Written By Alma Guerrero Barham
Early lighting, before modern electrical devices were invented, consisted of kerosene lamps, candles, fireplaces, gas lamps, and for outdoors— fires made from burning branches and twigs and other materials.
Thomas Edison was credited with the invention of the FIRST light bulb In 1879. If he were alive today, he would, without a doubt, be vastly impressed with how far his invention has come.For too long, lighting was not given proper credit for its importance in the design media. Actually, lighting is the most practical, exciting and mysterious element of the world of media. It is exciting due to its ability to transform the objects it touches. Light directs attention within a space because the eye automatically seeks out the brightest and most interesting object in the field of vision. It is mysterious because light rays are invisible until they strike a surface. As for its practicality, that is self-explanatory.
Good lighting is also extremely versatile. Depending on its use, it can highlight art, wash walls, facilitate a multitude of tasks, direct attention to beautiful landscaping, or it can be used to provide excitement and drama. It is also one of the few design elements that can be changed easily and quickly. With the flick of a switch, or the turn of a dimmer, light can alter pattern, color and intensity. Lighting must suit the purpose for which the room will be used and also create moods in which the occupants will be happy to live or work.
Now we enter the arena of all the different options of lighting systems that can be utilized for the ultimate effect. The most important concept in creating a good lighting plan for a home is to utilize a variety of different types of lighting:
All three types are equally important in achieving the desired effect and are highly recommended.
AMBIENT lighting, which is the most important, can be attained by utilizing basic lighting fixtures such as chandeliers, track lights and recessed lights which are also known as downlights. A downlight is a type of light fixture that is installed into a hollow opening in ceilings. When installed, it provides the appearance of light shining from a hole in the ceiling, concentrating the light downward as a broad floodlight or narrow floodlight. Wall or ceiling mounted fixtures also create ambiance and come in a variety of shapes and colors.
TASK lighting provides increased light for tasks that require accuracy such as writing, reading directions on medicine bottles, etc. It is also useful for work spaces such as workbenches, workshops, or spaces used for studying, arts and crafts. Desk lamps, customized floor lamps, under cabinet LED (lighting emitting diode) are appropriate examples. A diode is an electrical component with two terminals which conduct the electricity in only one direction. Track lighting consists of light fixtures attached on a continuous track device that contains electrical conductors. Track lighting can be used as task lighting and ambient lighting.
Perhaps the most common error in kitchen lighting is the lack of downlighting in work spaces. It is imperative that light comes down and across all work surfaces and towards your task, whether it is chopping, stirring, etc. The best solution is to install lighting under hanging cabinets, recessed and shaded so that the light falls gently onto the work area. If there are no hanging cabinets above the work area, soffits on track lighting around the edges of the ceiling will work sufficiently well. Fluorescent strip lights are the most convenient to be placed under cabinets. Fluorescent bulbs also use much less electricity than incandescent bulbs.
The bathroom is the other room where fluorescent light is mostly used; although it should not be your only source. For shaving and making-up, you need good, clear light at least on either side of the mirror where you perform your tasks.
ACCENT lighting focuses light on a particular area or object. It is used to highlight art or other artifacts. Common types of accent lights include wall sconces, floodlights, recessed lights, torchere lamps, track lighting or uplights. Uplights are lighting units that are placed on the floor around the perimeter of the room. The lights will illuminate the walls from floor to ceiling. Uplights are also very popular for weddings and special events since they create intimacy within the room. Lighting also affects the way we perceive the size of a space or room. Overhead lighting gives the effect of closing up a space and narrowing a room. To make a small room look larger, wash the walls with light. Uplights, downlights and spotlights can be used to give a part of the room more recognition and visual importance.
We must not neglect the subject of LANDSCAPE lighting or GARDEN lighting which refers to the outdoor illumination of private gardens and public landscapes. Well-planned lighting for these areas enhances them and provides safety, nighttime aesthetics and security. Recreational sports and other social event uses need good lighting and it is best to consult an expert in this field. They can explain the different functions, features, and latest technology to best achieve the desired effect.
Lighting brings SPECIAL EVENTS to life and helps show case or minimize features or elements that you like or don’t like in a space. There are several options which will transform an event into a special and memorable one. UPLIGHTS, once again, play a dominant role since they project washes of light which add warmth, color and depth to the decor. TEXTURE lighting projects patterns on walls, ceilings, floors, stages, etc. There are hundreds of stock patterns for light fixtures—from simple to ornate that can be used. The actual templates used that have the patterns are called gobos. PIN SPOT lighting has very narrow beams of light highlighting center pieces, place cards, guest book areas, bar areas, etc. The BLISS LIGHT creates 1000’s of pinpoints of light that look like stars which slowly move towards and away from each other, creating a slow moving star field effect. There are other event options available; and once again, it is highly recommended to utilize a lighting consultant for your projects.
No matter how much thought goes into choosing furniture and colors to create a particular ambience, none of it will work well if the lighting is wrong.
Hopefully, I was able to shed some light on this subject!
I must include a few words about how the PSYCHOLOGY of lighting also plays an important role in different settings. Studies by John Flynn, professor of Architectural Engineering at Pennsylvania State University concluded that in the office, people who want to participate actively in a meeting and make sure their views are heard, will try to sit in the most brightly lit part of the room. Those who simply want to take notes and listen, prefer to sit where the light is less bright. In corporate settings, Michael Konda, author of Power and Success explains that the executive will design his office lighting to be warm and cheerful so that a potential buyer would be transported into a pleasant mood and be more likely to agree to the executive’s price. On the flip side, if someone was selling to the executive, the light would be colder and ominous to give the seller the feeling that this might be his/her last opportunity to close the deal and possibly settle at a lower price! It is not uncommon for corporate executives to have their office lighting aimed at themselves, so visitors will perceive who is in control!