Lighting plays a monumental role in our everyday lives, and it’s essential for design and daily tasks. It helps us see, affects our mood, and even aids our focus. Not to mention, lighting can be a big part of our style and creative expression. Learn some of the basics of residential lighting to make your home more comfortable and improve the interior design.
Let’s get started with the basic types of lighting. They are ambient, task, and accent.
Ambient lighting (or general lighting) provides the foundation and general illumination of a room. It’s usually achieved by using overhead lighting such as recessed lights, chandeliers, and track lights.
Task lights direct light toward a specific area to ensure the fine details are properly illuminated. Examples include desk lamps, ceiling pendants, swing arm lamps, floor lamps, and under-cabinet lamps.
Accent lighting is used to accentuate and add visual interest to an object or area. You can use these lights to add drama and change the mood. Although they can be functional, the main purpose is to add style and personalize your space.
Most rooms employ more than one type of lighting. For instance, a home office may have general lighting for the whole room, in addition to a task light by way of a desk lamp. This is known as light layering or layered lighting.
Lumen – In a nutshell, lumens tell you how much light you are getting. A lumen (lm) is a unit of luminous flux, which measures the power of visible light produced by a light source. In this case, a light source would be a bulb or a light fixture. Simply put, they tell you how bright the light is.
Watt – A unit of power. Regarding lighting, wattage (W) expresses the amount of energy it takes to produce light. If you’re considering one specific type of light, like only standard bulbs or only LED bulbs, you will find that the higher the wattage, the brighter the light.
Kelvin – A unit of temperature. In lighting, Kelvins (K) are used to measure color temperature—how cool or warm the light appears. Color-changing lights aside, residential lighting ranges from a yellow-ish color (2,000K), to white, to a blue-ish color (6,500K).
Incandescent light bulb – The standard light bulb most people are familiar with. These bulbs produce light as a result of heating up a wire filament. While this is a reliable light source, they do use more energy than modern alternatives like LED.
LED – Stands for light-emitting diodes. LED is a highly energy-efficient lighting technology. LED lighting can be purchased in the form of replaceable bulbs, or integrated LED fixtures. These fixtures don’t have replaceable bulbs and last upwards of a decade.
Foot-candle - The brightness of a light source from one foot away.
The US Department of Energy (DOE) suggests picking out your light bulbs based on lumens, as opposed to the old standard of watts. This is because newer, energy-saving bulbs use much less power (watts) to produce the same amount of light (lumens).
Different spaces require different amounts of light, depending on what they’re used for, the room’s size, and how many people occupy it.
See below to get an idea of how many lumens are recommended for each room. Remember, if your space has high ceilings, you’ll need a bit more than what’s recommended here.
Bedroom – 1,000 to 2,000 lumens
Living Room – 1,000 to 2,000 lumens
Dining Room – 3,000 to 4,000 lumens
Kitchen – 3,000 to 4,000 lumens
Kitchen Work Areas – 7,000 to 8,000 lumens
Bathroom – 7,000 to 8,000 lumens
Home Office – 6,000 to 8,000 lumens
Hallway – 500 to 1,000 lumens
Lighting should create a warm, welcoming effect. Use pendants or chandeliers, as well as wall sconces.
It’s important to have easily controllable and functional lighting. Combine overhead lighting with a mix of floor lamps and table lamps.
Installing dimmers will create drama and ambiance. Use pendant lights or chandeliers above dining tables.
Lighting should be pointing down toward your workspace surfaces. Use ceiling lights as well as under cabinet lighting for functionality.
Soft ambient lighting works best here. Bedside lamps and wall lights with dimmers help create a relaxing space to unwind.