Feature lighting against a dark backdrop

It can be difficult to avoid using puns when talking about lighting, such as lighting designs to illuminate your life, or where design can light up your life .  However, the truth is both these phrasings are accurate.  Lighting is an important element in having an effective and functional home, but it is also a tool to highlight artclectic design choices that get noticed.

The right lighting design can indeed illuminate your lifestyle.

Why do I need to think about light design? 

According to Australia’s Guide to Environmentally Sustainable Homes, lighting design helps with function as much as it does with reducing energy costs.  For example, a house designed to take advantage of available sunlight, while also having lighting design for tasks rather than “lighting up a whole room” can help to improve lifestyle while also saving on your energy expenditure.

You can use well-designed lighting to help illuminate work areas such as kitchen benches and office spaces with direct light, while reducing the amount of shadow on the work area.  You can also use direct light to illuminate features around your home, while throwing enough indirect light to illuminate so you can see obstructions (such as steps) and walk around your house without risk.

When you have good outdoor lighting it will help to illuminate features and be a good safety device, while positions as to not attracting pests, such as bugs, to your home’s entrances.

There is a lot to think about with lighting design, so it’s helpful not to be in the dark about your options.

What lighting options are available?

Illumination technology has changed significantly over the years, because there is more than one objective of lighting technology.  Some lights are designed to save energy, some are designed for a strong focus with reduced indirect illumination.  There are lights designed to give off a cool light and some a warm light.  

In this section we will explain a few of the types of lighting around the home and what are the common types of fixtures available.

What lighting options are there for my home?

There are three main types of lighting purposes; task, ambient, and accent lighting.  We could add a fourth with outdoor lighting, which can also share the feature of the three main light purposes.  Outdoor is unique because of the additional purpose of safety, and the need to be weatherproof.

Task lighting 

These are lights located in work areas to illuminate benches and are strongly focused on the task at hand.  They help keep you alert and focus.  So lighting has a strong, targeted illumination and is usually warm. 

These lights have a strong focus on a usually small, specific area, such as a kitchen bench to help add additional light for cooking and preparing food.  These lights are usually also handy for areas such as study areas, workshop benches and libraries.  Anywhere where there are intricate and precise activities where a strong light is needed, such as computer work, studying or reading.

Because these lights have such a strong focus there is strong shadowing if you are between the light and the work areas.  Think about a reading lamp and the strong shadows it casts because of the high illumination in one area.

Since there is potential strong shadowing, these lights need to be off centre and aligned to minimise shadowing. Two or more lights will also help reduce shadowing if the direction light counteracts the shadowing from the other light.

Types of task lighting:

In some cases ceiling lighting is adequate for task lighting such as over the dining area.  By having the light over the central part of a large surface area. Most shadow is projected back away from the surfaces where the light is needed.

However in a kitchen where there are mounted cabinets, a ceiling light could be ineffective because the cabinets project a shadow over the bench space.  In this case you need to consider under the cabinet lighting to properly illuminate benches.

If you have under counter lighting, then you may just need ambient ceiling lighting for the kitchen when you are not using the kitchen benches.

All lighting in your custom home should be designed to complement other lighting choices.  When you renovate your home you should always reconsider what lighting choices you need to make. Task lighting on your kitchen ceiling may never get used because it doesn’t do the job required.  Also in the kitchen you have other lighting considerations such as lights in a range hood, or fridge lighting that might influence your other lighting decisions in the kitchen.

Other task lighting includes; 

  • Pendant and hanging lighting – these are versatile lighting options, and usually drop lights from the ceiling.
  • Recessed lighting – these are usually installed into the ceiling or under wall cabinets. They are usually LED lights because of their long life, and they do not heat up as much as other light sources.
  • Lamps – directional lamps are used for task lighting, such as a reading lamp.  Lamps attached to a wall or frame can be on a swing arm for more flexibility design choices.

Talk to your local lighting specialist for what options are available.  There are always new designs being offered.  Let’s take a closer look at the next purpose for lighting – ambient lighting.

Ambient Lighting

Ambient light is usually a softer light to fill a space.  It’s the most common form of lighting and is usually used so people can go about their activities without drawing a strong focus to any particular area.  Ambient lighting is usually ceiling lighting but can also be wall mounted to create a reflective glow.

Ambient lighting does not cast such a strong shadow as task lighting, so can be positioned almost anywhere in a room.  

You can also use coloured globes with ambient lighting to create different ‘moods’ in various rooms.  Ambient lighting is also commonly called mood lighting.  

When you are designing lighting for your home, consider some color options as there are so many different warm and cool lighting options available.  And choosing the right ambient lighting for your room can completely change its feel.

Types of ambient lighting 

Ambient lighting is so popular because it is so versatile.  Almost any common designs of lighting have ambient options for example.  If you are looking for more of an ambient light in your dining room you might want to consider a chandelier fixture instead of a down light.  

When you start exploring your lighting design for your new home, you will realize that you will only be limited by your imagination.

Other ambient lighting options:

  • Wall lights – this is a good option as it smooths out the colour as most of the light is reflected off the walls creating a softer and calm feel.  Definitely one of the more common options in hotel rooms for just this reason.  It gives a more relaxed feel.
  • Floor lamps – while you can have task lamp lighting. A lamp with a large lampshade helps to dispel the light.  Also a floor lamp can be moved around the home whenever the redesign bug hits.
  • Track lighting – this is a small series of lights usually in the roof.  Individually, the lights are not strong enough for taks or accent lighting, but together they offer an ambient glow.

Accent lighting 

Accent lighting, like task lighting, illuminates an area, but it is used to highlight features.  Used correctly, accent lighting offers a different perspective on something, particularly when used in outdoor lighting.  Usually when used outdoors, for example under a tree, it offers a different perspective from the day, when the only light source is the sun.  It can cause a dramatic change of perspective, and that’s what you want from good design.

Indoors, the accent lighting is used to highlight art, architectural features, or feature pieces in your home.  They are usually a white glow as it’s used to enhance something else, not change the perspective of it.

Types of accent lighting

One of the most common accent lighting fixtures is a sconce.  A scone is a lamp that is affixed to a wall so it offers a directional light onto a particular part of a wall (to light up artwork).

The most common outdoor accent lighting option is a floodlight.  Sometimes these are put in the ground to highlight a tree from below.  These are often LED lighting because of their longevity and their strong illumination qualities.

Other accent lighting includes:

  • Dimmable spotlighting –  let’s face it, you might not want to showcase your collections all the time. So dimmable spotlights could be a good option.
  • Recessed lighting – The same option as task lighting with LED lights as they do not heat up as much as other light sources.  There are plenty of advantages of LED lighting over other forms of lighting, but the main point is that they are energy efficient and durable.

More reading

So far, we have discussed some of the types of lighting and the best fixtures to get the result you want.  There are also choices to be made on the strength of lighting needed.  The best option is to first decide what you want in design, then visit a light specialist to discuss the best fixtures and light source to achieve your goals    

When there are so many lighting options, a conversation with your builder or home designer can be illuminating.  Contact us to discuss lighting options to enhance you new homes’ features.   

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