Interior Design Lighting Basics 101

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Lighting is important! Without it, you’re just “in the dark.” That might be OK for a while, but sometime soon, you will want to “see the light!”

A lot of lighting in residential interiors happens without a vision, a plan, or a purpose. It is especially important in brand new homes or remodels to draw up a floor plan showing the furniture arrangements. Then a “reflected ceiling plan” is done on top of that, so we discover where to position the lighting. This enables us to see the full potential of what the lighting plan will accomplish for us. These concepts all revolve strongly around developing the ambiance, mood, and feeling of your environment.

The idea is that we want to see the effects of the lighting, not just the lighting sources themselves. In certain cases, like with chandeliers for example, the aesthetical value of the fixture is just as compelling as the lighting.

The more we can “zone” lighting and put different fixtures on dimmers or rheostats, the better. This gives us a broader range of play and control. By having the proper lighting within the space, we can generate a significantly broader range of emotional impact!

In order to accomplish our goal, we need to know how dark or light the space is going to be, the types of textures and materials that will be used, and the specific items we plan to be lighting. It can vary from cocktail tables, seating groups, artwork, and sculpture… just to name a few.

I am briefly going to identify and outline three different light bulb styles. A “bulb” is what most people know it as, but in the lighting profession, we refer to it as a “lamp.”

  • Number One: the “A” lamp This is similar to what Thomas Edison designed, and is what most people put in a table lamp. Light emanates out from it in all directions. Because of this, there is no particular control with the “A” lamp.
  • Number Two: the “Reflector” lamp These are also referred to as “R” lamps. They usually come in “spots” or “floods,” referring respectively to a tight beam spread or a wide beam spread. It is a cone-shaped beam. The base reflector allows focused lighting to emanate outward like a fan in 360°.
  • Number Three: the “MR-16” lamp This is a refinement of the reflector lamp. It’s quite a bit smaller and has a mirror-faceted reflector. Operating off a transformer, it significantly steps the voltage down from 120 volts to just 12 volts! This type of lighting is “low-voltage” lighting. There is much more control with these lamps. They’re much more “color corrected,” too. This means that they render colors better and with more balance in both the warm areas and cool areas of the color spectrum. Jewelers appreciate and capitalize on the balanced color-rendering properties of MR-16’s when each of their showcased diamonds split light into the colors of the rainbow! This is part of what jewelers call “fire.” MR-16’s accentuate gems and promote their brilliant “fire,” “sparkle,” and color.

Where the fixture is positioned is dependent upon what we are lighting. Think of all the possibilities! It may be a painting or sculpture, a formal dining room table, the food prep area in the kitchen, or a peaceful alcove. Many variables are factored into the final decision as to where we situate the fixture. We need to consider how low or high the ceiling is, the beam spread of the lamp, the angle of “attack,” the wattage of the lamp, and the distance the lamp is placed from the object being lit. Welcome to my world of photometrics!

The fixture simply holds the “lamp,” but it’s the bulb that actually does all the work. Think about a flashlight. At one end there is a reflector and a bulb or “lamp.” Picture yourself holding the barrel of the flashlight with your hand. In this example, the flashlight is the fixture that holds the lamp. Your hand directs the light beam to where you want it to go. Consider the fixture analogous to your hand. Your hand merely holds and directs the light. Pretend this deluxe flashlight has the added feature of being able to adjust the spread of the light beam. You can screw it down tight for a narrow beam spread or loosen it up for wide beam spread. So remember, the “lamp” does the job!

In summary, we have to work the lighting plan backwards, and then systematically determine the effects that we want to accomplish with the lighting. We must consider the kind of lighting illumination levels we want in order to bring in a lot of variety and interest. We’ll also enhance textures with the lighting, too. Pre-planning for future potential changes are advantageous as well. Our mission is accomplished when your surroundings and the objects within them really come “alive.”



Source by Steven C. Adamko

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