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Interior Lighting. All You Need To Know When Arranging Your Place.

Proper lighting is one of the crucial elements of interior design. As it fulfils particular functions, its type and location should be deliberate and purposeful. What do you have to consider to make a lighting solution respond to the needs of all residents and be decorative all the same?

Natural Light

defines functions of the space

If you are arranging a new apartment it’s worth considering natural light first. Defining functions of the future spaces, you should observe how the particular areas are exposed to sunlight. 

The windows of the living space should be on the southern or western side, while the bathroom can easily face north and the bedroom east. But watch out! General rules are one thing and your individual lifestyle is another. If you are a night owl, windows facing east and the sun waking you up at dawn might not be a good idea. If you spend most of your free time in the kitchen, windows facing west will let you enjoy the sunlight until evening, especially in the summer.

How to define the interior according to the natural light?

  • observe your (current or future) apartment at every time of the day. See where the light is at daybreak and which places are lit at sunset;
  • match the rooms to your lifestyle. Even if it’s not possible to change the general use of rooms, it may be the very location of your bed, table, or sofa to match the daily movement of the sun;
  • consider shutting out the sunlight where necessary. In a very bright study or bedroom, is it possible to put blinds on the windows, is there a place for a curtain rod?;
  • match the coloring and intensity of colors to the amount of light in the interior. Use light and warm colors for dark spaces.

Overhead Lighting

provides comfort, visibility, and safety

Sunlight with a little help from… a lightbulb. The central overhead light is the most basic one. We reach for it automatically as we enter a house or a new place. It’s elementary for safe movement and enjoying a room. 

It’s usually the overhead lamp on the ceiling that affects the visibility and security of the whole room. Especially, when you work or share the space with another person who needs the same access to light. Frequently, it’s the only light source designed for the whole room. Flat and uniform, it won’t do much for the atmosphere, but it’s absolutely necessary from a functional point of view.

What do you need to consider when choosing an overhead light?

  • it should be placed high enough to provide uniform light and give space for the users to go under it;
  • in the kitchen, bathroom, walk-in closet, and high traffic areas the light is usually surface mounted: discrete halogens, spotlights, and ceiling light;
  • ceiling lights in the living area can serve as a decoration at the same time. In this case, consider chandeliers, lampshades, decorative light bulbs (the light as an element of interior decoration was discussed here);
  • the intensity of this light should provide good visibility in every part of the room;
  • the color of this light should be neutral – the standard is about 4000K.

Area Lighting

defines the space

In open spaces, the kitchen fluidly goes into the dining room and the living room and the home office is squeezed between the bed and the closet. Here, the areas aren’t defined by walls, you need to find another way. This is obviously achieved by particular furnishings, floor, and color divisions, but the space can be quickly and efficiently accentuated by lighting as well. 

Dining room lamps are often designed to hang directly over a table or kitchen island. There’ll be two or more lights over large worktops. The delicate light in a leisure area helps you to relax, and a discrete night lamp – to settle in before sleep. Turning off the central light will be smart to hide what we don’t want to see. The area lighting will optically mark the space of the hall, stairwell, or wardrobe.

How to choose the area lighting:

  • first of all, consider the location of the lights – you need to predict that at the design stage of a room;
  • if a room isn’t intended to change its use with time, it’s worth thinking about fixed lighting with additional decorative functions – mounting brackets, track lighting in a hallway or a stairwell;
  • wherever the space is flexible, it’s good to use the mobile floor or table lamps. They allow a fast change of arrangement and it’s like redecorating;
  • the light should be toned down, delicate, rather than project a strong beam (unless you plan to read or work);
  • the preferred color for this light is warmer, under 3000K;
  • as the light is often on for the entire evening, it’s worth considering the economic and ecological aspects and choosing an energy-efficient solution.

Task Lighting

responds to particular needs

Also known as direct lighting it has the function of responding to particular needs: facilitate work, enable reading, or cooking. Most of the time it’s used to light all sorts of tables, desks, and countertops. The lighting should be situated in places requiring precision and safety. 

The function of direct light is often fulfilled by an area light. A lamp over the table indicates the dining area and facilitates the meals, but it also allows other activities at the table. A desk lamp is also necessary when you work after dark or with insufficient daylight. At your bed – even when you’re not a keen reader – you need a small night light. Even using your phone or watching something in bed should take place with an additional source of light. Otherwise, your eyes will be fatigued, and in the long run, your eyesight will suffer.

Task lighting is also used for kitchen countertops. The lamps mounted under top cabinets facilitate the convenient and safe use of appliances and sharp knives without turning on the overhead light. It’s especially important when we share the space with others (lighting of a small apartment was described here). In the bathroom, in turn, the light should be directed at the mirror used for your morning routine.

How to choose the task lighting?

  • in the bathroom, over the kitchen countertop and other “working” places, the color of light should be rather cool, about 5000K;
  • at a workspace, choose neutral light between 3300K and 4000K. If it’s too warm, it’ll make you sleepy;
  • choose alight of high intensity, which does not fatigue your eyes;
  • consider mounting brackets which can be redirected; 
  • telescopic lamps are also a good solution – you can move the light closer or further away depending on your needs;
  • modular lighting is quite flexible – it’ll allow you to add a desired number of lights;
  • do you read in bed? Get a comfortable clip lamp, which can be attached to the bed frame and the light directed precisely at your book;
  • for high traffic areas (stairs, halls) it’s worth considering a motion-activated light. This solution is very convenient, intuitive, and energy-efficient;
  • consider lamps with dimmer switches, which merge the functions of the area and direct light – when dimmed, they build the atmosphere and provide a perfect background for a movie night, and when “turned up”, they facilitate comfortable reading.

Decorative Lighting

a finishing touch

Finally! Light is a wonderful element of interior design with great potential. It usually serves to accentuate your favorite object or fragment of the space, but it can also be a decoration in itself. 

In classic interiors, unique brackets or spot lights illuminate paintings and elegant furniture. In modern apartments they frequently highlight the unconventional texture of a wall, natural brick for instance. Decorative lighting at home is intended for a sense of intimacy and cosiness. 

String lights that used to only be hung on Christmas trees, now serve all year long. Our balconies and terraces are more and more often decorated with garland lights, and the popular cotton ball lights decorate more than children’s rooms. Decorative garland lights can be sufficient to help you move around in the dark. And you must admit they make for a unique ambiance.

How to choose decorative lighting?

  • as far as form you can (finally) follow your personal aesthetic preferences;
  • the light should be gentle, easy on the eyes;
  • for highlighting paintings or elements on the walls it’ll be best to use spotlights with strong but concentrated light focussed on a detail;
  • garland lights can be rechargeable battery operated – you don’t need to plug them in, so they can be hung anywhere, no electric strings attached;
  • be safe – on the balcony and terrace, use only outdoor lamps, unplug them for the night and when you go out.

Finally, several crucial technical details.

What is important when choosing lighting?

  • lightbulbs: pay attention to the color of light specified in Kelvins. The most typical parameters are 2700K for warm light and 4000K for neutral light;
  • light intensity, specified in lumens (lm), will tell you how “bright” the lightbulb is;
  • time, specified in hours (h), will estimate the lifespan of the lightbulb;
  • choosing the lamp, pay attention not only to its appearance, but also to the technical specification – the maximum lightbulb power and the type of socket (usually small E14 or standard E27);
  • water resistance is important: in wet areas (in the bathroom, over the kitchen countertop) the lamps should have water resistance of IP44, in other places IP20 will suffice. 

As easy as it sounds, you’ve a lot to consider. However, when you’ve waded through all the functional and technical issues, here comes the joy of searching for the desired aesthetic. Happy decorating!

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