How Much Is Too Much?
“In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary” Aaron Rose (Film Director, Artist, Writer)
The technicalities of illuminating your home can be overwhelming. Questions like, what are the different watts of light, different colour temperatures, and which bulb is best for which space in your home (LED, CFL, Halogen, Fluorescent). The team at JMW Electrical Services are experts at knowing the subtleties of the technical aspects of lighting and are only too happy to help in this context; and together with your interior designer, who will consider your style, and the style, sizes and material of light fittings, we will help you find the right lighting combination to suit your home.
Alongside these important aspects for your home lighting, the placement of lighting can make or break the atmosphere you are trying to create. Layering lighting is the foundation for creating a well-lit beautiful space. Layering the function, physical placement, and strength of lighting is a subtle art that is all too often overlooked or over compensated for. So, how do you put it all together, how much is too much?
First, let’s start with the basics. Essentially there are four functional types of lighting: task, ambient/general, accent, and decorative. Each offers a different purpose, some suited to specific spaces within the home that when balanced well together can be truly harmonious across the spaces in your home.
Task lighting is activity-based, where the light is directed towards the activity. This lighting ought to be free of glare and shadows so the flow of light is uninterrupted. For instance, preparing and cooking food, reading, or makeup application and shaving are all activities that require a good level of direct illumination.
Ambient/general lighting offers a comfortable level of brightness across a large area. Typically, ceiling lighting is ambient lighting however it doesn’t have to be directed down (like we are so used to). Directing recessed lights across the ceiling and/or down the walls will help soften a space. Likewise, a few wall lights and/or table lamps used frequently would also be considered ambient lighting.
Accent lighting is angled towards something of interest, like a piece of art/sculpture, or an architectural feature. The light fitting doesn’t necessarily need to be the feature, rather illuminating a feature, however some accent light fittings add to the overall view of the feature. When these three functional types of lighting are used in complement the result can be magnificent.
Falling within the three main categories, yet carrying its own category title, is decorative lighting. Alongside the primary function of the lighting (task, ambient, accent), decorative fittings are for no other reason than to look beautiful. Big, small, or style specific, I’m sure you’ll agree there are some truly beautiful decorative fittings in our world.
Whatever the function however, lighting can be placed on many of the surfaces within a space, for a number of different effects. Types of lighting include recessed, ceiling pendant, ceiling mounted, wall fixed, spot lights, desk lamp, floor lamp, strip lighting, and/or floor up lighting. The number and combination of uses across these surfaces will be dependent on the atmosphere and function desired of the space, and this is where the tendency to over use can be prevalent.
A good starting point for a space is a focal point, which can draw your attention to an aspect of the space. A beautiful pendant, row of pendants, or a gorgeous large and unique floor lamp can make a stunning impact on a space; however, the subtle use of track lighting, wall lighting, or directional lighting can draw the eye to a feature as a focal point. Focal points, whether the light fitting itself or a piece of art/architectural feature, work well at around eye level or just above, which is easier for your eye to fall on and helps define zones within a space.
From the focal point, complimentary lighting in a combination of ambient, task, or accent can make up the remaining lighting requirements. However, because there are so many options available, using at most two of the other lighting functions is advisable. Too many types of lighting functions in one space can end up looking complicated, busy, and feel uncomfortable. It can work at the other extreme as well, for example, ceiling lighting only can feel bland and potentially over saturate the space, which may end up feeling clinical.
Which brings us back to layering. Layering the level, intensity, and positioning of lighting has the ability to soften spaces that need softening, keep tasks in good light when needed, and section off areas or turn down for ambience. A great tip is to control the layers separately, which gives flexibility across the functions of the lighting without being all or nothing.
A last piece of cautionary advice, so many of us have done it though; you walk into a lighting store and fall in love with a light fitting, only to get it home and it’s too big, the wrong material, or the wrong colour tone. Lighting ought to be thought of as a whole aspect of your living, cooking/eating, sleeping, and being outdoors; and layered to your individual style and requirements. Connectivity across all fittings and across all spaces creates a lovely sense of comfort and flow. Depending on the style and atmosphere you are trying to create however, this can be an overwhelming concept, which is where an interior designer can help you navigate this vital aspect of your home.
Next time, we’ll discuss how mixing styles is a subtle art that can liven up your home and give it a unique wow factor.