The Seven Rules of Lighting a Room Like a Seasoned Pro

Do you know about watts-square feet ratios and hue control?

By The Editors

Do Everything Better: Home Lighting
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13 April 2016

You seriously don’t know how little you know about home lighting until you ask an expert.

We know because we recently spoke with Dan Haddock of Houselights — and in the space of about 10 minutes, he uh, enlightened us on accents, chandelier height, and how and where, exactly, to put all your lamps.

On the biggest home lighting mistake ...
“Whatever you do, don’t just stick this year’s version of a ceiling fan in the hole where you ripped the old one out. When remodeling, many people will replace an old light fixture with something similar: ceiling fan in the center of the room, replaced with ... a newer style of ceiling fan? If you have a hideous flush-mount hallway light that makes your hallway look dingy, just remember: it’s probably not just the fact that your fixture is dated or ugly. The light it casts is probably not flattering your space.”

On how to figure out how many lights a room needs ...
“Multiply the room’s length by its width [in feet]. Then multiply that number by 1.5. This is how many watts you should use to light the room at minimum.”

On how high to hang a pendant light or chandelier …
“The idea is to have the pendants high enough so that the tallest member of the family (or potential guests) will not have their vision impaired. To ensure no one has a problem, place pendants or chandeliers 36”-48” above the countertop or the table you’re lighting. If hanging the pendants or chandeliers above walkways or open spaces, make sure the pendants are at least as high as the door jambs, or even a little higher, so no one in your home would have to hunch in fear they might bump their heads.”

On how many floor lamps to put in a room ...
“It’s recommended that you light three out of four corners of a room. Place your floor lamp in a corner that does not already have another light source — preferably near a seat, so it can be switched on or off from arm’s length. Five to six feet is an average height for a floor lamp that’s used for ambient lighting. However, if being used as a task lamp, the main concern is to make ensure the lamp does not come any closer than 1.5-2 feet of the ‘task.’”

On how many lighting sources you actually need ...
“Think of your home lighting in three layers. In a kitchen, for example, the first layer will be ambient light, which is meant to light up the room when you flip the first switch. Second layer: task and focal lights will light up your task areas: countertops, sink and stove. And the third layer is accent and decorative lighting, like a chandelier. Often chandeliers or other artistic fixtures will not provide enough light to illuminate an entire room. They are decorative design pieces first and foremost, and not designed to do the heavy lifting of lighting your home. They will make your space look fantastic, but don't rely on them for your only source of light.”

On what kind of bulbs to use ...
“Light bulbs have different hues: white, warm white, bluish ... Be mindful of the hues you want for different spaces. A warm white gives a softer, comfortable light, ideal for living rooms or bedrooms. A brighter white may be better for a kitchen or bathroom, as this light gives a crisper, cleaner feeling. Just remember not to go overboard with the bright white/blue spectrum — you don't want your space to feel sterile, like a hospital.”

On his ultimate piece of advice for home lighting ...
“Visualize first! There is nothing sadder than finding yourself with regrets about home décor. Don't paint your walls before you test the color, and certainly don't install a light fixture before you have a solid design concept and have a clear mental picture — or better yet, a mock-up picture in your hand — of what it will look like in your space.”

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