With daylight savings time coming to an end and the days growing shorter and cooler, it’s a great time of year to make our interior spaces more comfortable and our exterior spaces safe and inviting. One of the best things you can do is consider improvements to your lighting inside and outside of the home
With shorter days, it’s clear the important role lighting plays in creating a comfortable, cozy, safe, and productive home environment.
Here are 5 tips to help homeowners get the most from their interior and exterior lighting solutions. By the way, these are the same tips we suggest if you are preparing your home for sale.
Light your Rooms in Layers
Consider the three main types of lighting layers that are available, and use them together to create a well-lit home:
- General/Ambient lighting helps to fill a room with light. Ambient light becomes the foundational level upon which the other layers are built.
- Task lighting helps you accomplish a specific function – from reading a book to chopping vegetables.
- Accent lighting serves as a decorative element and helps to enhance certain architectural details – like coves, tray ceilings and decorative trim. It is like the jewelry, the “bling” that aesthetically finishes the room.
Tip: Using all three layers of light adds flexibility to your lighting design and gives you the ability to create just the right atmosphere.
It seems easy enough to install a row of recessed lights in a room and call it a day, but this strategy will ultimately disappoint. “Homeowners tend to light rooms like they’re hosting a convention — too much overhead light,” says Robert Gross, an architect at Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design. “This doesn’t add any warmth or character to a room.”
Many spaces have overhead lighting, but it’s often not enough to adequately light a room. Without task lighting, like lamps, reading the paper at the kitchen table or writing at your desk could put a strain on your eyes. And if you only install overhead lights in the bedroom, you won’t get the cozy quality that bedside lamps can provide.
Ambient (overhead) lighting will come in handy when you’re hosting large numbers of guests, but you’ll miss the more intimate table lamp when you’re at home alone reading.
Want to get super fancy? Accent lights that highlight art, cabinet interiors, or walls (think sconces) can add a luxe design element to a room.
Make Use of Dimmer Switches
Adding dimmer switches is probably the easiest and cheapest way to add ambiance and control to the lighting in any room “Dimmers are the best kept secret of lighting design,” says interior designer Jeff Fiorito. “They allow you to control your lighting from day to night, for various events, and depending on your mood.” A quaint dinner party simply isn’t so quaint if your dining room is lit up like a stadium.
Pick the Right Size Fixture
“This a common mistake I see homeowners make,” says Abbe Fenimore, the designer at Studio Ten 25. “A too-small chandelier over a large dining table or an oversized lamp on a table next to a sofa will make the area look disproportionate.”
Try these design tricks from Wayfair and Good Housekeeping for picking the correct size of chandelier: Add together the room’s height and width in feet. Convert it to inches, and that would be the approximate diameter of your chandelier. In dining rooms or kitchens, it’s a good rule of thumb to choose a chandelier that’s one foot smaller than the table’s narrowest width.
And don’t rely on eyeballing it when you get to the store. “Fixtures often look smaller in lighting showrooms, so bring measurements,” says Kerrie Kelly, home design expert at Zillow Digs.
Choose the Right Bulbs for Brightness, Color and Operating cost
- Choose higher output bulbs for fall and winter.
- Clean the glass on ceiling fixtures and chandeliers
- Choose high-quality bulbs with full-spectrum light.
- Choose the same color temperature bulb for the entire room.
Choosing your color and brightness:
Brightness in modern light bulbs is measured in lumens, with a higher number indicating a brighter bulb. Watts are sometimes associated with a light bulb’s brightness, but watts actually tell you how much energy a bulb uses. Here’s what to look for:
- 800 lumens to replace a 60-watt bulb
- 1,100 lumens for a 75-watt bulb
- 1,600 lumens for a 100-watt bulb.
- The lower the bulb is on the Kelvin scale, the warmer the glow it will emit. To select color (in Kelvins), look for:
- 2,700–3,000 Kelvins for warm-yellow light
- 5,000–6,500 Kelvins for a cooler, whiter, natural-daylight color.
- Warm colors work well in bedrooms and living areas, while cooler tones tend to be ideal for task-oriented rooms like kitchens and workspaces. You may want to consider trying different colors in different spaces to see what appeals to you.
Don’t Forget Outdoor Lighting: Consider safety, Convenience, and Savings
- Use motion sensors, and remember that these can wear out and break over time. Buy a good quality one that will operate properly and last for years. Such a sensor will pay for itself over time while providing and inviting lighted greeting for you you and your guests on demand. You will enjoy coming home to a well-lit sidewalk and entryway that lights up for you, no hands needed.
- Keep sidewalks and parking areas well-lit for safety, especially for your guests visiting during the holidays. While you know every little dimple and bump in your sidewalk, your guests may be navigating this for the first time.
- Consider outdoor, low-voltage lights along sidewalks. They’re easy to install and cost-effective to operate. Add drama with up-lighting against trees and architectural features of your home.
- Clean or replace old, worn-out exterior lighting fixtures. Many of the fixtures originally installed on homes are the cheapest possible fixtures, and over time they become worn by the elements. Create a warm and inviting first impression for your visitors by improving the entrance to your home. Give these fixtures the thought they deserve. If the fixture is in good condition, take the time to clean it thoroughly–especially the glass.
Local Lighting Buying Guide
Want to improve your home’s lighting? Here are a few local Ann Arbor area stores we like that can get the job done from inexpensive to custom lighting fixtures and everything in between:
- Ikea – Easily the most lumens for the buck. On a budget, load up on table lamps, low voltage under counter lighting, and chandeliers at budget prices. The best budget solution. Also, consider Target. It’s a great way to go if you are preparing to sell your home and want to get better lit rooms to show your home at its best.
- Home Depot and Lowe’s. Great for overhead and florescent lighting and all sorts of light bulbs, many very inexpensive solutions for indoor and outdoor lighting.
- Three Chairs Co. Downtown Ann Arbor, trendy lighting solutions, design assistance available.
- Gross Electric. This is my go-to lighting solution. I like these guys – especially Paul. They have endless catalogs full of lighting, with many options available that are not much more expensive than the home stores, spend a ton and get that special custom fixture. Great service and design expertise available at no extra charge. I am a snob about buying light bulbs. I buy the expensive ones and I get them here. Go to the service counter, they will take care of you.
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