Lighting: Planning Ahead

Lighting: Planning Ahead
  • Opening Intro -

    There is a temptation to look for inexpensive fixtures that look good in a showroom, and perhaps easy to install.

    However, the primary concern should be performance, and this requires a plan.


A lighting plan is best designed when the fixtures are selected well so they not recognized as being out of place, but allow the light to do the work of directing the attention where it is preferred. Using a pencil and paper to sketch a layout of the room(s), taking into account existing light locations, furniture, doors and windows will be invaluable upon arrival at the showroom.

First, Ascertain The Amount of Light Needed.

To find the basic amount of light that is needed in a room, the number of square feet is typically multiplied by 1.5. This product is the total wattage needed. Of course, this is only a starting point. The final figure will depend upon the room and its decor, types of activity and amount of available natural daylight, and personal preferences. So in a dining room twelve feet by fifteen feet, totaling 180 square feet, times 1.5 will give a total of 270 watts as a starting point. If display items such as paintings are to be illuminated, this wattage will also be included in the computation. 270 watts may, then, be allocated among a three-piece track light, each lamp equipped with a 35-watt bulb, and a hanging fixture over the dining table with four 45-watt bulbs.

Central Light Sources.

In addition to the general style of the unit, selection of the type of fixture is based upon the desired location and direction of the light. If a dining room is used primarily for family dining or formal entertaining, a central light source such as a chandelier draws the attention to the center location, but diffuses, or scatters light. It seeks to illuminate a whole room evenly outward from the central point. They may hang or be mounted flush or semi-flush with the ceiling.

The central light with the downward-focused, centered in a larger dining room, may place the corners and perhaps edges in the shadow, even if the wattage matches the amount calculated above. The downward-focused central source is generally used in combination with other sources and is utilized to accent one area, such as the dining table.

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Diffuse Ceiling Light Sources.

In a less formal setting, or where a room is used for multiple purposes, can lights recessed into the ceiling may be an effective way to light the area without focusing a great deal of light on any specific area. These lights can be more labor-intensive to install and maintain. They are downward-facing and fairly standard in design. Alternatively, pendant-style lights may be hung below ceiling level. These will spread a more diffuse light, but tend to be better suited to smaller areas. Ceiling lights can be connected to switches in groups, so as to allow for different levels of lighting in different situations.

Wall-mounted Light Sources.

Wall-mounted light sources are placed around the edges of a room and light directly out from the wall and by using the wall near the source as a diffuser, spreading light in two patterns at the same time. Sconces are one of the more frequently used for illuminating an entire room. Track lighting is sometimes used but in larger rooms usually finds its utility in accent lighting, calling attention to pieces of artwork or furniture.

The possibilities seem nearly endless when selecting light fixtures for a room. The most important thing to have is a plan. An advance knowledge of how much light is needed and an idea as to what kind of lighting source, and how that source will fill the area, will fit into the planned decor are critical to selecting well.

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