Designing a Home Lighting Plan

We'll show you the basics, including design ideas, product tips and lighting choices.
Red Tufted Dining Room Wall

Red Tufted Dining Room Wall

This classy dining room features a red tufted wall banquette providing a focal point for dinner guests. A black crystal chandelier hangs over the table which seats ten people. Designed by Candice Olson of Divine Design.

By: Jill Connors
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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 night—so 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 course—when 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 bulb—which produces light by running electricity through a metal filament wire until it is so hot it glows—the 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.

Amazing Lighting Designs

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Unique Light Fixture

Look for unique fixtures that will add character to your room or draw attention to a favorite feature. In this kitchen, designed by Vanessa DeLeon, the Sputnik light draws attention to the piano, while the pendant lights illuminate the kitchen area.

Multipurpose Lighting

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

Photo By: BBP

Unobtrusive Reading Light

The overhead lighting in the wood provides the perfect glow for reading, while the ceiling fixtures create ambiance. Design by Antonio Ballatore

Layered Bathroom Lighting

The trick to bathroom lighting is to use layers. By including makeup lighting, wall sconces, decorative ceiling lights over the tub and accent lighting to showcase artwork, you can create a beautifully illuminated space. Design by Scott Arthur Yerkey in Chicago

Let In Natural Light

The spiral chandelier echoes the round table in this dining room. This space also has large windows, allowing natural light into the room. Designed by Lori Dennis

Use Adaptable Lighting

Lampshades are easy to switch out when you're ready to give your home a new look, so don't be afraid to choose fun colors and patterns. The playful silk shade adds a little color and character to this dining area, designed by Christopher J. Grubb.

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

Highlight a Focal Point

The sophisticated table lamps in this space provide ample lighting for reading and other tasks. Glass hurricanes with floating candles sit on the mantel, drawing attention to the fireplace and adding a little glamour to the room.

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

Soft Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting from an overhead light fixture washes this room with a subtle glow, while wall sconces cover the walls with light. Design by Troy Beasley

From: Troy Beasley

Dreamy Bathroom Lighting

The lampshades in this bathroom are beautiful yet subtle, with a frosted finish and laser-cut patterns. Lighting is a major factor in this relaxing bathroom's dreamy atmosphere. Photo courtesy of Kichler Lighting

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting can be used to highlight specific features of a room, such as architectural elements or artwork. In this dining room, accent lights emphasize the dramatic domed ceiling with hand-painted floral detail. Photo courtesy of Susan Serra

Dramatic Architectural Fixtures

This spa-like master bedroom has an architectural ceiling fixture that casts soft, ambient light. Sheer curtains allow natural light to flow in, while the bedside lamps add another interesting architectural element. Design by David Bromstad

Directional Lighting

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

Lighting From Furniture

The Moroccan-style coffee table lights up, giving this room an interesting dimension. The over-the-top chandelier adds character, while the lamps by the wall help balance out the lighting throughout the room. Design by David Bromstad

Photo By: Aaron Rapoport

Theatrical Lighting

A black crystal chandelier against a red backdrop adds a dramatic touch to this dining room. Recessed lighting brightens up the rest of the space. Design by Candice Olson

Hollywood Style

With a back-lit mirror, this powder room is reminiscent of a Hollywood dressing room. Bouncing off the mirror, the light presents a halo effect and creates drama in the space, designed by Melissa Salamoff.

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 rapidly—spurred by energy efficiency awareness and laws—with 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 daily—in 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.

Importance of Kitchen Lighting 02:42

The right lighting for various activities is a must for every kitchen.

Our Lighting Planning Guide will help you set goals for your lighting project, inspire you with design ideas and give you the information you need to choose the right products.

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