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The Simple Guide: Home Lighting Design Basics

Design Guide: Home Lighting Ideas

Lighting plays such an important role in home design. It can turn an ordinary room into a designer looking one. Lighting can change how a room feels, making it look more spacious or making it feel cozy and relaxing. This post goes over lighting design basics, from the different types of lighting you’ll have in a home and design tips to safety and security lighting ideas.

The 3 Types of Home Lighting

There are three types of lighting you can add to a room (or your garden):

  1. Ambient Lighting is general lighting in a room. This is usually in the form of ceiling and wall lights.
  2. Task Lighting. If you have a specific task that needs to be done in a room, then you’ll want to have lights dedicated to the area. For kitchen lighting design you could have lights specifically for the countertops, the sink, or cooker. In the living room you might need a floor lamp near the couch for reading, or reading wall lamps in the bedroom. And in the bathroom you’ll have specific lights around the vanity and mirror. Outdoors you’ll want to have lights by the front door, leading up the drive way, and by any steps and stairs for safety.
  3. Accent Lighting is for highlighting decor pieces or design features in a room. If you have a painting on a wall, or even just a nice texture, a ceiling light can be point down onto it. If you have a recess in the wall, then a little light can be fitted inside of it to display a decor piece. Shelving lighting is another form of accent lighting. And outdoors you can put lights under trees or bushes, or add lights to a pond to highlight these areas.

Creating Balance

You’ll want to avoid just using one type of light fixture to light up the whole room. For example, a room that is just lit up with ceiling lights can be a bit dull. By using different light fixtures you create different lighting effects and layers, resulting in a well designed space.

So mix and match using ceiling lights along with wall lamps, or floor and table lamps. There are also other ideas such as cove lighting and pendant lights that I go over below.

Different Types of Light Fixtures

Here is a quick list of a few light fixtures and terms:

  • Recessed Lights: This is the go to choice when adding lights to a modern room. Recessed lights are fitted inside of your ceiling, so that all of the fittings are hidden out of sight. You are then left with a clean, minimalist, and modern look in the room – just like the living rooms in pictures (3) and (4).
  • Pendant Lights: Pendant lights hang down from the ceiling and help bring light closer down to surfaces. These are ideal for kitchen islands, countertops, dining tables, and for desks in home offices.
  • Cove Lighting is when you install a false ceiling, and hidden away are some lights. These lights then softly bounce light off of the ceiling and walls and into the room – just like in the bedroom in picture (5) or the living room in picture (3).
  • A Door Jamb is a little fitting you can fit on the inside of your closet or cabinet doors. And when you open the door a light will automatically come on.

Vanity Bathroom Lighting Design

There is one particular area in the house that needs special attention when it comes to lighting, and that is the bathroom vanity. If you were to just use ceiling lights over your mirror, you’ll end up with harsh shadows on your face – making it harder to groom.

If you’ve ever seen the backstage of a fashion show or a theater production, you would of seen those mirrors that have lights all around it. This creates even lighting on the face.

To recreate this in your bathroom you really only need 3 lights. One horizontal light attached to the wall above the mirror, and one vertical light on each side of the mirror.

Safety and Security Lighting

Here are some areas around the house that could require specific lights for added safety:

  • If you have any steps or stairs outdoors either in the garden or leading up to your front door, these areas would need lighting
  • The same applies to outdoor landscape pathways
  • Having a light on the front door not only deters intruders, but also makes it easier for you to see your keys when coming in at night
  • When driving out at night you’ll want to be able to clearly see the front of the garage, the driveway, and any pedestrians on the sidewalk, or cars on the road
  • If you have kids, they might get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. There are portable battery powered night light lanterns that they can take along with them to the bathroom. Or there are motion sensor stick on lights you could stick to the bathroom walls.

For more ideas and for some photos on outdoor security lighting, have a look at my post here: Home Style and Safety with Outdoor Security Lighting.

How To Make a Room Look Larger Through Lighting

To make a small room look bigger, you are going to want to make sure the entire space is well lit. This means making sure that light reaches all of the corners in the room. Recessed lighting is the way to go for its modern and clean look.

  • Home Design 101: How To Make a Room Look Bigger [coming soon]

How To Make a Room Feel Cozy and Relaxing Through Lighting

Here are some steps to take if you’d rather create a more relaxing and cozy space:

  • Avoid using the ceiling lights (you can put them on a dimmer switch to have full control of them)
  • Instead use fixtures that bring the light closer to the ground – such as table and floor lamps, or even string lights
  • The ultimate way to create relaxing lighting is to use candles. You can always put candles inside of a lantern for added protection. Or how about filling a bowl with water and add tea lights which will float. You can also get battery powered candles that mimic the real thing. There are ones that are remote controlled and will even flicker to mimic a candle.

Have a look at my lighting page to find ideas specific for each room in the house, and outdoor lighting ideas

image credits 1/2/3/4/5/6

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