It’s easy to overlook the importance of lighting when decorating a room. Your attention may be so focused on color, furniture, rugs, and wall art that you forget one simple fact: A room that is poorly lit will seem dark and dull, no matter how well done otherwise. If you can’t see the exquisite details that you worked so hard to create, how can they be appreciated?
Here are some basic pointers to remember when adding lighting to a room.
Types of Lighting and Lamps
There are three categories of lighting: Ambient lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting. Ambient lighting provides the overall light for a room and is frequently provided as overhead lighting. Task lighting is just that: It focuses light where needed to complete a task, such as reading or needlepoint. Accent lighting is used for decorative impact, highlighting a beautiful painting or exquisite metal wall art.
Lamps are designed to provide these different kinds of lighting. As mentioned above, ambient lighting is often provided from above, so this kind of illumination could come from a chandelier or recessed ceiling lights. Table lamps or wall lamps with adjustable arms can provide very tightly focused task lighting and wall sconces or pin lights can be accent lights, directed to create an artistic effect. Lamps can provide more than one type of lighting: For example, a table lamp with a three-way bulb can be turned on brightly for reading or set on a low level for ambient lighting. And of course, all lamps have a style and design evident in their bases and shades that contribute to the overall decorative appeal of the room.
Determining How Many Lamps Are Needed
Overhead ambient lighting is essential in any room and can take the form of ceiling fixtures, recessed lighting and track lighting. Without overhead ambient lighting, shadows will be prominent in a room, no matter how many lamps you use because light cast from table and floor lamps directs light downward, leaving ‘bowtie’ shadows on the ceiling.
To determine how many lamps are needed in a room, you also need to consider the color of your furnishings. Dark matte finished surfaces absorb more light, while light and glossy finishes reflect light. Therefore a room with dark fabrics and wood will require more light than one with light colors and reflective surfaces. Of course, the amount of natural light that comes through the windows is also a factor to be considered, as well as whether the room is used in daylight or after dark.
Meeting the needs and function of your space is your main consideration when choosing lamps. For example, if you like to read in bed, wall sconces with adjustable arms are an excellent choice. A table lamp with a three-way 150 watt bulb will also work well as long as it is tall enough to illuminate whatever you are reading.
Incandescent bulbs provide the most natural glow and fluorescent bulbs tend to cast a harsh glare, but are more energy-efficient. The color of your lampshade affects the efficiency of light cast by the lamps. White, beige, and pale colored fabric shades allow more light to pass while dramatic deep toned shades are wonderful style accents but they are not practical options where bright light is needed.