Let There be Light, Please!
Updated: Feb 23, 2020
One of the biggest jobs in the design of a new home or a remodel is lighting. Lighting holds many jobs for our spaces. Ambient, task, and accent lighting are all part of any design process. Layered lighting means combining all these elements for a beautiful and effective final product. Lighting has functionality, of course, in its job to light up our living and work areas. The fixture itself holds aesthetic value, especially in prominent locations. Lighting also has an overall effect on ambiance that can be determined by the type of fixture, lighting element, and site. Accent lights can add splashes of light to enhance particular scenes. So, when someone asks me to assist in picking out light fixtures, all of these factors must be considered.
Let’s take the ubiquitous kitchen island, now prominent in almost all new builds and remodels. It has become the center of our cooking, working, entertaining, and day-to-day living pursuits. There is a current trend, which I admire, of putting statement light fixtures over the island. We spend so much time in this space that it should be something that pleases our senses. A lot of popular fixtures, however, are missing the mark in one sense. Task lighting. Current trends often abandon the primary purpose of a light fixture, providing useful light on working surfaces and ambient light to the surrounding area. Some of the open, bare bulb or “Edison” lights provide neither, and only seem to look interesting. The task lighting they provide is a glowing and sometimes glaring bulb output, more like staring into the sun. The open bulb fixture photos below are examples of lovely light fixtures that provide very little task or ambient light. If a space is already lit by other means such as ceiling recessed cans, the task of the hanging fixture can be less critical. But lighting a room with only recessed cans doesn’t often feel warm, hit critical points, or provide that soft, dispersed light that lights with shades or diffusers create. I insist on lighting an island with something beautiful, of course, that provides diffuse downward light to both light the surface of the island and spreads soft ambient light around the room. The drum pendants below diffuse the downward light for better task lighting and to prevent us all from staring into a bare bulb! The size of the fixtures depends on the space, obviously, but an abundance of light is my goal. We can walk into new construction and be impressed with all the trendy and artistic lights, but we need to make sure they actually provide meaningful light. If you want to get a little funky, do that in the entry foyer or half bath which serve as spaces that don’t need to be equipped with as much functional light. Looking at the photo of a lantern style, open bulb fixture below, its placement in an entry foyer is the perfect use of light for that task and aesthetic.
Lighting is essential, it’s lovely, and it feels like the icing on the cake of any design. But, we mustn’t forget that lighting has to light, please!