Designing a Home Lighting Plan
Flip a light switch: For most Americans, it's one of the first things they do each morning, and one of the last things they do each nightso common a gesture they barely take notice. Yet electric lighting is the single most significant factor in today's 24/7 lifestyle, enabling people to work or play any time they choose.
Cavemen and women had no such options of coursewhen the sun set each day, the one and only light source disappeared. To get to today's era of light anytime, all the time, just fast forward through hundreds of years lit dimly by candles, animal-oil lamps, and gaslight, until arriving in Thomas Edison's New Jersey workshop in the 1880s. With his perfection of the incandescent light bulbwhich produces light by running electricity through a metal filament wire until it is so hot it glowsthe possibilities for extending the work and leisure hours of the day grew rapidly.
Edison's invention has endured relatively unchanged in its basic operation, although an evolution has occurred in the placement of that light bulb. For years, a single bulb hung unadorned in the rooms of early 1900s houses, providing light but also glare. Eventually, translucent globes to encase the light bulbs came into fashion and still occupy many a ceiling. In the last decades of the 20th century, hiding the light bulb in recessed ceiling fixtures was adopted as a common practice, a technique that continues today.
This space acts as a home office, art studio and lounge area, so movable track lights and under-mounted cabinet lighting provide versatile illumination for the room. In the lounge area, a fun helix-shaped fixture in teal and purple crystals add ambiance. Design by Candice Olson
Simple Recessed Lighting
Simple recessed lighting complements the clean and contemporary feel of this space. The large lamp is a great focal point that also provides reading light for couch-sitters. The shelf lighting draws attention to the artwork. Design by Andreas Charalambous
- living spaces
- modern style
- neutral photos
- midcentury modern style
- orange photos
- bamboo flooring
- modern fireplace
- flat screen television
- built-in bookcase
- recessed lighting
- scissor lamp
- swan chair
- arne jacobsen
- arne jacobsen swan chair
- mid-century modern
- mid-century furniture
- coffee table with casters
Add Interest With Shadows
The layered lighting in this space creates interesting shadows and manipulates the dimension of the area. Layered lighting can enhance the natural characteristics of wood, stone and metal and can help draw attention to the focal point of a room. Photo courtesy of Susan Serra
Directional fixtures, which use bulbs that emit very narrow beams of light, can be used to highlight something special about a room. In this space, directional light shows off the beautiful stone wall. Halogen spotlights and table lamps also provide accent lighting in this dining area. Design by Lori Dennis
Through it all, the incandescent light bulb has maintained its dynastic hold on home lighting options. Lighting experts estimate that three-fourths of all light sockets in American homes today contain an incandescent light bulb. But that might not be true much longer.
Lighting technology is evolving rapidlyspurred by energy efficiency awareness and lawswith options including compact fluorescent, halogen, LED and other types of light bulbs, integrated into a home via myriad types of fixtures and built-in lighting, to create light for many purposes.
What isn't changing is the important role that lighting plays in creating a healthy, safe home environment. "Lighting is a powerful tool in a person's health, and in their daily rhythms," says Patricia Rizzo, DesignWorks Program Manager for the Lighting Research Center, a research and educational organization based at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, N.Y. A person's ability to see clearly, identify objects, prepare food, attend to personal grooming and perform many more functions all rely on the right type of lighting in every room of the house. Just as importantly, a person's moods and emotions are triggered by light, a result of the direct connection between the way the retina converts light signals into neural signals in the brain.
According to the Lighting Research Center, the overall goal for home lighting is that it should be "comfortable, easily controlled and energy efficient." To that end, manufacturers and lighting experts are working to improve the options for homeowners. Energy efficiency is a particular focus given that lighting typically accounts for more than 25 percent of a home's energy use, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Whether the lighting is inside or outside the home, there are new developments dailyin everything from the longevity of a light bulb (some now are designed to last 25 years) to the design of the light switch (which may just become obsolete, replaced by keypads or smartphone apps). The key to getting the greatest benefit out of home lighting is to plan properly.