How to Design a Home Lighting Plan


When designing an effecting home lighting plan, there is a lot to consider. When faced with the task of creating an ambient yet practical environment, lighting is surely one of the most important details, so you will want to install it correctly from the start. This does require a certain amount of imagination and visualisation, as well as practical consideration. Otherwise you may find yourself having to cover unforeseen costs in order to correct mistakes later.

Getting the lighting right in every room depends largely on understanding the function each one has. By carefully considering the regular tasks you are likely to perform in each space, you are much more likely to pinpoint the appropriate lighting from the offset. There is a lot of creative scope in this approach too. After all, making an ideal living space isn’t only about functionality – aesthetics are a major aspect. The perfect home lighting plan will tie in aesthetics with functionality to create an appropriate atmosphere in each area.

You will be working with three main layers of lighting: these are task lighting, ambient (or general) lighting, and accent lighting. Each lighting type brings something different to the atmosphere of a room. However, before you set out to determine the lighting types required in each room there are some important factors to consider, such as:

1. The atmosphere you want to create

Visualising the atmosphere you desire in each room is a great place to start when designing your lighting plan. Will the lighting lend itself to a bright and lively atmosphere, or promote relaxation at the end of a busy day?

For instance, if you’re coming in from a busy day at the office and keen to unwind, you’ll want to have a warm and inviting lounge area that makes it easy to unwind. Glaring bright light (such as that cast by excessive downlighting) will do nothing much for that, whereas low, indirect lighting with dimming options will give you plenty of control over the mood of the room.

If you are in the process of building the property, this would be a good time to consider the number and position of your power points. That way you’ll have plenty of places to put floor and table lamps. You might want to install some spotlights, which will enable you to direct the light according to preference; this is helpful for performing tasks in specific areas of a room.

2. Functionality of fixtures

It is important to pay attention to more than just the way an attractive light fixture will look. Equally important are the light distribution and output. This means considering the dimensions of the room carefully. For example, the height of the ceilings will make a big difference to light distribution in the room. Choosing the wrong kinds of shades or fixtures that are too small could limit the level of illumination you achieve.

One way to remedy this is to opt for adjustable light fixtures so that you can alter the level of lighting at any time. Dimmer switches are useful for this.

Now for the five main steps to take when designing your home lighting plan:

1. Create a detailed floor plan of the spaces you want to illuminate

The most useful way to do this is to draw it to scale, including details such as the position of the windows and doors. Knowing where the windows are will give you an idea of how much natural light you’ll get, but of course artificial lighting will have to take over once the sun goes down.

Furniture placement should also be included, as you may require accent lighting to highlight some of it. Another detail to consider is the reflections caused by mirrors and shiny surfaces, as these may mean you don’t need as much lighting as you might have imagined. Once you understand the layout of each room, the positioning of furniture and how much natural light each receives, you can pinpoint which areas are likely to shadowed.

Without a detailed floor plan it is easy to overlook voids like those above stairwells. Such spaces can be made far more attractive (and practical) with appropriate light fixtures. Again, if you’re currently constructing the build, this is prime time for an electrician to install cables that cover these areas – that could save you a lot of money later.

2. Decide on realistic budget

When creating your lighting plan, you should also have a reasonable budget in mind. It is often the case that budgets are stretched on other areas of home design and lighting is left as an afterthought. Doing this can have a detrimental effect on all of your previous efforts, because without the appropriate lighting, the other design elements won’t be optimised.

3. Consider the tasks you’ll perform in each room

Lighting a space is only one factor to consider: it may not be obvious initially that there are voids and spaces in the building that won’t be easily reached by general lighting. The aesthetics of each room are equally important. You will naturally want to position lights over areas like the kitchen workbenches, inside and under cupboards, above bedside cabinets and desks, and around mirrors… the positioning of these makes all the difference.

Task lighting is the best place to start. By giving some thought to the tasks you will perform in each space, you can easily determine how much light you’ll need in specific areas. It may help to mark out those areas for ease of reference when it comes to installations. For example, a pendant light above a vanity mirror might look nice, but it will cast shadows on your face during tasks like makeup application or shaving. It is better to install lights evenly around the mirror, and particularly at eye level.

4. Think about your ambience lighting

Ambience lighting is the general lighting that fills the space. It doesn’t have a particular focus, but provide sufficient illumination in each room. Some people seem to think this means filling their rooms with downlights, but although that does effectively illuminate the space, it does nothing for the actual ambience. In fact it can create far too much brightness that actually destroys your effort to create a pleasant atmosphere, while detracting from the aesthetics of the room.

Ideally your ambience lighting will create visual comfort. A good way to achieve this is lighting a wall with a soft glow, rather than just blanket lighting the ceiling. Wall washers can add an extra dimension to any space, and uplighting on the ceiling allows light to reflect; this is actually a very popular method of creating ambient lighting these days. Table lamps and floor lamps also create a pleasant ambience.

5. Create the finishing touches: accent lighting

The last layer of lighting to consider is accent lighting; this is the layer needed to accentuate the features of a room that should out. It directs the vision toward these items – in particular creative elements - creating an aesthetically pleasing space.

Generally people use accent lighting to highlight artworks on the walls, beautiful ornaments and plants, and statement furniture and fixtures. It is also used to illuminate architectural features like textured walls.

All in all, lighting is one of the most powerful ways to create the impression of space, enhance practicality and functionality, and establish a pleasant mood appropriate to each room.


Author Bio:

Lisa Wetherell runs the blog Lighting House - where she writes about her knowledge gained from 10 years of industry experience in the lighting and interior design field. To learn more about how lighting can improve your space, you can follow her blog.

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