Layers of Light for Dramatic Result

Providing lighting at different heights and directions not only adds visual interest and drama to a room, it also provides light for tasks and functions. I like to design lighting “backwards”. I start with the drama and accent pieces (sculpture, wall art, plants, architectural elements), then add for tasks (reading, TV watching, cooking, laundry, office desk, etc.) and lastly add “ambient” (general) lighting. Considering the ambient lighting last allows you to make sure not to “kill” the effects of your accent lighting and make sure you don’t “overlight” the room in this age of energy considerations!

I like to remind designers to consider where the source of light is (height in the room) and which direction the light points (up, down, out into the room, etc.). Varying the height and direction of lighting in a room keeps the room from looking “flat” and unexciting. For example, if you have table lamps on either side of the sofa, use a reading floor lamp beside a chair (gives down light from a different level), plant lights in the corner(s), picture lights, uplights on the mantle, sconces with opaque shades, etc. In the kitchen, use undercabinet lights to illuminate work surfaces, a chandelier over the eating area, cover lighting at the ceiling, soft recessed lights on a dimmer for traffic areas, and uplighting somewhere in the space (sconces or chandelier). This combination of up and down lighting and light sources at different levels in the room produces rich lighting design that brings sophistication and ambiance to your home.

Copyright Shades of Light 2011

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