Well-planned lighting can turn a beautiful room into an inviting one that beckons
to be used. Selecting appropriate lighting for optimum functionality and design can be daunting, so we’ve broken down the basics of what goes where.
Written by Carolyn Schmitz Photography by Donicio Madrid
Since chandeliers are suspended from the ceiling, their brightest light suffuses downward and outward, making them perfect for the dining room where food and family are the featured players. To ensure optimum light, measure ceiling space, room size, and table length. Ideal chandelier lighting should be no more than about half the length and width of the dining table below it, and rest around 30 inches above it. Styles range from traditional round to modern linear suspension lights, and come in simple designs to exotic works of art. For an unexpected pop, consider hanging a chandelier in your stairwell, entryway, or even on the porch.
Like chandeliers, pendant lights hang from the ceiling, but these single fixtures are used to spotlight a specific area, such as over a favorite reading chair or above the kitchen island. They can also be hung in a cluster or row to affect a larger area. Designed for both charm and functionality pendants lights can set the tone for a room. Designs range from simple linear pendants to unusual and striking light constellations and shade shapes that express your own personal style.
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Canned lighting, aka recessed lighting, is installed directly into an opening in the ceiling. The bulbs are generally flush with the ceiling and their angle can be adjustable or fixed. The primary benefit of these lights is uniformity; the downward light doesn’t cast any shadows. When several strategically-placed recessed lights illuminate a room, it takes on an attractive, sunny brightness, making it an ideal application for a busy kitchen or playroom. Because they are small compared to other lighting applications, recessed lights are an excellent way to light spaces with smaller ceiling area, including hallways, outdoor kitchens, or the front porch. Smaller canned lights can accent a specific area of a room, such as over a desk in the home office.
Under-cabinet lighting’s ability to illuminate dark spaces makes it especially useful in kitchens where an upper cabinetry can cast shadows on the countertop below. Cupboard hinges can trigger under-cabinet lighting to turn on or off when the cabinet door is opened or closed. The fixtures themselves aren’t fancy to look at, but that’s because they are almost always hidden from view. And don’t limit yourself to the kitchen. Consider using these types of lighting fixtures to illuminate hallways or garage cupboards and workbenches. Place puck lights under shelves in a bookcase or use as a nightlight. You can also line patio covers for gentle evening light. With LED and fluorescent options, these bulbs will not emit as much heat, or need to be changed as frequently.
Sconces are lighting fixtures mounted to a wall. Their light shines upward and gently spreads outward across a small area of the wall. In use for hundreds of years, sconces were originally designed to safely house candles around a room to provide sufficient lighting in homes, castles, and on streets. When hung just above eye level, sconces provide ambient light that warms a room by spreading a small amount of illumination over the wall, ceiling and floor around it. When partnered with other lighting applications, such as a linear suspension system and table lamps, sconce lighting can help control the ambient atmosphere of the living or dining rooms, creating a sense of intimacy and welcoming.