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There are many elements that go into a proper design scheme, one important factor is lighting. While lighting is sometimes the last element to be thought of, it really ought to be considered early on. Lighting can affect the function, drama and style of a space and planning the design scheme with lighting in mind can create the desired look. The way lighting is used in a space can make or break the finished look. The use of indirect lighting alone can make a room appear visually flat, while only using accent lighting creates a dark museum like feel to a space. The best approach is to balance the light sources. This can be done by layering the lighting.
To begin, start with ambient lighting. This first layer brings overall general lighting to a space providing plenty of light to move around the room freely without fear of tripping over a chair or bumping into a table. It is often the first source of light to be turned on when entering a dark room.
Ambient lighting can come from either direct lighting, or indirect lighting and each offers a different feel. If the room is small and creating the illusion of a larger space is the goal, use indirect lighting with wall sconces that light up the walls and reflect off of the ceiling. Floor lamps that also direct light up and off the ceiling are good choices. Equally spaced downward lighting, such as recessed lighting or "wall washers", will provide a soft ambient glow while also making a room appear larger. If the desired outcome with a large room is to make it feel more intimate, consider lighting the lower half of the room with direct lighting. Chandeliers, pendants and wall sconces that direct light downward will create a warm inviting atmosphere. Now that you have a clearer idea of ambient light, the next question is how many watts are required in a space? A general rule of thumb is to use two watts of light per square foot to provide the right amount of ambient light.
Next bring in task lighting with decorative table lamps and remember to keep them to scale. If you have over sized furniture, a diminutive table lamp will look dwarfed. Table lamps and floor lamps generally fall into the category of task light and provide direct lighting for furniture, reading and other room activities. Choosing table lamps that reflect light both upward and downward are good options that lend a bit more to the ambient lighting. Table lamps will play a key role the decorative scheme by not only adding an additional light source but also by bringing some visual appeal to the space, whether it's color, visual weight or architectural interest. The last layer to consider is accent lighting. This layer may be in the form of track lighting, downward-facing wall sconces or table lamps with the ability to direct light at an object. Accent lighting is used to draw attention to or highlight wall art and other objects of interest.
While designers may argue that every nook and cranny of a room ought to be flooded with light, this simply is not the case. A light on every table, or a floor lamp in every corner may not be needed to properly light the room. A well lit room will have balanced layers of light that provide both general lighting and illumination for a room's activities as well as highlight artwork without creating a harsh overly lit space that may be glaring to some.