The Value and Variety of Good Lighting Effects in Interior Design

January 4, 2012

We paint with pigments but we can also paint with light. We can actually color a space or surface with a color of light or we can illuminate a color of a space or surface with the addition of light. Accenting items or areas in a space or exterior environment is an exciting element of interior or exterior design. We know that the fact that light exists in a space allows us to visually “read” that space. It makes me think though of the clever Kohler ad with the blind guy at a party coming back to his date from the restroom and exclaiming something like “Wait ‘til you see that bathroom!” Not the manner that most people experience a room – but like the last blog about lavender…there are many senses that comprise the effective or ineffective design of a room.
So lighting in this instance is of key importance. With short days of winter still ahead, the nights are longer and the need for artificial light is not just a design element, it is a functional requirement for utilizing or experiencing the space. Differently from ambient daylight however, artificial light offers many opportunities to manipulate, accent and create special effects.
Shadow and light the two opposing forces in the drama of lighting. The absence and the presence, the voids and depths versus the illuminations, accents and “pops” all contribute to the balance and effectiveness of the area’s influence. It gives us the opportunity to enhance, accent, draw attention to, and remove from the focus.
Inside, bring forward the things to emphasize and send back to the recesses of light or the lack thereof those that you choose not to place in importance. Accent a painting on a wall with a spotlight. Cast an ambient glow around the room from a translucent lampshade. Multiple light sources are often the best. They add variety, interest and balance to a scene.
Some light sources are decidedly decorative and they may or may not contribute greatly to the scene. Decorative fixtures can be chandeliers, table lamps, floor lamps, wall sconces, or surface mounted ceiling fixtures. They are selected not just for the illumination that they provide, but for their design influence in the scheme. How they play a part in the illumination of the space is another story – and variable.
People are best viewed from a light source at the face level rather than down from recessed or track lights in the ceiling, which is why table lamps are an asset when creating a setting in which people gather. Social settings differ from display settings. Lighting from above as an exclusive source can be limiting if not ineffective. The shadows cast are not attractive – rather, they can be ghoulish. It’s like the effects of a flashlight either from above or below on your face in a mirror – test this – you will never want to be on a date sitting beneath a light source glowing down from over your table. Scary.
To set the stage of an interior, determine where you want the viewer to go -where you want the destination of the “read” of the space to be. There are these accent spots – points of interest…and then the harmony of the entire area takes shape. Find the attractive features in various parts of the room…a plant in the corner might be lit from beneath to cast shadows on the wall – an inexpensive and dramatic effect. Buy an “up” light at Home Depot or Lowes – a local lighting store might have a greater price range and variety of lamping types and fixture styles. Also, a spot direct down onto a plant or sculpture on a pedestal or vase on a table – the drama of highlighting amidst the otherwise low-light is powerful.
Lighting creates mood, alters perception, and has subliminal as well as obvious effects. Use it to change the feel of a space. You want someone to linger, soften the light – you want them on edge and ready to leave – up the lighting to an unpleasant range. Restaurants and residential dining rooms are perfect examples of soft lighting providing a relaxed atmosphere – in those same rooms where the light levels are higher, notice the less relaxed sensation that is experienced. Likewise, if you want someone to feel welcome, soften the light rather than blasting it.
Light up you life with really good light!

Casita soft and soothing

Bright and Bold!

Sheer-shaded chandeliers and wall wash spots


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