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Lighting and mood
The way in which a space is lit is one of the determining factors in how it feels to those within it. Although there is a practical element to lighting – for example, those using the space will need adequate sources of light in order to read – selecting light systems and light-emitting fixtures also represents a series of aesthetic choices. Light can even be used as a focal point in its own right, as a feature designed to elicit a particular reaction from those entering the space. In this module, you will learn what an interior designer thinks about when they put together ideas of lighting a room.
As is the case with any other decision made during a design project, it is necessary to bear in mind the client’s needs and preferences. Some people prefer to spend time in well-lit or even brightly-lit rooms, whereas others favour low levels of light or a system that allows them to create different “moods”. You should always ask a client if they have any special requirements. For example, some people find that particular intensities or colours of light trigger headaches or other unpleasant symptoms. Lighting should be just as much a part of your initial plan as furniture, style and colour palettes. When you make early sketches of a space, use lines and arrows to indicate where people are likely to be sitting and standing when they use the room and where the light will enter the space. You will also need to consider how the wiring and sockets in the space can be used to realise your vision. For example, are there enough sockets for the number of lamps you are thinking of using? You should also consider how easy it will be to maintain light fixtures. For example, if you choose a lampshade that is made of a material that tends to gather dust easily, it is not sensible to hang it on a high ceiling. Similarly, if a bulb will need changing on a regular basis, it needs to be sufficiently close to the ground that inserting a new model will not represent a significant inconvenience.
Activity: The Lighting in Your Home
(Time: 5+ Minutes)
List the most frequently used spaces in your home. Note down how each space is lit. How does the lighting in each space make you feel? Why?
The three main types of lighting used in interiors
When reading about interior design, you will come across references to three types of artificial lighting. The first is known as “general lighting”. When you enter a room and use the main light switch, this switches on the general lighting system. Its purpose is to make all objects and surfaces in the space visible. This allows the users of the space to appreciate the décor and it also keeps them safe – without good general lighting, the risk of trips and slips is high. Within the category of general lighting, designers talk about down-lights and up-lights. Down-lights cast light in a downward direction, whereas up-lights do the opposite. Both kinds may be installed in ceilings or on walls. It is also possible for a light source to project light in both directions. For example, a floor lamp will usually illuminate the floor and ceiling at the same time.
General lighting should be sufficiently bright that the space has a welcoming ambience, but not so bright that it triggers sensory overload. Bulbs must be chosen with great care. When exploring the many options available, you need to know the relevant terminology. The wattage refers to the electricity required to make a bulb work, whereas the lumens indicates how brightly the bulb will shine. Until relatively recently, a bulb’s wattage correlated with its brightness. Nowadays, lumens are used as an indicator of brightness instead, because innovations in energy-saving technology mean that many bulbs require less energy to generate light.
The second kind of lighting is known as “task lighting”. This term refers to light fixtures that have been chosen in order to provide a targeted source of light, usually to enable a particular activity. For example, a table lamp may be placed close to a chair or sofa to provide a suitable place in which to read, or spotlights may be used in a kitchen to illuminate a preparation area. However, they should not be too bright by contrast to the general lighting used in a room and neither should they be the main source of lighting. Either scenario can result in eyestrain. Instead, ensure that the room is well-lit with general sources first and then add in task lighting to suit the needs of the people who will be using it. Put yourself in the place of others – literally, if necessary – in order to understand how they will use light. For example, if you are going to include a desk within the room and need to choose some task lighting, be aware that a desk lamp should be positioned opposite a person’s writing hand in order to avoid awkward shadows.
Task lighting can be used as a design feature in its own right. For example, adding a light underneath a storage cabinet, or in such a way that it emits a glow from underneath a bed, can drastically alter the ambience of a room. Depending on the client’s preferences, you could choose a coloured light that interacts with other elements of the décor. Remember that if you are placing lights in a high-moisture area such as a bathroom or kitchen, it is especially important that all electrical circuits within the room are correctly fitted and maintained.
Finally, lighting can be used in a way that provides interesting accents to a room, or as a means of highlighting treasured possessions or intriguing objects. For example, adding a spotlight to the side of a sculpture can highlight the lines, contours and textures. Accent lighting can also work well with metallic surfaces, drawing the viewer’s eye and reflecting light around a section within the room. When highlighting a glass object, position a subtle light source behind or below the object.
Choosing the right kind of bulb
There are three main types of bulb available. The most common, typical household bulb is the Tungsten bulb, also referred to as an incandescent bulb. They are ideal for many rooms, as their warm yellow glow creates a cosy ambience. If a bulb will be fully visible when fitted, a clear variety should be selected as opposed to pearl or reflective versions. Although the traditional models emit a yellow glow, you can find Tungsten bulbs in a range of hues, from near-white to deep orange. Their key advantage is that they are easy to find and easy to fit. Never exceed the maximum recommended wattage, when selecting a bulb for a lighting fixture.
Fact: An average incandescent bulb will last for 750 hours.
Source: Statistic Brain
Tungsten halogen bulbs, more commonly referred to as “halogens”, are much hotter than standard Tungsten models. They burn with a brighter light compared to Tungsten bulbs and are more energy-efficient. However, they may require a relatively more complicated fitting process. Some operate via mains electricity, but low-voltage versions must be fitted with a transformer that will keep the voltage at a suitably low level.
LED bulbs are a relatively new lighting option. Although they are more expensive than traditional Tungsten and Tungsten halogen bulbs, LEDs are popular for their efficiency and can be very cost-effective over the mid to long term. Depending on the model, they can consume up to 90% less energy than conventional bulbs. They are available in a range of shapes and sizes, including traditional bulb shapes, tube lights, spotlights and tapered “candle” bulbs. Their lifespan can reach up to 20 years and they do not “blow” in the manner of conventional bulbs.
Fact: A high quality LED bulb can be used for 25,000 hours.
Fluorescent lighting is also available. Most people associate it with industrial spaces, but it can play a role in an effective lighting scheme at home. Fluorescent lighting is available as tubes, or in the form of bulbs that closely resemble more traditional varieties. They cannot be controlled with dimmer switches, so it is important to choose the right brightness when installing them. They are generally energy-efficient and affordable.