention to kitchen lighting. Since the kitchen has evolved as a social gathering place, multiple layers of function and ambience are necessary. The pendant light trend remains strong. Often set in a row over islands, they are also being used in three-level-closely-clustered formations over a dinette.
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