Have you ever been in a seemingly well-lit room and suddenly found yourself straining to see? If so, you know how frustrating bad lighting can be. And yet, many people continue to regard lighting as purely one-dimensional, not realizing there’s a lot more to it than its most basic function. In reality, it’s not merely our ability to see in the dark that counts, but how well we’re able to see, as well as how lighting makes us feel. By comprehending the true complexity involved in achieving good lighting, you can make the most of illumination in both your interior and exterior living spaces.
A common misconception is that installing overhead lighting will eliminate the need for lamps and other interior light sources. The biggest problem with this practice is it fails to address the functional and aesthetic roles that a variety of light sources play in the home. Just try reading in your favorite chair aided only by overhead lighting—you’ll soon be wishing you had a lamp situated closer to eye level. And if you think overhead lighting can provide the same inviting ambience as a decorative lamp or chandelier, think again. Remember, your choice of lighting is equally as important as your choice of paint colors in terms of the feeling your home’s interior conveys.
A better strategy for optimizing interior illumination is planning to provide light at all levels from a variety of sources. A trifecta of ambient, task and accent lighting is ideal: ambient lighting to give general overhead illumination, task lighting (such as table lamps) for reading and similar activities, and accent lighting to highlight artwork or ornamental plants. You can further enhance your home’s lighting by adding dimmers to light switches, which will give you more control of your light levels and reduce your energy usage.
In addition to getting lighting right inside your home, it’s worthwhile to consider how it can be utilized outside. With the beautiful weather in the Bay Area, many homeowners are utilizing landscape lighting to extend their enjoyment of their yards and gardens beyond the daytime hours.
With landscape lighting design, your main focus should be creating particular effects that heighten the aesthetic drama of your outdoor space. One great way to do this is to hang lights from the branches of large trees in your yard. In addition to providing visual appeal, this provides a safer alternative to path lighting, which can create a tripping hazard.
Another technique is to place upward-facing lights at the bases of your trees. Not only will the lights highlight the trees’ complex branch structures, they’ll also reflect off nearby plants to provide better visibility in the area. If there aren’t any trees in your yard, you can create a comparable effect by placing a pattern of discrete lights along a wall or fence.
To achieve the best results, it’s a good idea to work with a professional when upgrading your lighting, whether it’s an electrician, interior designer or landscape contractor. A seasoned expert’s knowledge of design and how light functions in a space can go a long way toward enhancing the final outcome of your project.