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Architectural Guide to Aesthetic Lighting

Apr 08, 2014 | by Wendy Weinert

Architectural Guide to Aesthetic Lighting

Our homes are truly our castles. We want our living space to reflect our personalities and our likes and dislikes and be a relaxing environment for us to reside in that is pleasing to look at. There are many ways to achieve this as we design and put together our home, but one of the most effective and easy ways to do this is through aesthetic lighting.

"Aesthetic" is a word that means having an appreciation of beauty or good taste. If we find something aesthetically pleasing, it would mean that we find that particular setting or environment beautiful to look at. In the case of aesthetic lighting, it is the utilization of accent, task, and ambient lighting to create a visually pleasing environment in our homes that also appropriately accentuates striking elements in the architectural designs of our residence. When done right, aesthetic lighting is also functional, meaning it provides enough lighting in our space for us to see easily and comfortably without being too bright or too dim.

Ambient lighting is the general lighting you use to light an area, whether it's recessed lighting fixtures, track lighting, or any other lighting system that will do the majority of the lighting in the undefined areas of your room. It shouldn't be too bright; soft ambient lighting will allow you to navigate your room and also won't wash out the accent lighting or task lighting you will add in to complete your lighting look. Task lighting is the lighting you place in areas where life tasks go on, like extra lights over food preparation areas, a small standing lamp near your favorite reading chair, or desk lighting in your craft area or home office. It is essential for the health of your eyes and helps prevent eye strain. Accent lighting gives your room that final polished look; it's also called directional lighting, as it highlights special architectural features, pieces of art, or focal points in your room. Chandeliers, Tiffany lamps, or track lighting that directly focuses on art, sculptures, ornate furniture pieces, fireplaces, or arches in high-ceilinged rooms are all examples of accent lighting.

There are some basic rules with regard to incorporating aesthetic lighting into your home. The first and most important rule is that you need to layer your light. That means you need to have a blend of sources of light with varying brightness, which means a cohesive blend of both ambient and accent lighting. The second (and still pretty important) rule of aesthetic lighting is to always have enough appropriate task lighting in order to make your room and work spaces functional.

Now that you know the lighting "commandments," your first step should always be setting up the ambient lighting in your space evenly. The best way to do this is to use grid lighting, meaning arranging your ambient light fixtures in a grid formation, which will space them out evenly in your room. Once you've done this, you can layer on accent and task lighting where it works best.

Areas like the living room and dining room need to draw people in and make them feel comfortable. In your living room, you can use table and floor lamps that will provide glow upwards and downwards, and be sure to install a dimmer switch for your overhead fixture. In a dining room, you'll want to make the table the focal point of your space, and placing a hanging fixture like a chandelier is a good way to do that. Also, putting smaller table lamps on a sideboard with a wall sconce in the middle gives your dining room a nice, soft glow that's relaxing; avoid bright lighting in other areas of this room, as it takes away from the main space you'll be entertaining in. Kitchens and bathrooms require a lot of task lighting to ensure your safety while you use these spaces. In kitchens, the focus should be on overhead lighting (again on a dimmer) that you can use to brighten the space when you're cooking; for work and counter spaces, use task lighting to illuminate your food prep areas. Bathrooms should also have overhead ambient lighting for cleaning, and then around your mirror, sconces work well to illuminate it well enough for personal grooming and makeup application. Bedrooms need to have a cozy feel to them, since they are intimate spaces; avoid placing bright lighting right over the bed. Instead, have reading lamps on night stands, or if you have track lighting in your room, point the lights away from the bed toward the areas you use to dress yourself.

Improving the lighting in your home is an easy way to transform your living space. Aesthetic lighting can beautify your home and help keep your space functional and inviting when you entertain. Effective lighting is also cost-effective because when using dimmer switches or smaller task lights, you use less energy. Now that you know the basics, you can continue to improve your home with aesthetic lighting.

To learn more about lighting design and aesthetic lighting, check out the links below:

Aesthetic: A dictionary definition of what aesthetic is so that we can better understand what it means for lighting in our homes.

Light Types That Enhance Aesthetics and Functionality: An article that describes a number of types of aesthetic wall fixtures.

Accent Lighting: This website gives a basic definition of accent lighting, talks about the kinds of accent lighting you can use, and gives some helpful tips on how to use it.

Lighting Design: The Illuminating Engineering Society provides a great resource with suggestions on where and what types of accent lighting to place in your home.

Light in Design (PDF): This basic guide to architectural lighting explains what to light and what to light it with.

How to Achieve the Layered Light Look: Learn how to build aesthetic lighting in layers, starting with ambient lighting and then moving to aesthetic lighting.

Lighting Your Way (PDF): An Oregon State course guide to home lighting offers a wealth of information about lighting and how to use it to beautify your home.

Assessing the Function of Light and Color in Architectural View (PDF): This study assesses the function of light and color in architecture and their effect in buildings.

Show Your House in the Right Light: Advice for those selling a home goes over the types of lighting in a home and how you can utilize lighting to be able easily enhance the value and beauty of your home prior to selling it.

Lighting: Its Effect on People and Spaces (PDF): This educational newsletter describes lighting design and its effects.

Architecture Lighting Design and Aesthetics (PDF): An academic paper discusses daylight lighting design versus man-made lighting design and the three goals of light impact.

Architecture and Aesthetics: This page offers an introductory look at the basic aesthetic components of every architectural project, including light and dark.

Different Types of Lighting Used In Home Remodeling: The Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center looks at a variety of lighting but also mentions some insightful reasons why accent lighting is important.

Builder's Guide to Home Lighting: The Lighting Research Center goes over the types of lighting you can use in your house and how to pick and choose which would suit your home best.

4 Interior Design Principles to Incorporate in Your Home: The Art Institute of Pittsburgh takes a more general look at interior design that also touches upon how to use light to make a room more inviting.

Efficient Lighting Strategies (PDF): This fact sheet goes over the types of artificial lighting you can use in your home, like ambient, task, and accent lighting.

Artsy Lighting to Add Flair to Your Living Room: An online slide presentation explores how to incorporate creative lighting to enhance the beauty of your living room.

Extremely Creative Vi