A lighting strategy is essential during the early stages of planning a successful renovation or remodel. As lighting is an integral design component, it should not be left as a last minute decision or afterthought. The location of the room and the way the space will be used are important factors when determining the best lighting solutions for your home.
Two-Step Planning Process
Creating a plan in the early stages allows you to coordinate other elements within the design, such as smoke detector or speaker placement, which typically also require wiring in the ceiling. If a ceiling fan and recessed lights are to be installed in the same room, light placement should be carefully planned to avoid a “strobe-light” effect when both are in use. In addition, planning ahead allows you to order fixtures well in advance, avoiding any lead time issues. The second step of a well-planned lighting solution is doing an on-site review during the rough-in stage. No matter how good the plan may look on paper, some obvious flaws may “come to light” when actually walking through the space. Don’t only review light and outlet locations, but also take note of the placement of switches. The direction you enter a room may alter the ideal location. If there are any changes to be made, now is the time before drywall goes up and rooms are painted!
Add Light in Layers
Interior lighting falls into three categories. General or ambient lighting, serves as the overall illumination for a room, and creates a uniform level of light. Typically this is the light that comes on when you walk into a room and flip the switch, and includes recessed or ceiling-mounted fixtures. Task lighting focuses on a specific area of the room, such as under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen for prepping dinner, or a sconce or special recessed fixture in your bedroom for reading. Finally, accent lighting is used to draw attention to a particular focal point or helps to set the mood. A hanging pendant adds visual interest to the room, while a table lamp often helps to create warmth. Specially placed art lighting can highlight a particular object such as a fireplace, painting or sculpture. As a general rule of thumb, it’s recommended to focus on ambient lighting first, followed by task lighting then accent lighting. However, in a home office that is very task-oriented or a gallery where you’ll want to highlight your collection, this doesn’t always hold true.
Tricks of the Trade
- Switch out standard on/off switches for dimmers as much as possible, as they provide maximum flexibility and control. They help to instantly set the mood and also save energy when you don’t need a brightly lit room.
- Keep in mind that the fixture itself doesn’t always determine the type of light it gives off, but the way it’s positioned can. For instance, sconces that are mounted on swing arms with shades can cast light downward and provide task lighting while reading in bed. However, when the same sconces are mounted flush to the wall with the shades directing the light upward, they can add accent lighting beside a mirror.
- Having the right type of lighting in a home’s lower level is crucial, as good design can go a long way in eliminating that “basement feeling.”
- It’s always nice to have a reading lamp control located at the bedside, so you don’t have to worry about getting up to turn the light off when you’re half-asleep after reading that last page.
Even with a well-thought out plan, prepare to be flexible. You never know what might be hidden behind the drywall when it comes to the building structure or plumbing pipes. It’s also important to make sure the lighting plan is done correctly the first time, because it can be expensive to make changes after the drywall and wiring are complete. If you’re in need of a design build remodeling expert or would like assistance with lighting solutions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.