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Lighting for Interior Design

The need for light, the tech of light, the art of light

Good interior design solutions address function, style, and the desired feel of the space. Lighting is a vital element of interior design, yet can often be overlooked. In fact, lighting can even be considered as an afterthought, late in the design process, which I do not recommend. 

Mistakes in Lighting

Looking back over decades of designing hundreds of homes, I have noticed three typical mistakes repeated during the design and construction processes:

  1. Lighting plans submitted by architects, builders, and contractors to the homeowners are insufficient for good lighting experiences. Architects have created the bones of the home, but they don’t know what the “fleshed out” space will look like or require

  2. If the cost of the project is based on allowances and not specific specifications or selections; the budget is way too low. Builders and contractors are trying to provide adequate services and materials while not appearing to be expensive, but this can backfire.

  3. The lighting plan is not developed as part of the design process but is figured out during the electrical walk-through. Someone should have design oversight and technical knowledge to develop the lighting layout and specifications prior to the electrical walk-through.

The Need for Lighting

Obviously, we need light to function. No matter what a person does in a space — including reading, working, or relaxing — we need the appropriate amount of light, the appropriate directional source of light, and the appropriate quality of light for the space to function appropriately. If the lighting in an area is inadequate, we become less efficient, more stressed, and emotionally impacted. 

Attempts to “remedy” lighting after a project is completed are typically frustrating and expensive. Also, the colors you choose for your home’s interior is dependent on the right lighting to accurately reflect your style. All that investment into the interior of your home is going to be compromised if the lighting is insufficient. 

The Tech of Lighting

Good lighting is a bit technical. Here are some lighting basics to give you some understanding. Generally speaking, the best lighting solutions:

  • Offer flexible lumen output, which means the amount of light your fixtures give you is changeable. Sometimes we need a space bright and sometimes we want to dim it down. The ability to set and control your home lighting from your phone is becoming more common, for example.

  • Have more than one directional source. Not all the light in the room should come from the ceiling. Some additional considerations are under-cabinet lighting, lamps, up-lighting, and feature lighting, including spotlights, cove lights and picture lights. 

  • Control of the quality of light. Considering quality, we measure by the CRO, or Color Rendering Index. 

  • The color of light is measured by its temperature in Kelvins. The higher the temperature, the whiter the color will be. Generally speaking:

  • 2700k is warm, and typical for an incandescent bulb (lamp)

  • 3000k is clearer and brighter is pleasant for many rooms in the home.

  • 3500-4000k is good for kitchens and work areas.

  • 5000-6500k is daylight. Some people who struggle with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) find relief with this lighting.

The Art of Lighting

The control of the amount of light, the placement of light, and color of light influence how a room feels. How a room makes you feel is probably the most important characteristic outside the function of the space, whether it’s bright and happy, dark and sexy, or soft and serene. 

Understanding the vibe you want in the room will help an interior designer create a space that not only fits your personality, but also builds in the proper emotions that you want to embrace within those areas. Lighting becomes part of your style, and far more than a functional necessity of your home.


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