Lighting Design - Lighting the Living and Family rooms in your Home

Choosing lighting for areas where we spend most of our time: the living room, den, bedroom etc. requires a lot of thought and planning. The lighting in these areas has to satisfy a long list of usage requirements and needs to be sufficient and flexible enough to allow us to comfortably accomplish the myriad of activities that take place within these spaces.

In order to achieve this, it's a good idea to 'layer' the lighting so the room can adapt and conform to the different functions required of it.

Ambient Lighting

The general emphasis should be on comfort. In a large room, or rooms with dark surfaces, subtle, ambient lighting will be necessary. Recessed lighting can provide this, so can wall sconces, ceiling lights or portable table lamps that can be placed on a surface and independently controlled (by a switched outlet if possible). Another great way to add ambient light is with indirect fluorescent lighting or cove lighting that reflects off walls and 'bounces' light off the ceiling.

Ambient lighting, especially off the ceiling can help expand the space and adds a great deal of visual interest to a room.

Accent Lighting

When accenting individual points of interest around the perimeter of a room like artwork, architectural details, and collections of small objects use spot, track or recessed lighting. Lighting of bookshelves or larger pieces of art like quilts or murals requires uniform lighting; this is best accomplished with wall-washers: – recessed cans, track lights, fluorescent strips or a luminous soffit.

Task Lighting

We also need to consider lighting for reading, writing, hobbies, games etc. The amount of light required for these tasks varies – some hobbies need bright, concentrated light, while others, casual reading for example needs less. Task lights and other decorative elements such as portable fixtures, or pendants should be positioned over tables and around seating areas so we can complete these tasks in comfort. If you use recessed lighting, plan your furniture layout carefully and consider the positioning my be redundant if you make changes to the layout in the future.

It's a good idea when layering light to build in the ability to independently control each layer, that way the room can adapt to the different functions when required. Dimmers are a good way to help your lighting become more adaptable; they have the added bonus of extending the life of incandescent bulbs considerably too.