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Home > Lighting as an Accessory

Lighting as an Accessory

Lighting as an AccessoryMost of us don’t think of lighting as an accessory, instead putting it in the category of necessary evils, like the vacuum cleaner. Done correctly, lighting is actually much more exciting than cleaning utensils. Used correctly, lighting can add pop and sizzle to a room. Its role may be subtle, but it’s the final piece to your decorating scheme. It can be used to highlight those items of particular interest and downplay those not-so-special aspects of a room. It can turn a cold, sterile environment into a welcoming retreat. Let’s begin by identifying the different types of lighting and discuss each one’s role in interior decorating.

General lighting, sometimes known as “overall” lighting is the type of lighting we’re all most familiar with. Unless you never plan to clean, this one’s a necessity. If you don’t have an overhead light that illuminates the entire room, you’ll need enough lamps or daylight from windows to accomplish this role. Torchiere (pronounced tor `shair) or uplights reflect off a light-colored ceiling creating another source of overall lighting. My personal favorite is an overhead with a dimmer switch. This allows you to dim the light fixture and use the light as an overall “wash” of light when it’s not needed at full strength. Recommended wattage is 60 - 100 watt with 60 watt bulbs used in multi socketed light fixtures.

Second, but just as important is the task lighting: light directed to areas used for reading, sewing, writing, grooming, and TV watching, etc. It can be in the form of floor lamps, desk lamps, wall lights or even recessed ceiling and track lights. Fixtures taking 75 watt – 100 watt bulbs are recommended for task lighting. A light that reflects in your TV screen is an annoying distraction. For TV viewing, you need a light off to the side and towards the rear of the room to avoid eyestrain while watching television.

Third, and the most fun from a decorating standpoint, is the accent or mood lighting. This is used to accent items of particular interest and creates a cozy ambience in the room. It can come in the form of ceiling spotlights (track or can), low wattage accent lamps, candlelight, wall sconces, lights hidden behind valances, uplights or torchiere lamps, and picture lamps. 25 watt- 40-watt bulbs are the most commonly used.

The following tips are meant to help you with function, style, and scale when redecorating or adding new lamps.

Functional tips: • Light colored walls reflect more light; dark walls absorb more light so more lighting is needed in a darkly painted room.


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