Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Lighting When You’re Decorating Your Space

July 6, 2017

It’s easy to overlook lighting when decorating your space, but a properly lit room can be visually pleasing, help you save on energy bills and even be good for your health.

The first rule of picking out lighting is that it should match the purpose of the room and the activities happening there, said Beverly McCloskey, a Lynchburg, Virginia-based interior designer.

Once you’ve decided the room’s purpose, you can start adding light in layers: ambient, from overhead; task lighting for work areas; and accent lights.

In a dining room, dimmable chandeliers and soft lamplight can create ambiance. But the cook needs bright lights in the kitchen, plus illumination for cooking tasks like chopping and measuring.

You can’t have too many lamps, especially in spaces where there isn’t much natural light, said Kathleen Coumou, Senior Vice President of Christie’s International Real Estate, a global luxury real estate network of which Long & Foster is an affiliate. Fixtures made from natural materials like quartz, pyrite, shell and malachite are popular today.

Ideally, the homeowner knows early on in the decorating or remodeling process where furniture will be placed, McCloskey said. Otherwise, contractors might need to come more than once to move outlets and fixtures, and that can get pricey.

“If you know how you’re going to use the space in the room, you can think about lighting,” McCloskey said. “I like table lamps, sconces, overhead lights – they all have different benefits.” A designer can help determine optimal light placement for aesthetics and practical use of the space, she said.

Free lighting tips and information can be found at the Lighting Research Center, at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, New York. The center’s website offers an interactive lighting guide where users can view typical rooms lit in various ways, along with estimated operating costs associated with different types of lighting.

The center offers calculators that compare incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient CFLs or LEDs to show how much money and energy can be saved.

Lighting isn’t just important for function and appealing design. The human body’s physiological response to light can affect sleep patterns, mood and cognitive function. Research has shown it’s not just the level of brightness that’s important to our health, but we’re also affected by spectrum, timing and duration, and previous light exposure.