It might seem simple to choose a decorative pendant that you love, or a table lamp that “goes with” the rest of your space. But architectural, functional lighting fixtures can be a lot harder to choose on your own. Yet this is the lighting that professional designers regard as the “secret sauce” to make personal living space more functional, more comfortable, and certainly more beautiful.
That’s not to say it’s not possible to create your own custom lighting plan for your home—it’s just a matter of knowing what you need. These five questions will help you get started:
1. How will you be using the room?
Family life, private time, homework, entertaining, and other real-life activities call for different types of lighting. Also take into account the room’s different “zones.” Lighting over a table or counter is almost a given. If you like to read on the sofa, put that spot in the right light, too. Set the right mood for a long soak in a hot tub with a decorative LED fixture that’s dimmable and rated for damp locations.
2. What do you want your lighting to do?
There are three basic types of lighting: general lighting, ambient lighting, and task lighting. A good lighting plan has a combination of all three. General lighting from overhead chandeliers, pendants or other ceiling lights should be supplemented with lighting close to the task, such as suspended pendants over a food prep area, or a dimmable LED task lamp on a desk. Dimmers create ambiance for entertaining, meditation or any mood in between.
3. How much light do you need?
Today’s state-of-the-art LEDs use less power to produce the same amount of light as incandescent lights. With incandescent bulbs, brightness used to be measured in wattage. Now, it and LED brightness is measured in lumens. How many lumens is enough to light a task, or an entire room? The IES Lighting Handbook, an official publication of the Illuminating Engineering Society, offers these guidelines:
- To light a floor, estimate 20 lumens per square foot. A 10 x 10 foot living area requires 200 lumens (20 lumens x 100 square feet).
- To light tables and raised surfaces, estimate 30 lumens per square foot. A 6 x 3 foot dining table requires 540 lumens (30 lumens x 18 square feet).
- To light a desk (and for most task lighting), figure on 50 to 75 lumens per square foot. Such brightness might not work in all situations, however. You can up the brightness in kitchen prep areas to a level that might feel stark and clinical feeling elsewhere, like in a bedroom or powder room. Use dimmers controls to set the light levels to your liking.
4. How critical is color?
Lighting can make colors come alive. In the right light, fabrics, carpets and patterned surfaces really pop. Conversely, the wrong light will fade and flatten even vibrant color or make cool colors seem off. It’s important to choose color temperatures suited to specific situations.
When it comes to color, there are two key measurements to know: Degrees Kelvin and Color Rendering Index (CRI). Both start with the concept of natural daylight, which can be bright and warm. Candle flames and incandescent light bulbs have this familiar warmth, which is also achievable with energy efficient, long-lasting LEDs.
Degrees Kelvin measures warmth (yellowness) of the light. Light sources are available in a range of color temperatures measured by degrees Kelvin (K). A higher number on the Kelvin scale is whiter, while a lower number Kelvin is yellower. Daylight, for example, is 5000K.
A temperature of 2700K is considered “warm white” or “soft white.” Most designers recommend 2700K to 3500K for living rooms and bedrooms. For kitchens and baths, many opt for cooler, brighter temperatures of 4000K to 4500K. For best results, pair cool light with cool colors and warm light with warm tones to keep your colors true.
The CRI Index refers to the light’s ability to faithfully render color. Daylight has a CRI of 100. Incandescent light sources are also 100 CRI. The newest LED light sources are 90 CRI, which is recommended for optimum natural color reproduction.
5. How important is innovative design and engineering?
Looking for the latest ideas in lighting? High performance light fixtures with integrated LED light sources have features and benefits not possible with incandescent light sources. And they look quite different, too. More energy efficient and longer lasting than incandescent bulbs, LEDs are tiny and they run cool, two important factors affecting next-generation lighting design. Think about these two factors when you explore residential lighting’s slimmer, trimmer look and feel.
To see beautifully formed and engineered functional lighting in action, check out the designs available from Blackjack Lighting.
Blackjack Lighting designs and manufactures high performance decorative lighting fixtures that are “LED-like,” not “incandescent-like.” A combination of engineering expertise, design ingenuity and artistry goes into Blackjack next-generation LED chandeliers, pendants, vanities, flush mounts, wall lamps, task lamps and table lamps.