Planning Lighting in the Home

Home lighting offers the creative homemaker much scope.

Although intended primarily for illumination, lighting can be used to enhance the furnishing scheme and décor. It can transform a dull room into a bright and exciting room.

By means of switching, lighting can be changed as mood or social circumstances demand; a lot of light for entertaining friends; a low level of lighting for family relaxation.

Electric lighting is the only means by which walls can be changed in colour without re-painting or re-papering — simply at the touch of a switch or the turn of a dimmer control.

How much light?

An electric bulb produces or emits a given amount of light. This is measured in lumens — that is, hundreds of lumens. A high-wattage bulb emits more light (i.e. more lumens) than does a low-wattage bulb and in general operates more efficiently. You get more light from one 100W bulb than you get from four 25W bulbs, although the electricity consumption is identical. Of the two types of bulb, single coil and coiled coil, the coiled coil gives more light than a single coil bulb of the same wattage. Fluorescent lighting operates at even higher efficiency.

Light barriers. The light which falls on something is less than that produced by the lamp. Some of the light is lost in the fitting, depending on the type of shade or diffuser. The greater the distance between the light source (lamp) and the work surface or table, the less the amount of light at the work surface or table. When light is directly focussed on a task, especially if the bulb is enclosed in a polished reflector, you get the maximum amount of light from the lamp.

Light absorption. Indirect lighting — reflected from the walls or ceiling — operates inefficiently because much of the light is absorbed by the wall or ceiling. The amount of light absorbed by the wall or ceiling depends upon the colour of the surface. For example, polished tiles reflect over 80 per cent of the light which falls on them, whereas dark red wallpaper reflects only about 6 per cent of the light, most of it being absorbed in the wall.

Planning a lighting scheme

These factors have to be taken into account when devising a lighting scheme. For close work (e.g. reading, writing, sewing, working in the kitchen) quantity of light is most important. So buy fittings or lamps that provide a lot of light. Where light is used for social or decorative purposes, the most important factor is quality. So you can consider indirect lighting, including pelmet lighting.

Over the dining table you will mostly need a lot of light — perhaps from a riseand-fall fitting — but for general lighting in the dining room or in the dining area of an open-plan room you can have a low level of lighting from wall lights or from table lamps and floor standards. The wall lights can be dimmer-controlled so that you can vary the level of illumination to suit the occasion.

In the kitchen you can have a fluorescent fitting with a de luxe warm white tube for good general illumination and local lighting at the cooker, over the sink and other work surfaces or you can use tungsten lighting.

Light fittings

A wide range of lighting fittings are available. In addition to conventional fittings, there are downlighters, ceiling fittings that give a concentration of light in a downward direction with little or no side lighting; spotlights to illuminate focal points and special features or. Fitted with coloured bulbs, to provide spots of colour; fluorescent tubes behind pelmets to illuminate the curtains when drawn.

Living room

Aim for pools of light set around the sides of the living area with spot lighting or lamp standards for reading, writing, sewing. You can dispense with central overhead lighting except over the dining table. The darker your decoration scheme, the brighter the lighting will need to be.

Dimmer switches, which control the level of light that is cast, are invaluable in the living area as allies in changing the atmosphere according to occasion.

Hall and stairs

A warm glow of light in the front hall is welcoming. More important, safety depends on the lighting arrangements for the hal. Ind staircase. Even in a well-designed hall there are likely to be some things left around; perhaps boots or golf clubs that nobody has bothered to put in their appointed places. So in the hall it is advisable to install overhead lighting that illuminates the whole of the floor area.

Two-way switches should be fixed at the top and bottom of the staircase. If the staircase is lit only from the top, anyone descending the stairs will be in his own light. Arrange the lights so that both the risers and the treads of the stairs are seen distinctly. If overhead lighting for the staircase is too flat, the stairs appear to level out and this can be dangerous, particularly for old people.

The hall of a house you move into may already have light fittings on the walls that may be difficult to remove. In that case, choose unobtrusive shades or fix spotlights that can be adjusted to throw light in any direction. Unless the hall is large, avoid table lamps or, indeed, any breakable items such as ornaments that can be knocked over when several people are in the hall at the same time (e.g. when guests are arriving or leaving). In a long hall with a high ceiling, you could be ambitious and construct a lower false ceiling, recessing down-lighting units in it for decorative effect.

Kitchen lighting

There should be both general overhead lighting, with the fitment recessed in or fitted tight against the kitchen ceiling, and local lighting in the main work area, particularly over the cooker and sink. The local lighting can be in the form of wall-fixed angled spotlights or strip lights under wall cupboards that illuminate the work surface below. Avoid trailing flex — it could cause a grave accident if somebody bearing hot dishes tripped over it. The light switch must be very near the kitchen door to avoid groping in the dark.

Bathroom lighting

As in other functional areas such as the kitchen, the bathroom should have both general lighting and a strip or spot light over at least the mirror. Mirrors are available that incorporate a lighting unit and shaver point. Some types of wall heater incorporate both lighting and a mirror with the heater so arranged that it can be used for hair-drying.

Bedroom lighting

Lighting should be near or over the bed with switches within reach. Lights over the dressing table and recessed in strip form into the most used sections of the clothes storage unit are necessities. In a shared bedroom, where one person may want to read in bed while the other wants to go to sleep, individual angled swivel lamps or lights with adjustable opaque shades above or at the sides of the bed can resolve the dilemma. Bedside lamps should be about 1 ft 8 in. (say 50 cm) above the mattress level; bedhead lights should be some 2 ft 6 in. (say 76 cm) above it.

The child’s room

A central lighting system is best for rooms used by children. Standing lamps of all kinds, except those powered by batteries, should be avoided. It may be necessary to fit a dimmer switch or have some kind of night-lighting device if very small children are in the family but this can sometimes be solved by leaving a door open and a landing light switched on.

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