Kara’s Lighting Design Basics
Designers are keepers of formulas, knowers of elements, and proper users of light. I consider my knowledge on lighting to be one of the main reasons a potential client should hire me. There are many things about design that I can’t even explain, it’s all just a part of me and how my brain works. But lighting is very scientific and fairly straightforward to explain. An example of how my brain just works differently……I went to install a Star Wars themed home office this past week, and there was an 8-frame gallery wall I needed to hang. The client handed me the level, and I begrudgingly used it (and correctly!). And it made the frame crooked. No joke. So I told her I do better without my level and tape measure and to just trust me. Within 15 minutes I had all 8 frames hung with perfect spacing between and every single one level….using just my eye as a level. Client said, “Well, color me surprised!” I stepped back to look and analyze which frames needed to be adjusted. Literally zero. It was perfect!
3 Secrets I Can Share About Lighting
- Have you ever ordered a light fixture only for it to arrive and it’s either tiny or huge? Totally wrong size for the room? Yeah…..there’s a formula for that. Here goes:
Take the room’s size and round up to nearest foot. Example: Room is 12’8” x 15”6”….rounded, the room is 13’ x 16’.
THEN, replace the “feet” with “inches”, THEN add them up.
13” + 16” = 29” diameter fixture
This is just a rough estimate of what size diameter fixture you should be looking for. But keep in mind that ceiling height really affects this formula and blows the rule out the window. So, you’d still need me to help you determine correct fixture size given your circumstances.size
2. Every room should have multiple types and layers of lighting. There is overall lighting, task lighting, and ambient lighting. Sometimes there is even focal lighting, like that over a piece of art or a fireplace mantle. Overall lighting would be the main source of light for the room, whether that’s one main hanging fixture, or several recessed can lights, or a combination of those. Task lighting would be under cabinet lighting or lamps for work surfaces or reading. Ambient lighting could also be lamps, but those that are more for mood and not so much for reading. Ambient lighting can also be wall sconces. A room looks its’ best when multiple layers of lighting are used. In this photo below, the overall lighting is the chandelier. The ambient and task lighting are the lamps. The focal lighting is the light showcasing the art over the mantle. Not to mention all the gorgeous natural light that floods this space! Seriously one of my favorite rooms I’ve ever done.
- The color of your light makes ALL the difference in how your colors are read. With most fixtures shifting toward LED options, I’m constantly having to blend three types of light and still make it work right to portray colors correctly. Edison bulbs look neat and industrial, but put out very little light. And often, the light these bulbs put off is very warm with almost an amber glow. This does not mix well with the more cool temperature LED bulbs. Standard bulbs often have a warm glow, which is my favorite look. I avoid at all costs standard bulbs labeled cool or blue. The color of light these bulbs put off feels so sterile and cold, and completely changes the way your wall colors appear. Then LED bulbs are showing up more and more on the residential lighting scene, and what I love about them is that they have a numbered scale of warmth. Refer to the image below (pulled and sourced from another lighting website). Notice the difference in the same room using the four main temperatures of light. Everything literally looks totally different, from wall colors, to flooring, to art, etc. Lighting temperature truly matters! The study of this is called Metamerism….and it’s the very reason that I refuse to do long-distance paint color consultations. If I’m specifying a color for a room, I HAVE to be in the room to see how lighting affects the color selection.