The mood of a space is characterized by its design. Proportion, details, finish selections, views and spatial connections all work in harmony to create successful spaces. As designers, we often find that lighting, though it plays a critical role in characterizing the ambiance of a complete space, is often selected and installed as an afterthought due to its location toward the end of the critical path of selections during a design project.
A well-designed lighting plan is key to creating delightful, inviting, and useful spaces in a home. The following 8 tips are some rules of thumb from an award-winning Chicago home builder to keep in mind when establishing the lighting design for your home. We hope that you will find these tips useful along your design journey.
1. Layered Lighting
When developing a lighting plan, consideration for layering light at three scales - ambient lighting, accent lighting, and task lighting, can be a useful tool in creating a focused approach to illuminating the spaces in a home.
Ambient lighting comprises the general overhead lighting that will be required to brighten a space - most often we see this in the form of recessed can lights, wall sconces, and the occasional fluorescent tube. We consider ambient lighting first in the lighting design process, as adequate illumination from ambient lighting will be relied upon to meet the basic lighting requirements for comfort and well-being.
Accent lighting. We then use accent lighting to highlight and elevate significant areas within a room. We often see this as pendant lighting above a kitchen island or dining table, a chandelier at a grand stairway or above a freestanding bathtub, or puck lights installed within a custom piece of cabinetry to highlight the items within.
The final and most private layer of illumination to consider is task lighting. It adds a touch of delight to everyday chores like writing, reading, chopping veggies, putting on makeup, and/or shaving with a desk lamp, under-cabinet lighting for our countertops, and wall sconces at the bathroom mirror or bedside table. Adding an element of delight to these activities - quite literally brightens our days!
2. Autonomy of Space
One major faux pas that we spot time and again is washing an entire project with a single approach to lighting. As much as we plan for the activities and atmosphere in a kitchen and a bathroom to be quite distinct, a well-lit home reflects this in the design of the lighting for these spaces. Hearkening back to our first tip regarding layered lighting, we can use the three layers (ambient lighting, accent lighting, and task lighting) to bring both cohesion to the project as a whole, and nuance to each of the spaces within.
By specifying coordinated recessed cans in larger areas and perhaps some bespoke wall sconces in circulation paths, like hallways and portals, we can use ambient lights throughout the home to underpin the project narrative with cohesion and clarity. We can then build on this narrative with the addition of accent and task lighting into individual spaces to bring nuance and character to the special moments within each room.
3. Vive la sconce!
One of our favorite aspects of new home construction as custom home builders in Chicago is the ability to embed wall scones in the open framing. Nothing adds a custom touch to a room better than some well-selected and well-placed sconces. Bed-flanking sconces, hallway sconces, fireplace sconces, bathroom sconces - j’adore!
Sconces come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles. They can be traditional or contemporary, elaborate or simple. And they can be used to provide task lighting or simply to add ambiance.
When choosing sconces for your dream home, it’s important to think about the style of the room, the scale of the room, and how you want to use them.
4. Under-Cabinet lighting
Falling within the category of task lighting is under-cabinet lighting. Under-cabinet lighting is inset into the bottom of upper cabinets - most often in kitchens, but we also see them popping up in mud-rooms, laundry rooms, and closets. Under-cabinet lights not only provide useful task lighting for work surfaces, but offer an additional high-end custom effect by highlighting a lovely countertop and setting the upper cabinets off against the surrounding surfaces.
The popularity of under-cabinet lighting has surged in recent years because LEDs (light-emitting diodes) have become more affordable and efficient. LEDs are a great choice for this application because they provide a nice, diffuse light with no hot spots. There are many different styles and colors of LED lights to choose from, so it's easy to find one that fits your space and style.
5. Have some fun
Depending on taste and style of your luxury home, we like to use pendant, chandelier, and sconce locations to liven up a space with chic lighting moments. Many modern lighting designers create true works of art. Weaving a selection of distinctive lighting features into a project offers the opportunity to add refinement and to showcase the personality of a home. Take your North Shore custom home to the next level.
When selecting light fixtures, think about the mood you want to create. Do you want a relaxing and calming atmosphere? Or do you want to feel invigorated and excited? Once you know what kind of feeling you want to create, it will be easier to select the right light fixtures.
6. Be judicious with the recessed cans
Don’t get us wrong, as Chicago architects with years of experience and design awards, we love a recessed can as much as the next person. They offer a simple and clean way to light a space, particularly expansive ones like living rooms and kitchens. The three main things to avoid when placing cans are over-lighting by spacing cans too close to one another, not working from a grid or pattern, and using them in smaller spaces where a pendant or a sconce may have been a better selection.
With good planning, you can create a warm and aesthetically appealing environment utilizing this type of lighting.
The key here is coordination and planning. Particularly when working with additions and remodels, it is imperative to coordinate switch plate heights, finishes, and material. Plates range in material from plastic to metal with many colors, shapes, and types of operation to choose from. Consistency in switch plates throughout the home plays a small, but important role in heightening the level of design. And, don’t forget to turn those flat head screws perpendicular to the floor so they won’t catch dust!
Light switch plates are often neglected, yet they may be a wonderful method to bring personality and flair to your living space. With so many options available, you can create a one-of-a-kind and elegant atmosphere.
8. Dimmable Lighting
Dimmer switches are a must for our team in most public and private areas of the home. As the sun rises and moves across the sky, pulling our days along with it, the capability to calibrate the brightness of interior lights to mimic or oppose the day is one of our favorite modern contributions to lighting design.
Dimming reduces energy use and relaxes the nerves, making a room appear more peaceful. When dimmed light is used in conjunction with a bedtime routine, it has been shown to improve sleep quality.
There are several ways to tone down the brightness of your lights. In addition to traditional wall switches, wireless dimmers are becoming increasingly popular since they may be placed in any area of space and don't require any wiring. You may also use your smartphone or voice assistant to control your lights.
Whether you are looking to build a new home or renovate a room, lighting plays a significant role in elevating a space, and bringing a room to life. The most significant tool in creating emotion is the light. Lighting may help you to relax, read, or energize and socialize at home, among other things. It also has a role to play in design and style, whether it's the beautiful look of chandeliers or the relaxing atmosphere created by lamps; it adds interest to a space.
A. Perry Homes is headquartered in Wilmette, IL. We offer the most up-to-date designs available in home building today. Reach out to hire an architect near you or to request your no-obligation custom home design estimate.