Let there be light!
The first of my 3-part article- that got printed in Femina Book of Interiors, Bombay Times and Pune Times.
Light = Life.
“Ever since we crawled out of that primordial slime, that's been our unifying cry, "More light." Sunlight. Torchlight. Candlelight. Neon, incandescent lights that banish the darkness from our caves to illuminate our roads, the insides of our refrigerators. Big floods for the night games at Soldier's Field. Little tiny flashlights for those books we read under the covers when we're supposed to be asleep. Light is more than watts and footcandles. Light is metaphor. Light is knowledge, light is life, light is light”. The quote coming from well-known Emmy Awards-winning creative team of Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider… an apt summation of what is, one of the most integral elements in our lives.
When we move into a new home or refurbish the existing one, one of the top things in our ‘to-do’ list is to ‘get lights’. And unless we have an architect or a designer involved, most of us would randomly pick up lights and fixtures that please our aesthetic senses, and probably suit the room’s too. ‘It’s functional as long as it provides light’, is what we tell ourselves. But light is more than just an idea of brightness.
Although it's often treated as an afterthought, good lighting can make or break your home. We may spend hours poring over paint charts, but it's actually the light that shows off a space to its best advantage. Light has the power to alter the appearance of a room or zone without changing it physically. It can be used to accentuate individual functional spaces in an area as it directs our view and draws our attention to details. Light can also be used to influence perception as it is a great tool to divide and interpret rooms so as to emphasise areas or establish continuity between the interior and exterior spaces.
As one uses colour to create a look for a room, likewise changing the lighting can alter the visual dimensional feel of a space. Good lighting can make the home feel spacious, clean and welcoming. The key is to create a flexible scheme that takes you comfortably through the day and all the different uses of your room. At the flick of a switch, you should be able to transform it from a bright, vibrant living space to the setting for a romantic dinner for two.
There are basically three kinds of lighting- ambient, accent and task lighting. There is a fourth type too called decorative lighting, but the former three take care of most of our lighting needs.
As the name suggests, ambient or general lighting provides illumination and a comfortable level of brightness for the entire room. This basic form of lighting is typically seen as the starting point for lighting a space or a room as it replaces sunlight. It is fundamental to a lighting plan as it makes up the "base" amount of light in a room; and creates a bland flat effect.
The type of light source selected for ambient light depends on the type and use of the space or room. However, if you supplement general lighting with some or all of the other types, you'll end up with a great, flexible scheme. While most of the time ambient light comes from the fixtures listed above; in certain applications, it can be the culmination of all of the accent, decorative, and task lighting that produces the total ambient lighting.
Lights for ambient lighting: Recessed downlights, ceiling lights, uplighters, valance lighting(a system that includes both up and down lighting), wall lights, cove lighting (light fixtures that are mounted into a shelf on the wall for indirect lighting), soffit lighting, wall washers, sconces, surface-mounted lights, pendant lights, track lights, chandeliers, under-cabinet lights and portable fixtures.
Generally considered one of the "layers of light" when lighting a space; accent lighting is directional light aimed at an object or feature in a space. It is a way to make something stand out in the space, to create a visual separation. This kind of lighting accentuates, creates a mood and adds interest to a room by highlighting or spotlighting certain areas and objects, such as paintings, walls and collectibles. Accent lighting gives texture, focus and shape to ambient lighting by adding depth and shadows in some areas while pools of light in other spots. Accent lighting highlights specific features of a room, such as cabinets, ceiling beams or artwork. It can create visual interest in a room by highlighting architectural features, such as a mantel or the texture of a wall
Lights for accent lighting: Wall washers, sconces, track lights, spotlights, under-cabinet lights, table lamps.
Any activity or area that needs relatively high light levels focused on it requires task lighting. This type of lighting helps one perform a specific activity, such as cooking, reading, writing, sewing or playing games, by concentrating light in a particular place. Task lighting is an efficient way to provide light on reading materials or similar difficult-to-see objects. It is especially important to select a task light that does not provide a direct view of the light bulb. It is equally important to place the task light in a position where the person does not see a reflection of the light bulb in the task (e.g., on a computer screen). Task lights can include one of a variety of light bulbs, including linear fluorescent, compact fluorescent, incandescent, or halogen.
Lights for task lighting: Valance lighting, pendant lights, under-cabinet lights, lights that plug into the wall including desk lamps, swing arm lamps, table lamps and floor lamps and portable fixtures.
Light fixtures of the space themselves that draw attention to themselves, such as chandeliers or candles, thus adding character to the room, form part of decorative lighting.
As Accent lights illuminate special features in a room such as artwork, architectural details and furnishings, creating visual interest and drama in the space; when planning a lighting scheme, you should plan the accent lighting first. Next, identify task lighting. Then if additional light is needed, more fixtures can be added for general illumination or ambient lighting. All three types of lighting systems can work together to fulfill the lighting needs of a room. Once you've considered what types of activities will be taking place in a room and what type of lighting is needed, you can decide what fixture will best fit your needs.
When you walk into a store, there’s a plethora of lighting fixtures available. But before making any decisions about your fixtures, make sure you find out if there are any restrictions on the types of fixtures that can be used in any specific room. Sometimes things such as ductwork, insulation or ceiling height can affect whether or not a fixture can be installed properly in a room. When deciding what lighting to use in your new home, there are a number of things to consider:
o How each room will be used.
o What fixtures are appropriate.
o Energy efficiency.
A good, energy-efficient lighting system uses less energy, is more economical and meets our visual needs. A lighting system includes lights (light bulbs), light fixtures (luminaires) and controls (switches, dimmers, timers and motion detectors). The right lighting scheme can make a bland room exciting. But with so many fixtures and fittings available, it can be difficult to decide which type to use where.
General thumb rules for lighting your home:
o Have natural and general lighting in every room, in the form of windows or skylights.
o You can never light a room as efficiently as the sun so think of electric light as an atmospheric background - it can create a cosy environment or a really dramatic one. Plan the lighting needs of your house room wise and in layers from ceiling to floor, so you have the right kind for your different needs.
o As far as possible, place switches at the room entrances.
o Have a socket or electric point in the middle of the room, preferably near the floor, so you don't have trailing wires across the floor.
o Use compact fluorescent light bulbs rather than incandescent lights, which last longer and reduce lighting costs by 70 percent.
o Illuminating wall surfaces can highlight the vertical spatial borders. Depending on the room, one can have a uniform light distribution that focuses on the wall as a whole, or an accentuating, grazing light to give the wall a structure through patterns of light.
o Light-coloured walls and ceilings reflect the light much more than those painted a dark colour. So choose the lighting accordingly.
o Architectural features such as ceiling mouldings can be highlighted with uplighters.
o Floor illumination emphasises objects and pedestrian surfaces like stairs and corridors and also do not cause direct glare on the eye.
o Remember: never to put a higher wattage bulb than the fitting instructions suggest; and buy the highest wattage allowed then control it with a dimmer.