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Hey You, Lighten' Up!

Natural light kitchen

By nature, light attracts. In fact lighting is integral when it comes to creating a comfortable, safe, relaxing and overall enjoyable living environment. This #HappyHomeHappyLife post is dedicated to ways to help you lighten up your life and add some WOW to your everyday living space.

The nuts & bolts of interior home lighting

There are four types of lighting in a home: ambient, task, decorative, and accent.

Girl doing homework at dining room table

One fixture can serve several functions. A dining room chandelier is decorative but also supplies ambient light to the dining room and task lighting to illuminate the table. A recessed can light can be task, ambient, or accent, depending on its location. The best lighting schemes use several, if not all four, types of lighting, taking a layered approach.

Consider how you will be using your rooms. Perhaps the dining room table will serve a dual purpose as an area to do weekly homeschooling with your kids or an area for scrap booking during the week. Maybe you’re a math tutor or operate your business out of your home. The dining room may be a great place to host client meeting or tutoring sessions.

Bottom line, consider varying lighting needs in your dual purpose spaces.

Are shadows lurking in your kitchen?

No room is more critical for good lighting, and sadly many kitchens are overlooked when it comes to shedding some light.

The International Residential Code (IRC) says that one overhead light is enough. No way, we say! (Unless you’re the brave soul that feels comfortable slicing your stir fry ingredients in the dark.)

Poorly lit kitchens are usually due to a misunderstanding of where recessed can lights need to be placed for effective task lighting on counter tops. Most counter tops commonly measure 10 to 15 fc with all lights blazing. However the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) and the International Illuminating Engineering Society (IESNA) recommends a minimum light level on counter tops of 50 foot-candles (fc).

Kitchen beautiful lighting

To deliver enough light, cans must be directly above the counters 8 to 12 inches out from upper-cabinet faces. If they are placed farther out, the cook will block the light. An quick and effective remedy is to install under-cabinet lighting. Look for LED strips that put out more than 500 lumens per foot.

From laptops to card games and dinner prep to lunch station, having plenty of lighting over the kitchen island is a must. Decorative pendants can be combined with well-placed recessed cans to provide ample lighting for this multi-use space. In fact, it's not uncommon for large kitchens to have 15 or 20 separate fixtures of different types on separate circuits.

And of course large windows and/or glass patio doors off of a kitchen provide a connection to the outdoors while adding beautiful ambient daylight.

Bottom line, a dim kitchen can lead to missing thumbs. More beams are certainly better!

{ Wondering how your kitchen lighting stacks up? There's a number of free light meter apps available to download on your smartphone, such as Photometer PRO. }

A well-lit bathroom brings out the tiger in you

Bathroom lighting sconces vanity

Daylight helps set circadian rhythms, which can certainly help to get you up and going in the morning. The more natural light in bathrooms, the better for you psyche!

Sconces to either side of the bathroom mirror for each user provide the best lighting for makeup and morning care routines. Cross-lighting ensures there are no shadows, much like actors’ makeup mirrors, but without the circa 1980's exposed bulbs and glare.

Overhead lights alone at a vanity cast shadows which isn’t helpful for grooming, but overheads are fine if used in addition to sconces to add some drama.

Lights for living areas

Warm, soft ambient lighting is ideal here, with the ability to use task lighting for reading, school work and other needs. Close-to-ceiling light fixtures, such as drums, will offer up lighting and ambiance. Chandeliers or fans with light fixtures can be beautiful additions to a great room as well.

If you want to add some wow factor to your den, install indirect lighting.

Some ideas include: lights on top of exposed beams in a vaulted ceiling; rope lights at the top of drapery valances; or lights on top of built-ins. Indirect lighting that bounces off the ceiling is actually a fantastic way to light up a room without creating a glare. Large window groupings, sliding doors and transom windows can add character and abundant daylight.

indirect lighting and uplighting

Stairs, halls and utility lighting

More than 1,300 deaths per year in the U.S. are blamed on stair falls, making well-lit stairs a must for safety! Plan for lights at the top and bottom of the stairway that are switched together on a three-way switch. Position a plug halfway down the stairs for a plug-in night-light and for vacuuming.

Hallways should be well-lit and not too dark compared with adjacent rooms, especially for seniors, whose eyes take longer to adjust to differences in light level. Recessed cans deliver light in these spaces without glare, and eyeball light fixtures can highlight art or photographs on the walls.

Bedroom lighting

beautifully lit up bedroom

Standard bedroom lighting includes a center fixture or fan with a light, and some half-switched outlets for bedside lamps. However, ambient and decorative lighting can completely transform a master suite into an oasis.

Pendants that have an uplighting component are ideal, as are sconces or cove lighting. If the ceiling is vaulted, uplit sconces on the tall walls will bounce soft indirect lighting off the ceiling. For secondary bedrooms, a shielded center fixture in the ceiling and a closet light are optimal.

Of course, every bedroom should have at least one window per fire code. However, ensure that the window(s) are positioned to allow in ample natural light. Natural light is critical to keeping our circadian rhythms (sleep/wake cycle) in sync.

With over 20 years experience in building and remodeling, the JS2 Partners team is ready to help with your next build or remodel. Learn more about what JS2 can build for you - click here!


What's your biggest lighting pet peeve?

Have lighting tips you’d like to share?

Drop a line in the comments section below.


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