Turn On the Bright Lights

BY MARLA R. MILLER ON FEBRUARY 2ND, 2016

The importance of lighting goes beyond aesthetics; inadequate lighting affects mood and sense of wellbeing, compromises design, and contributes to falls and injuries.

Every room should have three light sources: Overhead, task and ambient. An example includes an overhead chandelier or ceiling fixture, wall sconces or pendant lighting for ambient, and lamps for task, mood or accent lighting.

But many contractors and homeowners skimp on lighting and don’t install adequate fixtures in both new construction and home remodeling projects, says Mitzi Beach, an interior designer from Wichita, Kansas. She is also the 2014 High Point Style Spotter, specializing in the baby boomer market.

“Most people cut the budget because it’s usually at the end of a project,” she says. “Lighting, I believe, is our most neglected design element. If they haven’t changed their lighting and evaluated their lighting sources, it’s prudent to do so, to step back objectively and say ‘Is this enough?’ We have to turn that paradigm ‘We’ll just put in a little bit. We put in what’s needed.’”

The biggest reason is safety. Appropriate lighting is critical for any room and for any and all ages, but especially for the 78 million baby boomers, Beach says.

“At 50-plus we see 40 percent less light than we did at 20 years old. And yet, the majority of homes have not upgraded their lighting to meet the challenge of seeing better for a better and safer quality of life,” Beach adds.

Many people are living in under-lit homes, either because a main overhead light was never installed or people use lamps in lieu of a bright overhead light to create ambiance.

“A lot of the clients I have complain about their basic lighting in a room,” says Rose Dostal, a license architect and founder of RMD Designs in the Cleveland/Akron, Ohio, area. “Like in the bedrooms, it used to be that you wouldn’t have any general lighting. You put your lamps by the side of the bed.”

One main source isn’t sufficient, especially in kitchens and living rooms, because it creates shadows in all four corners, Beach says. Plus, there is a tendency to keep overhead lights off because they are so bright and use lamps, but that often isn’t bright enough and can lead to trips and falls.

Beach says all rooms need dimmers to control glare and adjust lighting levels for differing times of day or functions. Adding a dimmer is an inexpensive, DIY project. It also helps if you have lamps that work on a switch. Another tip is to install lights that work on sensors and activate when you walk by them or wave your hand.

“My philosophy you can never have too much lighting,” she says. “You can always bring it down. And especially because lighting affects our moods, a bathroom wanting the spa experience definitely needs light dimmers.”

In a kitchen, there should be under-cabinet lighting , in addition to overhead lighting and accent lights like canned or recessed lights or pendants over an island or dining table, Dostal says.

“It’s important to have task lighting,” she says. “Now we have the LED strip lighting under the cabinet. It’s commonplace for kitchen designers to add task lighting under cabinets.”

Track or pendant lights are options to highlight artwork, shelves or custom-made cabinetry, Dostal says. LED lighting has come a long way and has many benefits for consumers. They last longer than regular bulbs and save on energy costs.

“The key to that, for the baby boomers, is you don’t have to constantly change it. You may have to change it once every two years,” she says. “Now you can have more of a warm color to the LEDs and they’re smaller, as well. So they don’t take up much room, but they give you so much light.”

For reading purposes or computer work, Beach recommends wall sconces or lamps with a swing arm, rather than a lamp on a night stand or end table, so you can move the arm over a book, desk or laptop.

Most people don’t have a dedicated spot where they work anymore, and with that comes inadequate lighting. If the computer is the brightest thing in the room and there isn’t any other complementary lighting, it’s very hard on one’s eyes, Beach says.

“It produces glare, a lot of gray all around,” she says. “We still need task lighting around our laptops; we need a lamp or something. Simple things like that make a big difference in our quality of life. Seeing is important as is seeing without stress, without glare - most people appreciate a frosted bulb rather than a clear bulb to prevent glare.”

 

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