Buying a new light fixture might sound like a simple task but let me be the first to tell you it can be quite a big ordeal. Choosing the right lighting can make or break the design of a room. Not all rooms are used in the same way and neither is lighting. It’s important to understand what kind of light you need and when to spend the money on a great looking fixture. Sure you can buy a chandelier, stick it in the center of the room and call it a day. But you're more design savvy than that, otherwise why would you be reading this. Your end goal is to create a room with ambiance, style, and designer expertise.
Creating a space with layers of light is key to good lighting design. There are four main layers you need to understand to help you decide what type of fixture you need for your space.
1. General Layer
The general layer provides the overall lighting in a room. It creates the kind of light needed to navigate a room when natural light is not available. The most common fixtures used for general lighting are recessed lights. The light level of the general layer is determined depending on the room. For example a laundry room will require a higher level of light than a bedroom will. When designing a space I always put the general lighting on a dimmer. Using a dimmer for general lighting can transform the ambiance from relaxing to task related. Imagine you’re hosting a dinner party and you’re all sitting at the dining table sipping on wine and enjoying dinner. The lighting should be on a lower level to create a more intimate ambiance. Once everyone has gone home it’s time for cleanup. There is no way you want to do this in low level lighting. This is when you would need to put the lights on a higher level so that you can see what you’re doing. You don’t want to miss any crumbs or messes.
General Lighting Fixtures
-Surface Mounted Fixtures (non-decorative)
-Linear Fluorescent Fixtures
1. Via Elle Décoration UK 2. Via Nell Hill’s O’ Christmas Tree by Mary Carol Garrity 3. Via Histor 4. Via Forum Phi
2. Decorative Layer
Decorative lighting is one of the fun types of fixtures to shop for. It is the “jewelry” of the room. Most decorative fixtures do not provide adequate lighting in a room, but that’s totally okay. This is the type of lighting I advise my clients to increase their budgets on and take the time in finding the right piece. Decorative fixtures can make or break a design. Say you just bought that new mid-century modern sofa for the living room but feel it’s still not taking on that cool retro look. Trust me, after placing a mid-century lamp on the side tables you will start to see the room take shape.
Decorative Lighting Fixtures
-Table Lamps (non-task)
1. Via Seven Grand DTLA 2. Via John Jacob Interiors 3. Via Etsy Neon Art Shop 4. Via Studio McGee 5. Via Abigail Ahern 6. Via Romain Ricard
3. Task Layer
The task layer is used for areas where work is performed. These higher level lighting areas include desks/office areas, cooking areas, and reading areas. Placing a floor lamp next to a comfy chair is an ideal place for some quiet reading. Hoods above a stove with a light built in (most come equipped with one) are essential when cooking. Remember that dinner party we talked about. Well adjusting the level of recessed downlights can also provide the right kind of lighting for the task of cleaning.
Task Lighting Fixtures
-Recessed Downlights (when on highest level)
1. Via Neiman Marcus 2. Via Houzz 3. Via Apartment Therapy design by Catherine Kwong 4. Via Barnes Vanze Architects, Inc.
4. Focal Layer
The primary purpose of focal lighting is to illuminate features and displays. It can also be used to create drama in a hallway or entryway. Most of the time a focal light fixture can be adjusted, such as track lighting or a monopoint fixture. When wanting to draw attention to a bookcase consider using picture lights to create that warm library feel. If you are an art collector you will definitely want to use this type of lighting to bring the attention to the art.
Focal Lighting Fixtures
-Adjustable Recessed Downlights