Light the Way: 7 Tips for Lighting Your Home

When purchasing lighting, whether for a new build or for your home, there are many factors involved in choosing the correct fixture. These include ensuring that the fixture is correctly placed and also that it’s right scale for the room and purpose. While interior design focuses on many aspects, such as the colour of the walls, the colour of the furniture, and the basic design of a room, lighting is what brings all these elements together. Interior designers find ways to use light to heighten a room’s overall theme, pull together all the pieces, create a positive mood. 

Because of this, figuring out lighting can feel overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are some basic principles and my best tips for you to remember when choosing lighting for your home.

Desk lamps are a great way to use task lighting while also showcasing your personality

Main lighting types:

When using lighting in interior design, there are three main types of lighting: ambient/general lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting. These three types work together to help set the overall mood of a room.

Ambient lighting is the primary lighting; it’s what’s used so that you can actually see. It can be dim or bright, yellowish or white, done by a single lamp or dozens. It doesn’t matter, but it’s usually practical. 

Task lighting is extra lighting used in a specific place where tasks need to be done. These are the lamps on a workbench or over a desk, or lights in the kitchen over your food prep area, so you can see more clearly.

Accent lighting are lights used in a decorative way, especially to highlight specific objects. While most rooms definitely need the first two, interior designers find creative ways to place accent lighting to help bring everything together.

So now that you know the types of lighting, here are my tips for how to pick your own lights, and how to place them in your home:

1. I consider light fixtures to be the jewelry of your home; they are a great way to show your style and personality. Nowhere does this shine more than in the dining room. Choosing the right chandelier can be daunting for some, but when in doubt, stick with the architectural style of your home.  Allow at least 30″ – 36″ between the bottom of your ceiling fixture and the top of your dining table for maximum impact. Chandeliers look best when they are 1/2 to 3/4 of the width of the table they are hanging above.  For a round table, it would be ideal to choose a fixture measuring 1/2 to 3/4 in width the diameter of the table.  When determining what size fixture to order, always remember to have the measurements of your table along with measurements of your room.

2.  In a kitchen, over the counter or bar area, allow 30″ – 36″ between the bottom of the light fixture to the top of your counter or bar top.  When installing multiple pendants, make sure the widest parts of the fixture are spread a minimum of 30″ apart.

3. For Linear Fixtures it is important to consider proportion when placing an elongated fixture over a surface.  Ideally, a fixture should measure no more than 2/3 the length of the surface under it. You can pair them when the counter or table is oversized. Allow 30″ – 36″ between the bottom of your ceiling fixture to the surface of your counter. Shape matters most when dealing with a table that is 6′ in length or more. If your table is that long you may want to consider a linear fixture like the one pictured below.

4. To add ambiance to any living space, the best option is to use dimmer switches for your lights. This is important so you can control and change the amount of light depending on the time of the day or what you are doing in the space. Oh, and let’s not forget that fireplace in the bedroom for that focal point creating a cozy ambiance.

5. When lighting over a table, typically you should leave at least 6″ from the edge, to avoid anyone hitting the fixture. The scale of your light fixture depends on the size of your space, if your room is small (e.g., 10’x10′) you’ll want to stay under 20″ in diameter with your light fixture. A fixture that is too large can overwhelm your space. 

6.  Instead of using table lamps beside your bed, pendants are a great alternative – they’re one of my favourite looks! Hang these 20″ – 30″ above nightstand to allow for bedside styling

7. Chandeliers add a touch of glamor and romance to a space, so what better place to hang a chandelier than over a bed. For the best look, measure your length and width of your room and add the two together to determine the size of your fixture. The bottom of the fixture should hang 7′ above the floor. The placement helps define the impact – either centre the fixture in the middle of the room, over the bed, or towards the head. Any of these will emphasize different areas, and you can change them according to your preference!

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