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Here's How to Transform Your Home Lighting From Ordinary to Extraordinary

Every good interior designer understands the dramatic role that lighting plays in how our home looks and feels. A good lighting design makes a home functional; a great one, however, will completely redefine our living spaces and transform the home décor to a new level. Like all things in life, what sets the great apart from the rest fundamentally comes down to the finer details. In the lighting perspective, this translates to a firm understanding that each utility room in our home serves a fundamentally different purpose (s) and thus will necessitate very different lighting requirements that vary from one room to another. With this train of thought, taking a room-by-room approach to lighting planning is perhaps the most logical (and often easiest) way to creating an extraordinary lighting for your home. The ultimate goal of this article is to offer practical guidelines and best practices that every homeowner can easily comprehend and apply themselves without the help of interior designers. Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

Understand the language of Lighting

In reality, very few rooms in most homes will be suitably lit with just one single light source. This is unfortunately a costly mistake that we have to bear witness to way too often among both new and seasoned homeowners (read 11 Common Lighting Mistakes That Every Homeowner Should Avoid).

So how do we create the right lighting for your home? First and foremost, every great lighting design starts with three layers:

  1. Ambient lighting is the overall light that forms the foundation for the room. Unfortunately, many homeowners stop here. While ambient light is adequate for basic activities, they are not enough for task-intensive activities such as reading, working or cooking. This is where task lighting fills in the gap.
  1. Task lighting is focused lighting that is directed towards a smaller focal point. Task lighting is essential for task-intensive activities such as cooking, reading, shaving or applying makeup.
  1. Accent lighting is another type of focused lighting that is used to highlight features in the environment, such as architectural lines or artworks.

A great room possesses all three layers of light.

To do these layers well, you must first understand the basic terms used to describe lighting products:

We have provided a general guideline for the range of lumens that are appropriate for each room and the particular tasks that you may undertake. This guideline is supported by the Lighting Research Centre (LRC), the world’s leading centre for lighting research and education. If you use a darker wall paint, consider adding more lumens as darker colour paint will reflect less light.

1. Bedroom Lighting [2000 – 4000 lumens]

The bedroom is where we rejuvenate our body, mind and soul. It is likely a place where we spend our time reading quality books, studying and watch television; so lighting should be multipurpose. Good bedside lighting is a prerequisite, but don’t limit yourself to conventional table lamps. We would recommend wall-mounted adjustable swing-arm lamps or pendant lights that hang above bedside tables. The reason why? Light fixtures that hang above eye level are always easier to the eyes than a direct light source, and comes with the added benefit of freeing up surface space on bedside tables. For ambient lighting, a combination of recessed downlights, a ceiling fan with light, and floor lamps are our recommended choices. And don’t forget dimmers too!

Do: Add dimmer switches to bedroom lights

Do: Consider investing in remote control options to control lighting and fans from your bed

Do: Besides table lamps, try wall-mounted swing-arm lamps or pendant lights for bedside lighting

Do: Use a combination of recessed downlights, ceiling fan with light and floor lamps for ambient lighting

Don’t: Strong Cool White lights are harsh to the eyes and will deteriorate our sleep quality by disrupting our melatonin production and Circadian Rhythm (read more here). Use Warm White lights instead.

2. Kitchen Lighting [5000 – 10000 lumens]

The kitchen is one of, if not the most, busiest space with the highest traffic in our home. The kitchen is also arguably the most challenging to light because they serve so many purposes – ranging from cooking, reading and dining. Proper task lighting is often the crucial element that is lacking in many kitchens, and the resulting shadows will turn cooking into an unpleasant and potentially dangerous activity. Consider layering a combination of light fixtures such as downlights, pendants and spotlights to add a degree of flexibility to how much lighting is needed for different activities. Additionally, we would highly recommend adding under-cabinet lighting because they effectively remove most shadows from the cooking surface.

Do: Use above-cabinet lighting for ambient and mood lighting

Do: Place evenly spaced pendant lights directly above kitchen islands to avoid shadows

Do: Install a combination of recessed downlights, pendant lights and spotlights to add flexibility in lighting

Do: Sensor light is a smart and convenient way to automatically turn on the light when you open the pantry door

Do: Always install under-cabinet lighting for task lighting. If not possible, try recessed wall- mounted or ceiling adjustable fixtures with narrow flood beam and focus them on the task area.

Don’t: Placing recessed downlights at the centre of ceilings will cast shadow on precisely the place where you want to avoid the most – cooking surface. To reduce shadows, place recessed lights on the sides of ceilings.



3. Living Room / Family Room Lighting [1500 – 3000 lumens]

The living room is where we spend the majority of our family time in. Living room lighting should be very flexible for all the things we do at home – including sitting and talking, reading, watching television, playing console games just to name a few. The living room or family room is where we need to make full use of the three layers of lighting.

Do: Add dimmer switches to dial the level of lighting for different occasions.

Do: Use accent lighting in the form of spotlights for the room’s focal point and artwork.

Do: Use recessed LED downlights for ambient lighting but avoid placing these lights directly above the seating area as that will create a harsh washed-down effect on the person.

Do: Use an elegant chandelier or pendant light in the centre of the room to create a touch of class and flare. Alternatively, a ceiling fan is another popular option to keep things more casual and relaxed.

Do: Incorporate task lighting, such as table or floor lamps, for reading and other things you do while sitting.

Do: Use lights that bounce off the ceiling as an alternative for ambient lighting. Bouncing light off the ceiling creates a sense of brightness in the room and avoids the shadows or downward direction of recessed downlights. Bounce light can be accomplished by integrating cove or valance lighting into the room’s architecture or by placing a linear LED or fluorescent tube behind a shelf or entertainment unit.

4. Bathroom Lighting [4000 – 8000 lumens]

Bathroom Lighting is another area where task lighting is crucial. Too many bathrooms feature a single central ceiling-mounted fixture that creates unflattering shadows on the face and makes tasks such as shaving and applying makeup difficult. One of the best improvements you can make to your bathroom is to add wall lights at both sides of the mirror at eye level. This will effectively minimise shadows and provide an even distribution of task lighting. We would highly recommend a bathroom 3-in-1 heater system as it is a very versatile and space-saving solution that integrates heater, exhaust fan and light into one compact package. To find out more about Bathroom 3-In-1 Systems, read Everything You Need to Know About Bathroom 3-in-1 Systems.

Exhaust fans are the final crucial element to any bathroom, especially bathrooms with no access to windows. Exhaust fans perform the crucial task of removing steam from the shower, thereby preventing mould from growing and stops mirrors from fogging up.

Do: Install dimmers for middle-of-the-night bathroom visits.

Do: Install a bathroom 3-in-1 heater system to put an end to the freezing winter shivers.

Do: The golden rule to good bathroom task lighting is to place wall lights on the sides of the mirror.

Do: Place recessed downlights above the shower and tub. Showers can be dark, making it difficult to see when you are cleaning yourself or shaving. Make sure to choose downlights with good IP (Ingress Protection) rating, which classifies the degree of protection against outside elements such as water or steam.

Don’t: Relying on ceiling fixtures for task lighting is insufficient; they cast shadows on faces.

5. Outdoor & Garden Lighting [1000 – 2000 lumens]

Outdoor and Garden Lighting is often an overlooked aspect in home décor planning. Proper outdoor and garden lighting will create a strong visual impact and extend our home beyond the walls of the house. Outdoor and Garden Lighting serves three main purposes – safety, security and aesthetics. Perhaps the most overlooked benefit of Outdoor and Garden Lighting is that it minimises the reflection of glass surfaces from inside the house at night. By lighting an element outside the house, we will be able to look beyond our own reflection in the glass.

Do: Place outdoor wall lights for ambient lighting. Path lights and deck lights are just as crucial to brighten up walkways and steps.

Do: Think in Close, Midrange and Far. Lighting something close to the home, midrange in the yard and far at the corner will create interesting focal points at different distances.

Do: Choose Quality and Durability over Price – Australia’s outdoor environment is harsh, particularly on the coast. It is worth paying a little more up front so you don’t have to replace them every few years.

Don’t: Brighter is not better. Avoid the mistake of using excessive outdoor and garden lighting as they can create strong shadows in return. A constant low level of lighting is the better option here.

6. Dining Room Lighting [3000 – 6000 lumens]

The dining room is the place where family and friends gather for a meal. The primary focus of Dining Room Lighting is the dining table, so fixtures placed directly above the table will provide both ambient and task lighting. Dimmer switches are absolutely a must to create a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere.

Do: Dimmer switches are absolute must

Do: Dimmable recessed downlights are good for providing ambient lighting

Do: Prevent head clunks from happening by sizing the centre fixture no wider than the table minus about 12 inches

Do: Pendant lights and chandeliers are excellent centrepiece that will serve as the focal point for the dining room

Do: Dining rooms with substantial windows and French doors will benefit from placing an outdoor light source so that people using the dining room at night have a focal point beyond their reflection in the glass doors. Lighting an element outdoors is the perfect solution to the problem of glass reflection at night.

Don’t’: Placing lights directly above dining chairs will cast unflattering shadows on the faces

7. Garage Lighting [4000 – 8000 lumens]

Your garage, like any other room in your house, deserves good lighting. The type of lighting fixtures you choose will depend largely on how and how often you use your garage. Task lighting will be crucial for the garage if you use it as a workshop.

Do: Clamp lamps that clamp on to your work desk allow you to adjust the task lighting easily.

Do: Under-cabinet lighting is another popular choice if you have cabinets above your work desk.

Do: Use Cool White lights (4000K or more) as they perform better for a workshop environment than Warm White lights

Do: Linear LED or fluorescent tubes are excellent as they provide an even, widespread distribution of bright ambient lighting for good working environment

8. Study Room / Home Office Lighting [3000 – 6000 lumens]

The study room is another area where task lighting is important. Identifying where particular tasks will take place in the study room is the first step. Once you have determined the furniture configuration, you can start incorporating task lighting in the form of desk lamps and floor lamps near work areas to eliminate shadowing and glare.

Do: Use recessed LED downlights for ambient lighting.

Do: Floor lamps are a good choice when reading chairs or lounges are involved.

Do: Use desk lamps with adjustable heads to eliminate glare from computer screens.

9. Entrance / Stairwell Lighting [1200 – 4000 lumens]

The entrance of the home is often where first impressions are made. You can create a stunning first impression by incorporating a beautiful chandelier or pendant light that scale with your space, and downlights along the walkway. The staircase is another popular area to place pendant lights or chandeliers to make a statement.

Do: Use recessed downlights for ambient lighting

Do: Place pendant lights or chandeliers for staircase and front entrance with high ceiling

There you have it, our best practices that will help you transform your home lighting from ordinary to extraordinary. Give our team at JD Lighting a shout-out if you think this article has been helpful to you. We will definitely appreciate it!

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