Thinking about the lighting in your home?  Do you find that you have a dark area or two in a room and you want to update your lighting? Evaluate what changes you’d like to see and decide if you want portable lighting to address the problem, or if it’s time to bring in an electrician, to add fixtures and update switching.  If you are planning a renovation project, consider lighting from the very beginning!

One of the rules of thumb with lighting, is to provide multiple layers of light.  What this means is to create general, ambient light, along with task (directed) lighting, and accent (directed) lighting.

In a living room, for example, you may have sconces, light fixtures on the walls, which wash the wall and perhaps also light the ceiling above them; these provide general, ambient light.

Providing general lighting was the goal in the different areas of this living room using sconces, as you can see in these two photos; this was a renovation project of an 1850s farmhouse and wiring was a challenge! Corey Fitzgerald Photography

Floor and table lamps can provide task lighting, for reading, and recessed lighting with a directional component can be specifically directed at art work. However, recessed lighting, installed as a series of fixtures can provide general lighting.  Confusing??  Read on…

Since recessed lights are installed in the ceiling, there is no decorative component, as there would be with a fixture that sits on the ceiling.  The light that comes from a recessed fixture has a limited beam spread, (think pool of light on the floor below the fixture) and to provide general lighting in a room with recessed lighting means to make sure that the beam spread of each of a series of fixtures overlaps, so there are no dark areas in-between the fixtures.

In this Arts and Crafts bungalow, our lighting decisions included recessed lighting in the ceiling coffers to provide ambient and focused (on art work) lighting, along with table and floor lamps for task lighting. – Corey Fitzgerald Photography

Be aware that there can be overlap in the function of lighting! Floor and table lamps, if placed in different areas of a room, can also provide ambient as well as task lighting.  Torchieres, which are floor lamps that direct light above them to the ceiling, can also provide ambient light, and are available in many styles.

If you don’t want a lot of recessed fixtures, and prefer to keep the number of ceiling openings to a minimum, track lighting has made something of a comeback, and with one opening for wiring, you can place a track on your ceiling, with multiple track-heads aimed at a number of locations.

A ceiling pendant over the small dining table provides both task and ambient lighting and a track with track-heads (just visible) in the middle of the room, focuses both on a counter area and toward a pantry that’s opposite, made sense in this 1964 ranch kitchen renovation. Corey Fitzgerald Photography

Ceiling lights (installed on the ceiling) are great way to provide ambient light; they can be flush to the ceiling, semi-flush, which allows for the light to bounce off the ceiling, or pendants which hang down from the ceiling.   And there are many decorative options, for pretty much any home style.  Pendants and chandeliers (typically a larger fixture, with a number of bulbs) which hang from cords or rods from the ceiling may be used in hallways or entryways for general lighting and are available is many sizes, styles and lumens.  Of course, pendants can also be used for general room lighting as well as task lighting over tables, bars, etc.

In the dining room of the Arts and Crafts bungalow, we used two large pendants to create a chandelier effect over the large dining table, along with recessed lighting in the ceiling and sconces on the wall. Rosemary Fletcher Photography

And in a kitchen, providing task lighting for food preparation most often takes the form of under-cabinet lighting (LED strip lighting or fixtures) directly over counters, perhaps with the support of recessed fixtures over the countertops.  Pendants or ceiling fixtures can light the sink area, and provide visual interest.

In these two photos, pendants above the sink area in the 1850s Farmhouse renovation were hand-created; under-cabinet LED lighting and recessed lighting over the countertops where possible, (not possible everywhere due to wiring challenges) helped to create a well-lit space. Corey Fitzgerald Photography

My favorite options for a bathroom are to provide recessed fixtures over the shower or tub area, with sconces flanking the mirror over the sink (often supported by a recessed light over each sink), and a decorative ceiling fixture, for the center of the room.  A large bathroom may require more ceiling and recessed fixtures.

These two photos show the bath renovation from a 1990s home; two separate baths, that shared a wall were combined to create a new primary bath. The sconces flanking the mirror echo the style of the ceiling fixture; two recessed lights over the shower illuminate what was originally a dark tub area. Amy Crosby Photography


Next up, a discussion of integral LEDs and replacement bulbs, plus the meaning and measurement of lumens and color temperature.