Achieve the perfect lighting
Looking to set a mood? Just try turning on a lamp. The right type of lighting can create atmosphere, define spaces and spotlight prized possessions. The wrong type can make you sleepy, cause headaches and lead to accidents while performing even the simplest tasks.
"My philosophy in lighting design is that the most important thing to address is the feeling that you get from lighting," says Bruce W. Young, president of Universal Lamp in Toronto. "You have to know what's comfortable and what works for you."
Consider the room's primary function, focal points, seating, colour scheme (dark absorbs light, pale reflects it) and desired mood. Then look at the home's inhabitants, the bulb life, your budget, and the amount and quality of light required.
TYPES OF LIGHTING
General or ambient
Overall illumination may come from one central source, like a ceiling fixture, or from several individual sources. Keep in mind that a level brightness is required to perform everyday tasks, but dimmers can be added to alter the atmosphere.
Task lighting illuminates workspaces. If you already have overhead fluorescent lighting, opt for an incandescent table lamp The balance between light sources -- instead of shifting eyes from bright to dark areas -- will help prevent headaches and eyestrain.
Dramatic accent lighting is excellent for highlighting focal points and a few of your favourite things. "To effectively accent, you need to provide three times the level of general lighting," says Bruce. Too much accent lighting will destroy the effect and wash out the room.
Once you know the effect you'd like to achieve, it's time to pick the appropriate bulb.
Inexpensive, widely available in various shapes and sizes, and easy to install, filament bulbs are a popular choice. However, these bulbs often burn out quickly. Reflector bulbs, an incandescent subgroup, have a narrow, controlled beam that projects double the amount of light of typical filament bulbs. Parabolic reflectors have an even narrower beam, shining four times the light.
Technically a subset of incandescents, halogens combine filaments with gas to create a brighter, whiter light. Although these bulbs are typically more expensive than incandescents, they last longer, can be dimmed and conserve energy. Low-voltage halogens provide the same type of light but in a controlled beam, practical for all lighting effects.
Available in long tubes and compact bulbs, fluorescents last 10 times longer than incandescents, burn about five times brighter, consume less energy and emit little heat -- but can't be dimmed.
So, which to choose? "The trick is to match the type of light source with your decor," says Bruce. "You have to integrate it into the full design."
For a room with warm materials such as wood and terracotta, incandescent yellow or orange hues work well. With cooler tones, such as grey and blue, whiter halogens are a better choice as they render a room's colours truer than incandescents and fluorescents. For energy efficiency, though, choose fluorescents, especially in areas that you tend to leave lights on, for example hallways, kitchens and laundry rooms, suggests Bruce.
More important than what you decide upon, is when. After a new house is built or following renovations, rewiring can be messy -- and expensive.