by Don Vandervort, © HomeTips
Because most remodeling projects focus on space, it’s easy to forget the critical role that lighting plays in how effectively and efficiently that new space will work. In fact, before starting on your project, make a lighting assessment not just of the area to be remodeled but also of your entire home.
First ask yourself which areas of your home are the least used. Then ask yourself why. Are those areas as effectively lighted as they could be? Sometimes when homeowners feel like they need more space, all they really need is to reclaim space that is little-used or unused due to poor lighting.
There are three types of lighting: ambient, accent, and task. Ambient lighting is what we think of as overhead lighting, and in older homes it often is the only kind of lighting. It provides general illumination to a space. Accent lighting is largely a decorative element, used to highlight an art object or architectural detail or just set a mood in a room. Task lighting is the workhorse of the trio. It is used to illuminate specific areas of use such as kitchen countertops and bathroom mirrors as well as specific tasks such as cooking and reading.
Within each lighting category are different kinds of fixtures and lightbulbs. Bulbs come in the familiar incandescent and fluorescent types, as well as the relatively new halogen and full-spectrum varieties. Before choosing your light fixtures, go to the lighting store and choose your bulbs first. Different bulbs give off different intensities and “colors” of light. Fluorescent bulbs are the most energy-efficient and “cool,” while halogen use the most electricity and run very hot.
Once you have chosen the bulbs you like, you are ready to choose your light fixtures. Ambient lighting is most often achieved with overhead fixtures, including chandeliers, ceiling-fan lights, recessed lights, and track lights. Fluorescent lighting is a good choice for ambient lighting in work-intensive areas such as kitchens and garage workshops. Sconces and pivoting track lighting are commonly used as accent and mood lighting. Pendant lights, under-cabinet strip lighting, and bathroom vanity lights are excellent at—literally—shining the spotlight on work areas.
Keep in mind that your architect, designer, and/or contractor can be very helpful in recommending the types and wattages of bulbs as well as the kinds of fixtures that will allow for the most workable and flexible lighting scheme.
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