Lighting? Lighting seems like one of those things we take for granted until the power goes off. Or maybe it's a dark overcast day with very little natural sunlight streaming in the windows, like today! Most people have no idea how important lighting is. Lighting affects safety in what we're doing but more important, lighting affects our mood. Different lighting patterns and the color of the light produce different moods and a skilled lighting designer can help you create these moods.
Lighting is also used as a decorating tool to enhance architectural features in your home, much the way lighting is used to illuminate paintings in a museum. Lights can be recessed in the ceiling, hang from the ceiling or walls and lamps can be used as accent pieces to showcase a room's design with lines, color, patterns, texture and more like the photo at right.
Improving One Home's Lighting
My experience with lighting comes from being a homeowner who has built a home and completed several remodeling projects. I'm more familiar with the installation of different light fixtures from high hats recessed in a ceiling to track lighting which I used on cathedral ceilings in the house we built. My biggest pet peeve with lighting is houses where the bedrooms do not have a ceiling fixture. It frustrates me that builders sacrifice construction costs of $40/less per bedroom and leave homeowners with ridiculous decisions because snaking wiring through the ceiling and wall to get to the switch by the door, can run several hundred dollars.
When one of my handyman customers purchased a condo, they knew immediately that the lighting was inadequate compared to their home. It reminded me of house hunting in Tokyo. We had 2 young boys and we'd always owned houses since the kids were born. I had no idea how to respond to the rental agent's simple question as to what we were looking for. After visiting the first apartment, I knew right way that lots of windows and sunlight were very important.
Condos and other attached housing is at a disadvantage with one “dark wall” where your home is attached to another home. This puts pressure on all exterior walls to provide enough windows and sunlight for the entire living space. That's why “end units” are more expensive than interior units as they have 3 exterior walls instead of only 2 walls with windows. What was really strange was the third wall, the longest wall had only one window and I agreed that the living space needed more light.
When the new owner started talking about adding wall sconces, I knew we had our hands full. The first floor layout was open concept with living room, dining are and kitchen from the front of the condo to the rear with a sliding, patio door. There was also a closet separating the kitchen from the living room so I knew furnishing these rooms would be challenging.
I suggested to my client that he let me explore different ways to make the rooms brighter, ones that didn't require committing to fixed furniture layouts as sconces might do. When I walked through the condo with my technician, we recognized that the high hats in the ceiling were not delivering the light they were capable of producing due to black walls which don't reflect the available light. We were able to improve the overall lighting and save our customer money by reusing what he already had by …
- Replacing black high hats with white ones, to help light bounce back into the room (black absorbs light).
- Adding extenders to lower light bulbs to the rim of the fixtures, to get more light into the rooms.
- My client decided not to go with CFLs which don't light up immediately.