Lighting Style and Trends Blog

Layering With Lighting

Posted by Gavin Martin on Tue, September 29, 2009

Designing with Lighting

Great Rooms Start with Great Lighting

Murray Feiss LightingOne basic rule of efficient lighting is to put light where you need it. However, to insure an attractive, comfortable lighting atmosphere, you must also think about balancing light. Create an effective spread of light through each room and also flowing between rooms. The best way to achieve this balance in a well-decorated room is to layer light sources. The first step to lighting design is to identify the main activity areas or the room's focal point or points. Any room with multiple focal points will be the most visually interesting and balanced. This is where the brightest layer of light should be directed.

The next step is a middle layer of light that provides interest in specific areas without detracting from focal points. The last layer fills in the background.

The first two layers are supplied by task and, or accent lighting, depending on what is being lit. The lower-level ambient lighting is usually indirect like that provided by wall sconces. The ratio of brightest light in the room to fill or ambient light should be 3 to 1 - at the most 5 to 1. More than this may provide drama and impact but will be uncomfortable for everyday living.

Once the essential layers are in place the decorative pieces can be added. Since the essential layers of task lighting are already in place you need not rely on your decorative pieces for light- lamps with dark or black shades, or chandeliers with dimmer switches are among the lighting options that can be added with this layer. Candles would also be considered at this stage.

Avoiding glare

One of the most important considerations in the placement of light fixtures is the glare they produce. Direct glare - as from a bare light bulb - is the worst kind. Always use the correct bulbs to avoid glare and also beware of reflected glare, light that bounces off of other objects into the eyes. Remember that light reflects off an object at the same angle as it strikes it. If the light source is at a 90% angle above the object that it strikes the glare will be reflected at 90% below the object. If the angle is too steep the light will create a "hotspot". The safe range is between 30% and 45% from vertical. A fixture placed directly above a flat, shiny surface can produce a veiled glare. A chandelier over a dining room table can have this effect. Placing other objects on the table can minimize this effect and help deflect the glare to a comfortable level. Dimmers can also help this effect.

Murray Feiss Lighting

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Tags: Layering Light, Murray Feiss

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