Designing with Light

Lighting uses seven to 10 percent of the total energy consumed in a home. There are a number of ways that you can reduce your electric energy consumption from lighting.

One of the most effective lighting design techniques is the concept of layering. Layering is the idea of using multiple sources of light in every room to provide lighting options for a wide variety of activities that might occur.

Each layer would be defined as a unique lighting type such as recessed downlighting, recessed accent lighting, recessed wall washing, wall sconces, chandeliers, track lighting, specialty low voltage lighting, table lamps and floor lamps. With a few exceptions, such as the laundry room, garage and closets, all rooms should be illuminated with a minimum of three layers of light for the most effective and flexible lighting solution.


Designing with Light in the Living Room

The activities that take place in a family room or living room may include entertaining, watching television, reading, playing games, etc. Other lighting functions might include accent lighting for artwork, plants or decorative architectural features.

A good technique for meeting all of these different needs is to use three to four layers of light. These would include recessed lighting at the perimeter of the room, a chandelier or central decorative fixture for general lighting, wall sconces for mood, and table lamps and floor lamps for task lighting. In all cases, avoid using recessed downlighting over seating areas, and use dimmers whenever possible for maximum control of all fixtures.

Fireplaces made of brick or stone can be emphasized with recessed downlights installed in the ceiling over the mantle to create a dramatic grazing effect across the surface. Wall sconces on each side of the fireplace are another option that brings attention to the fireplace area, while providing general lighting for the living room.

Reading requires task lighting that comes from behind and to the side of the reader’s shoulder. This can be accomplished by placing a floor lamp either at the right or the left of the reading chair. The bottom of the shade should be located at eye level to avoid glare.

Paintings can be highlighted with recessed adjustable fixtures or with low-voltage, tungsten-halogen picture lights. Work with your Kay lighting showroom to determine the number of fixtures needed depending on the size of the painting and the proper aiming angle.

House plants can be accented by aiming an uplight portable fixture at the wall behind the plant, and thereby creating a dramatic silhouette of the plant against the wall.

Bars can be lighted from above with recessed or track fixtures, or with miniature, low-voltage pendants that create an intimate scale and a sense of elegance. Glass shelves and glassware can be accented with linear, low-voltage systems mounted in the cabinet.

Miniature downlights mounted at the top of the cabinet are another effective option. The use of lowvoltage fixtures with tungsten-halogen bulbs or LEDs will emit a bright white light that makes glassware sparkle. When placement of the downlights within the cabinet is not possible, use two recessed adjustable fixtures approximately 12 inches from the cabinet.

TV, video games and computers require low-level ambient lighting that does not wash out the screen’s image nor reflect into the viewer’s eyes. Recessed miniature downlights or miniature track lighting can be installed in the near vicinity for task lighting. Wall sconces with an indirect lighting function, used with a dimmer, are ideal for creating a soft, non-glaring source for watching TV.

Game tables require bright, well-distributed overhead lighting. Shaded pendants equipped with either incandescent bulbs or compact fluorescent tubes are an excellent solution. Or, install two recessed downlights over each half of the table.


Designing With Light in the Dining Room

Dining room lighting should be both decorative and functional. This can be accomplished using a mix of ambient, task and accent lighting. These various layers of light establish the mood for a variety of functions, including dining, homework, hobby work or family bookkeeping. Dimmers will enable you to vary the light for each function.

A chandelier is the focal point of the dining room. Suspended over the dining table, it serves as a decorative element that complements the style of your furnishings. When the chandelier is dimmed, the quality of the light simulates the mood of the soft and warm light emitted by candlelight.

If the chandelier is equipped with a downlight it can provide excellent task lighting for the table and accent lighting for the centerpiece.

Recessed or track lighting provides ambient lighting while enabling you to highlight decorative elements throughout the room. A grouping of four recessed downlights around the perimeter of the room supplements the light from the chandelier, while providing accent lighting for your tableware. You can add sparkle to your crystal and silverware by using lowvoltage recessed fixtures with halogen or LED bulbs mounted on either side of the chandelier.

A buffet or sideboard can be flanked with wall sconces on either side to create a strong focal point. Choose fixtures that complement the style of the chandelier. Art and other decorative objects can be accented with recessed downlights installed in the ceiling above.

A painting can be dramatically illuminated with recessed adjustable accent fixtures. Obtain assistance from your local Kay showroom in the selection of the fixtures best-suited for this purpose.

A china cabinet, breakfront, hutch or wall niche can become a showplace for your prized collectibles by installing low-voltage or LED strips either under the shelves or on the sides of the cabinet.

Your Kay lighting showroom consultant can assist you with the appropriate selection of products for these special applications.


Designing With Light in the Kitchen

The kitchen is primarily a work area, but it is also a gathering place for family and friends. The variety of functions require lighting solutions that are both functional and comfortable.

A large ceiling fixture equipped with high color rendering, energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs will supply well-diffused ambient lighting. As the only source, however, it will create shadows when you are working at the counters. You will need supplemental task lighting such as recessed downlights installed approximately 12 inches away from the upper cabinets. The fixtures should be placed not closer than 24 inches apart and not farther than 48 inches apart. The cabinet design will dictate location of the fixtures as well as the type of recessed light you are using. Your Kay lighting showroom consultant can assist you with the selection.

At the sink, an additional recessed downlight will provide the illumination you need for washing dishes.

Dinettes, nooks and island counters can be illuminated with decorative pendants. When used with dimmer controls, these ceiling-hung fixtures will provide you with adequate task lighting for homework, hobbies or family paperwork. The dimmer will allow you to modulate the light for alternate activities such as dining or entertaining.

Undercabinet lighting is ideal for task lighting at the counter tops. Be careful of reflection when lighting counter tops of marble, granite, etc. Mount the fixtures as close as possible to the front of the cabinets to provide the best light distribution. Options in undercabinet lighting include LED, fluorescent, xenon and tungsten-halogen.

Kitchen cabinets with glass doors can be accentuated by placing low-voltage, miniature recessed downlights inside the cabinets or linear, low-voltage lighting.

The open areas above the cabinets are an excellent location for providing indirect illumination with low-voltage linear systems using xenon bulbs or LED lighting systems. These miniature strips will provide a soft glow of warm and comfortable light.


Designing with Light in the Bedroom

Ideal bedroom lighting should provide a mixture of soft, ambient lighting along with task lighting for reading and other activities. A good solution is to use multiple layers of light.

General, ambient lighting can be provided by ceiling fixtures, chandeliers, fan lights, recessed downlights or wall sconces. These options will provide the illumination that you need to dress and see into drawers.

At the dressing table, an adjustable lighted magnifying mirror will provide ideal lighting for grooming and applying makeup.

For closets, a surface mounted fixture using high color rendering fluorescent tubes or compact fluorescent bulbs is recommended. The general lighting provided by these fixtures provides ideal illumination to see your clothes and items on shelves and the floor.

Swing-arm wall lamps on either side of the bed will provide excellent illumination for reading, while leaving night tables open for other items such as a clock-radio, books or decorative items. Another idea is to hang pendants next to the bed, or to install recessed downlights in the ceiling on either side of the bed.

Children’s rooms can be illuminated in a similar manner to the other bedrooms. It is particularly useful to install a central, surface mounted or close-to-ceiling fixture that provides plenty of general illumination. Track lighting over a desk area can provide a unique decorative element.


Designing with Light in the Bathroom

In the bathroom, it is most important to provide a good source of illumination on both sides of the mirror for grooming, applying makeup and shaving. Fixtures with bulbs concealed by shades will provide excellent illumination that is shadow-free and glare-free. In small bathrooms, fixtures at the mirror will provide adequate illumination for the entire room. In larger bathrooms, an additional ceiling fixture is needed for general lighting. Layering is most important in bathrooms to achieve cross illumination.

For small mirrors, decorative wall brackets will illuminate both sides of your face evenly. Vanity fixtures above the mirror also provide excellent illumination. Fixtures equipped with halogen incandescent, LED or CFL bulbs behind glass or fabric shades will provide the most effective illumination.

Lighting strips around the bathroom mirrors with exposed bulbs were a popular solution for many years. These fixtures remain available, although there are now many other options available that provide good lighting that is also glare-free.

Tub and shower enclosures can be adequately illuminated by placing an enclosed, recessed downlight in the ceiling. The fixture must be labeled as being rated for use in a shower or wet location. These fixtures are available with a variety of bulbs that provide an excellent source of light. These downlights also are recommended over whirlpool tubs or saunas.


Designing With Light in the Home Office

When lighting a home office, you will want to provide a general source of light that is free of harsh contrasts and distracting glare. You also will need task lighting for reading, writing and working on the computer. You should also consider accent lighting for decorative items and prized possessions such as diplomas and awards.

Surface-mounted, energy-efficient, high color rendering fluorescent fixtures will provide excellent general lighting while eliminating shadows on the desks and in drawers. The ideal solution is to place two fixtures at the ceiling and to the right and left of the desk so that the light reaches the desk over your shoulder. Lighting placed in front of a desk at the ceiling will cause troublesome reflections on papers at the desk.

Credenzas can be illuminated with slim undercabinet fixtures containing energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs. Mount the fixtures as close as possible to the front of the cabinet to provide the most diffused illumination. Photographs, mementoes and professional certificates can be effectively illuminated using recessed adjustable fixtures, recessed wall washers or track lighting.

An adjustable desk lamp will provide additional task lighting at the desk and keyboard areas. Desk lamps are available with LED, CFL or halogen incandescent bulbs.


Designing With Light in Other Areas

In the entrance foyer, general lighting is needed to welcome guests and for safe passage. This can be provided by a decorative ceiling fixture that provides good general illumination while providing a decorative focal point. Additional layers of light, such as wall sconces or small portable table lamps, can provide visual interest.

Hallways should be illuminated with ceiling fixtures or recessed downlights mounted every 10 to 12 feet. Wall sconces or track lighting also are an excellent source of light in corridors. Track fixtures will provide general lighting for moving through the space while also providing illumination to accent artwork or photographs.

Stairs should be illuminated from top to bottom for safety. Place switches at the bottom and the top for convenience. A surface mounted fixture at the top of the stairs, or wall sconces along the stairs, will provide additional illumination and a decorative accent.

Utility/laundry areas need plenty of diffused general lighting for sorting laundry, measuring detergent and setting dials. A ceiling fixture with energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs will provide excellent general lighting and sufficient task lighting.


Designing With Light Outdoors

Outdoor lighting enhances the beauty of your property while providing safety and security. Outdoor lighting also allows you to take advantage of your outdoor living spaces after dark and adds value to your home.

A well-lighted front entrance enables you to accent your home and to greet visitors. Wall lanterns on each side of the door will give your home a warm and welcoming look, while assuring the safety of those who approach the front door. Under a porch or overhang, you can use recessed, chain-hung or close-to-ceiling fixtures. A separate rear or side entrance can be illuminated with a single wall lantern installed on the keyhole side of the door.

To conserve energy, consider post and wall lanterns that use LED or CFL light sources. It is important to know that fluorescent fixtures will not work efficiently in very cold climates.

A lantern at the side of the garage or a central wall fixture on the face of the garage will provide adequate illumination for both safety and security. Consider installing a photocell on these fixtures that will turn the fixtures on at dusk and off at dawn, reducing energy consumption and providing security when you are away from home.

Also, please note that many cities have implemented special building codes related to the type of lighting that you are allowed to use outdoors. You should check with your local building inspection office regarding this issue.

For added security, illuminate the sides and rear of the house with flood lights mounted on the eaves. When installed with motion sensors, the lights will turn on only if someone approaches that side of the house. An override switch allows you to manually turn the lights on and off. An automatic timer can control the outdoor lights so that they turn on and off at specified times. Another safety measure is to use timers on interior lights to make your home look occupied when you are away.

Steps, paths and driveways should be illuminated to make sure your family members and guests are able to move about safely and easily after dark. You can install low-voltage or LED path lights, post lanterns or attached lights to the side of the house.

Low level path lights, which spread circular patterns of light, will brighten your walkway while highlighting flower beds, shrubs and ground cover. These path lights are simple to install and can easily be moved to reflect changes in your landscaping. Low-level path lights also can be used to define the boundaries of long driveways. 

Decks, porches and patios can be converted into comfortable evening retreats by concealing low voltage or LED mini-lights under steps, railings or benches. Another idea is to install a low-voltage or LED spotlight or moonlight fixture in the branches of a nearby tree.

Don’t forget to add stronger light over the barbecue or serving area. To accomplish this, install a recessed spotlight on an adjacent roof overhang or mount spread lights on a railing behind the grill.

For more information on outdoor lighting, visit the Kay lighting showroom.

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