Sparkle and Shine – The Virtues of Good Lighting

Lighting is one of the most important decisions you can make in a room.

Natural sunlight, filtering through thin sheers, heavy drapes or half-open shutters provides its own appeal; to be balanced, controlled and otherwise harnessed during those precious hours of daylight that seem to dwindle down to nothing during these harsh winter months. But even when the summer solstice is at its zenith, the importance of ambient, man-made light cannot be discounted. So, selecting just the right source of artificial light to augment nature’s goodness is crucial to achieving the desired look in most any room.  Picking the ideal lamp is not an easy task. Strategically, you have to know your source; also, how to maximize its output with the proper placement; finally, aesthetics – selecting lamps that ‘go’ with the furniture in your room.

Lamps serve a dual purpose…or rather – should; their decorative appeal counterbalanced by their functionality as a source to compliment, highlight and/or accent a room. There is no steadfast rule to making your selection for the perfect lamp. Some of us prefer lamps that are more ornate; their bases, wooden, glass, mirrored or bronzed – bigger, bulkier, and sporting an element of pure decorative design to make a big, bold statement in a room. Such lamps draw our attention, not to their light source, but for their aesthetic appeal; bling, running in tandem with function. Lamps can indeed provide this necessary eye-catching pop to dazzle an audience.

But be wary of their appeal, particularly if there are other ‘busy’-looking elements in the room: exotic, large print or patterned sofas, or splashy art prints decorating the walls. You don’t want your light source to overshadow and overpower these other sources of inspiration, lest the whole room suddenly become gaudy and distracting. If this is the case, try more subdued lighting; simple base designs, willowy-thin, and unassuming. For a more modern, open and airy room, pick lamps with bases made of chrome and/or transparent glass and/or mirrored surfaces. These will amplify the light while seamlessly blending in with your surroundings.

Larger family and/or great rooms can present a bit of a challenge; their needs more complex. Task lighting is very important here; the strategic placement of light sources near areas that require enough light to read by or perform other ‘tasks’ (working on your tablet, or using the telephone). Lighting in such rooms is usually divided between ‘task’ lights and those positioned strictly to adorn with a sense of style attesting to your personal panache. Before the invention of the lightbulb, history was riddled with stories of men and women going blind from inadequate candlelight in a room. While Edison’s bulb has since eclipsed wax and wicks as a viable light source, poor electric lighting in a room can be just as detrimental to your eyesight.

Most homes built in the last thirty years have pot lights to ‘fill in the gaps’ in light deficiency. While pot lights can ‘brighten’ a room, they do not add character. So, when planning a new construction of a cavernous family or great room a little foresight during the pre-planning stages can alleviate a lot of problems later on. Consider the placement of your furniture in these wide-open spaces, and an allotment for plugs located directly in the floor to be used in tandem with the placement of a small end or sofa-back table where ambient light sources can be plugged in without dragging unseemly extension cords across the entire expanse of the room. Floor outlets come in a variety of colors and run flush with your choice of wood, tile or carpeting. Better still, the strategic placement of furniture can all but make these ‘holes’ in the floor invisible at a glance.

Also consider that lamp height will depend on several criteria; chiefly, the purpose of the lamp, its’ height in relation to the surrounding furniture, and also, in relation to the height of the ceiling. You don’t want a slim, short lamp to be dwarfed in the room, if situated on a small table next to an imposing sofa and loveseat. Conversely, you also do not want some gaudy monstrosity, blinding with its shafts of light in all directions, set on a diminutive table and next to a tiny settee or chaise. So, keep lamp size in direct proportion with the other elements in your room.

Lamps can also be used to augment the predominant light source in a dining room or foyer. Taller/slimmer pieces usually work best here as the main purpose of a dining room is to have adequate space to serve family and guests a meal, while foyers function as both a byway and gateway to other areas in your home.  You do not want to obstruct these passages with big, bulky floor lamps or table lamps that draw attention away from the primary function of either living space.

Home offices and dens can greatly benefit from adding a sturdy desk lamp, perfect to illuminate your work/computer area. Adjustable lamps can be very useful here, allowing for the light source to be directionalized and/or offset according to your work-based demands. Take heed not to have such a light source too close to your computer screen, lest distracting glare occur. A good rule of thumb: for right-handed people, always locate your lamp on the left side; for lefties, the opposite holds true. Why? So as not to create unwanted shadows from your arm and hand while you are writing.

Bedrooms lighting is very important. Many people love to read in bed. Hence, providing adequate light, both relaxing and functional, is of paramount concern. You should never have to strain in bed to be able to read your text. Again, adjustable lamps may be the answer here. But also consider stationary lamps here, and, most important of all – lamp height. If you read sitting up in bed, your light source should be at the appropriate height so as neither to stimulate glare out of the corner of your eye or cast shadows from your arms, hands, overstuffed pillows, etc. The lamp should be placed within arm’s reach, so you can easily turn it on and off from bed. There is no point to a cozy lamp you have to get out of bed to readjust.  Again, stylistic elements are purely subjective here; simple or ornate, wooden or bronzed, mirrored or glass – it’s up to you. Just be sure the chosen lamp is complimentary to the rest of the décor in your room.

If you are still having issues coming up with the ideal light source in any of these spaces you call home, then perhaps it is time to consult a design expert for some friendly advice and consultation. With a little luck, some serious thought and a lot of careful pre-planning you can find your creative niche with lamps that emit warm and enveloping pools of light that are both functional and lovely.  My years of expertise can help in your selection process. So, come in and let’s get creative together. I’ll look forward to seeing you at Coulters.



Maria Kozmor

Interior Designer

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