Common mistakes in home lighting

LIGHTING a room seems easy enough: Plug in a lamp, flip a switch, and voilà! What was once dark is now bright. But certain missteps can cause a comfy space to feel, well, off.

Here some common mistakes to avoid.

Don’t think in layers

It seems easy enough to install a row of recessed lights in a room and call it a day, but this strategy will ultimately disappoint. Homeowners tend to light rooms like they are hosting a convention – too much overhead light, this does not add any warmth or character to a room.

Overhead lighting is a go-to option in many spaces, but it is often not enough. If you omit task lighting, like floor lamps and table lamps, reading on your couch or writing at your desk could strain your eyes. And if you only install can lights in your bedroom, you will not get the cozy quality that bedside lamps can provide.

Plus, a variety of light sources make your common areas more flexible. Ambient (overhead) lighting will come in handy when you are hosting large holiday parties, but you will crave the intimacy of a table lamp when it is just you curled up with a magazine.

Want to get super fancy? Accent lights that highlight art, cabinet interiors, or walls (think sconces) can add a luxe design element to a room.

Dimmer switches

Many of the designers we spoke to named this mistake as a major pet peeve.

“Dimmers are the best kept secret of lighting design, they allow you to control your lighting from day to night, for various events and depending on your mood.”

A quaint dinner party simply is not so quaint if your dining room is lit up like a stadium.

Shadows

Place a light in the wrong spot, and you could create more of a problem than a solution.

In bathroom, try sconces on either side of the mirror, instead of a single light above. Overhead lighting can cast shadows on your face. If you must go with an overhead light, choose a longer, horizontal fixture (instead of one with one single bulb) to help fully illuminate your face.

Shadows can plague your kitchen work space, too. If kitchen can lights are positioned above the edge of the counter, when you stand at the counter to work, you cast a shadow exactly where you need the light, solve this problem by installing under-cabinet lighting. Notice the same overhead shadow problem in your office? Make sure your desk has a task lamp.

Wrong size fixture

This is a common mistake I see homeowners make, a too-small chandelier over a large dining table or an over sized lamp on a table next to a sofa will make the area look disproportionate.

In dining rooms, you should choose a chandelier that is one foot smaller than the table’s narrowest width.

And do not rely on eye balling it when you get to the store. Fixtures often look smaller in lighting showrooms, so bring measurements.

Helpful heights

The bottom of a pendant light should be 75cm to 150cm above a kitchen island, the bottom of a chandelier should be 170cm from the floor in a dining room, and when you are sitting next to a table lamp, the bottom of the shade should be at shoulder height.

If the lamp is too tall, you will be blinded by the bulb!

Paint colour

No matter how many lights you place in a room, it just will not have that light airy feeling if the walls are too dark. This seems obvious, but even slightly different hues in the same colour family can make a difference.

“I painted my kitchen a grayish tan, and it caused the room to appear very dark, repainting it with a lighter tan colour will brighten it up.

Energy

OK, so you are probably not totally oblivious to this fact, but taking stock of what bulbs you use is important. Longer-lasting CFL and LED bulbs can cost more up front, but can save you money over time.

Of course, they will not be perfect in every space; for instance, they often do not work with dimmers. – Good Housekeeping

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