Good lighting for your home: Let it shine

By Carol McGarvey, Better Homes and Gardens Books
Friday December 28, 2001

Good lighting for your home: Let it shineL 


This time of year, when sunlight is at a premium, it’s important to have good interior lighting. While meeting special situations, such as highlighting an art collection, it’s wise to be savvy in covering the basics, too. 

Mix sources for living and family rooms. For relaxing or watching TV, general lighting from indirect sources -- wall washers, uplights and recessed fixtures – is best. For hobbies, reading and homework, task or local lighting – downlights, spotlights and table or floor lamps – work well. Fixed spotlights can emphasize art over the mantel. 

Give dining rooms flexibility. In addition to over-table light from a chandelier or other ceiling lights, add a cozy glow by placing other accent lights around the room. Dimmer switches can soften the mood of a too-bright chandelier. Highlight artwork with a picture light, tuck a floor canister behind a plant in a corner, or brighten built-in shelves or a hutch with a plug-in shelf light from a home center. 

Light kitchens for efficiency. In addition to general light usually provided by ceiling or track lights, place task lights to beam where you work, such as under cabinets and above cooking centers. 

Add task lights to bedrooms and baths. A dimmer switch for mood control works well in the bedroom. In nurseries and young children’s rooms, avoid halogen lights, which produce heat. Remember, too, that ceiling or wall fixtures are safer than table lamps around youngsters. 

Use creative accent lighting. It can give a whole new look to your artwork, furniture groupings, or an interesting architectural detail. Rule of thumb: Lighting that’s meant to accent objects should be at least three times brighter than the room’s general lighting. 

To spotlight your favorites, try these tips: 

• Experiment first. Use clamp-on lights fitted with spotlight bulbs, and try them in different locations to find the best spot. 

• Limit your costs. Strip lights to enhance groupings of books or collectibles cost less than $20 at many home centers. 

• Corral the cords. For safety and appearance, run cords along the baseboards or behind furniture. 

• Choose the right directions. Light groups from the front or above. With picture lights, for example, angle the light toward the picture, not down on it, to minimize glare. 

• Be flexible and creative. A desk lamp with pivoting head can spotlight when it’s not being used for a homework project. Or, for mood lighting, plug table lamps into a dimmer switch.