When renovating your home or building a new one there are many design elements to consider. Good lighting is one of the most important design elements in your home but it is often the one most frequently overlooked. Poor lighting can wash out colours and textures and generally make the space unappealing and in some instances unsafe. It is important to understand the basics of functional and decorative lighting so that it can be incorporated and planned for in the initial design stages.

Decorative lighting combines general or ambient lighting, task lighting and accent lighting and incorporates a variation in light levels and sources. It creates mood and meaning and can create a focal point in a room or create visual interest like the illusion of height for example by bouncing light off a low ceiling.

General or ambient lighting is the principal lighting in your home and its purpose is to illuminate spaces for visibility and safety by bouncing off walls and ceilings and covering as much area as possible. It should exude a comfortable level of brightness without glare and is achieved through the use of down lighting and up lighting. Down lighting casts light down from the ceiling or walls through the use of pot lights and track lights. Up lighting illuminates light towards the ceiling and can be achieved through the use of torches and wall sconces.

Task lighting is more intense and is focused on smaller work areas and should be free from distracting glare and shadows. Good task lighting can be accomplished through well placed recessed lighting, track lighting, pendants and under the counter lights. The general rule of thumb for task lighting is that it should be three times as bright as general or ambient lighting.

Accent Lighting adds drama to a room by creating visual interest. It is used to highlight treasured possessions or interesting architectural features. Place the light fixture so the light does not block your sightline and to avoid creating a glare or hot spot, aim the light at a 30 degree angle from the vertical.

When creating your lighting design, consider the activities that will take place in the various areas of your home. Most rooms will be used for different activities throughout the day and evening hours so it is important to vary the intensity of the lighting. Lighting controls will give you added flexibility to adjust and adapt the mood and ambience of the different spaces in your home.

Outside your home, a well lit entryway and a well thought out exterior lighting plan, gives your home a welcoming look, increases curb appeal and provides safety and security for your family and guests. Steps, pathways and driveways should be illuminated to ensure there is a safe path for family and visitors to follow after dark. Consider installing ground lights or spotlights in gardens, around shrubs or trees and in shadowed areas of your home for added visual interest and increased security. Grilling and serving areas are excellent outdoor locations for bright task lighting while eating or conversation areas are more suited to ambient lighting. Fibre optic lighting, motion sensors or a photocell that turns the lights on at dusk and off at dawn save energy are excellent options.

A well thought out lighting plan is an excellent decorating tool. It will add sparkle and interest to your home, complement your lifestyle and meet the various needs of your family. When shopping for lighting choices do not forget your floor plans and other decorating notes as these will be valuable tools when you are consulting with a lighting expert.

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