Oak Island, Southport, Saint James, Boiling Spring Lakes
The importance of lighting design is often overlooked, whether
planning a home renovation or when building a home. It is an
essential part of our everyday lives. When we have enough light, we
don't really think about it. When we have improper lighting it is
annoying, sometimes dangerous and even unhealthy, as some
recent studies have shown. Lighting design can also make or break
a great looking room.
So much time and effort is spent, as well as money, choosing
beautiful products, tile, furniture and wall decor. Without the proper
illumination all this lustre is left in the dark. I can't tell you how many
times I have seen beautiful tile back splashes with no under cabinet
lighting to help show it off. Look at the 2 photos below to see the
As you can see there is quite a stark contrast with and without light.
In the Lighting Tips section we discuss the 3 basic types of lighting.
These are General, Task and Accent lighting. Each has its own
place in a room. Some rooms may only require general lighting,
while other rooms may require all three types. For this reason each
room needs to be planned independently when it comes to the
lighting design. Below are some examples.
The above drawing is an approximately 1300 sq ft floor space. The
squares with circles inside are recessed lights. In the bedrooms we
have a ceiling fan and 4 recessed lights. Separate switches control
each. If the fan was to have a light we would add another switch to
give different lighting design options. Take note of the flow of
By using 3 way and 4 way switches there is a smooth flow when
negotiating the rooms. You can enter from any direction and turn on
or off the light or lights for that area.
In the kitchen the lighting is switched in different sections to allow
different levels of light. How the lighting is switched is an important
part of any lighting scheme.
Another important aspect of lighting is the switching scheme. By
controlling the lights with switching and dimming, many moods and
effects can be created. One way to do this is by conventional
means, another is through the use of todays smart technology.
I can't emphasize enough the importance of control. What I want to
achieve for my customers when planning a lighting design is two key
factors. One is to have the ability to light the room well and with full
coverage. The other is to give them control over that light so they
can use the light differently for different needs. A very good
example of this is a TV or media room.
In the above plan using a room about 15 x 20 we are using 10
recessed lights on three dimmers. The advantage to this type of
control is while watching a movie we can keep the back three lights
on dimmed. This allows an acceptable level of light to enter, exit or
move about the room, without interfering with your view of the
TV. In a room like this we can use 4" cans but 5" or 6" would be just
When planning a lighting design another important factor to
consider is this. As we age our eyes need a great deal more of light
to see properly. It is a fact that at age 50 our eyes need twice as
much light as they did when we were twenty. When planning a
lighting scheme, we want to take this into consideration. This is yet
another example why lighting control is so critical. By giving a room
the flexibility of various degrees of illumination it can fit our needs,
even if our needs change.
If you are building a new home or starting an addition or a remodel
and you want to try and develop a lighting plan but your stumped, let
me try and help.
Where do I start is the most common question I get asked. There
are some basic guidelines and factors that can help you determine
where to start and how to proceed.
First let's take the room and it's needs. Different rooms require
different lighting solutions. Rooms like bedrooms, living rooms, dens
and basements can be properly illuminated with a simple general
lighting plan. In rooms up to about 12' x 12', one ceiling light that
can hold bulbs that combined equal about 120 watts is sufficient.
For a better and more evenly disbursed light, 4 recessed lights
about 40" off each corner works wonderfully.
A living room or den may be a rectangle as opposed to a square. A
room that is 15' x 12' would be more evenly lit with 6 recessed cans.
In these rooms lighting can be supplemented with wall sconces
and or table or floor lamps.
Kitchens and bathrooms require much more thought. In these
rooms, where tasks are performed, it is important that the lighting
level be high enough to perform these tasks safely and comfortably.
In a good kitchen lighting plan all the work areas will be well lit.
Placing the cans so that the centers line up directly above the
outside edge of the base cabinets is the best solution, between 24"
and 32" is optimal if possible. This provides ample light and avoids
shadows while working at the counters. Spacing in a kitchen is also
very important. Keeping the recessed lights about 4 feet apart and
no more than 5 feet, will assure you have even spread of light.
If you run into a wall and need to ask questions about lighting you
can contact me through our contact page. There are some basic
lighting principles that can help you along in this process. One is
understanding that light in most fixtures has some type of pattern.
For example a recessed light using a reflector type bulb distributes
a pattern in the shape of a cone. When this pattern reaches the
floor it is in the form of a circle. By slightly overlapping this circle of
light it is possible to have a very even distribution of light
throughout the room.
Since most of the members of a household walk upright and the
ones who don't, probably won't lodge any complaints about lighting,
a general rule in lighting a room is to design the plan on a work
This is an imaginary plane at about 30" off the floor. This helps to
provide a nice even lighting for most tasks in any room. This is
where understanding the pattern of light your fixture has is
important. Most manufacturers have specs to show what these
patterns are. For reflective bulbs you can get this info
from the bulb manufacturer.