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Bring Out Your Space with Lighting

Properly planned lighting makes a space more beautiful, functional and productive. Designing with light can produce an unlimited number of effects. Good lighting provides contrast, highlights and shadows that create visual appeal and unify the space for comfort, tying all schemes together. Light can make the same space function in very unique and individual way but, it must be planned properly to be effective.

Lighting should be carefully planned as any other element of architectural and interior design. It should always be planned at the beginning of a project, not the end. Keeping the fore mentioned in mind, there are four basic steps to follow whether you are doing a complex or simple design:


Step 1:  Analyze the space

1) Function: What will the space be used for?

2) Style:  Contemporary, Traditional, etc.

3) Tasks: What will people be doing in the space and how?

4) Special Objects: Special pieces to be seen or called out.

5) Mood: What atmospheres are desired?

6) Architectural Features: What areas are to be emphasized?


Step 2: Decide how to light the space

Three simple techniques:

  1. General Lighting: This provides all over lighting. One part of general illumination can light the lower part of the space to add warmth and brightness for people to perform tasks. A second part is lighting the ceiling and walls with indirect fixtures. This opens up the space, giving the space a more voluminous feel, but alone, renders the space flat. Both types can utilize ceiling or wall mounted fixtures. Wall washing and grazing are two methods to illuminate the walls. Wall washing uses “wall wash” fixtures placed in the ceiling. Here, we use a one to one ratio for mounting (i.e. if the fixtures are 2’0” on center from one another, then the fixture from the wall are 2’0” on center from the wall.) This will illuminate the wall evenly from top to bottom with no shadows. Graze lighting is used to highlight a texture on the wall, such as brick or stone. Here, the fixtures are placed closely to the wall so the light highlights and “graze” the wall to create shadows and depth.
  1. Accent Lighting: This provides light to emphasize something special within the space. Here, extra light is directed to certain “special” objects within the space to draw the eye to and provides dramatic interest. Track lighting or small shielded adjustable recess fixtures are usually used for this application. Here, the lamp does all the work. The fixtures just provide a means for holding the lamp. High intensity “point source” lamps are usually used.
  1. Task Lighting: This provides light to work by. Here, extra light is needed for multiple tasks, such as reading, food preparation, industry and carpentry work. For reading or paper work, a diffused light over the shoulder or to the side is best. For kitchen, or more intrigue work, fixtures placed directly above work best. The key element is placement here, as to not create shadows or too much contrast as one is working.


Step 3: Choose the lamp source

Today, there is a wide range of lamps to choose from. Each has its own characteristics and uses. The most common for interior lighting are incandescent, fluorescent and now LED. It is imperative to select a fixture that not only performs, but meets all the requirements of the industry today due to the energy code and maintenance issues of spaces.

Below are two charts comparing the most common lamps. The first shows initial cost and overall life and total cost affecting your client and the space being lit.


                                                                                        Incandescent                  LED                      CFL

Approximate cost per bulb                                                  $1                                 $2                     $8 or less

Average lifespan                                                          1,200 hours                   8,000 hours       25,000 hours

Watts used                                                                        60W                              14W                  10W

No. of bulbs needed for 25,000 hours of use                     21                                 3                      1

Total purchase price of bulbs over 23 years                    $21                               $6                     $8

Total cost of electricity used (25,000 hours at

$0.12 per kWh)                                                                    $180                             $42                   $30

Total operational cost over

23 years                                                                                 $201                             $48                   $38


This chart shows the characteristics for the lamp and their operation.

  LEDs CFLs Incandescent
Frequent On/Off Cycling no effect shortens lifespan some effect
Turns on instantly yes slight delay yes
Durability durable fragile fragile
Heat Emitted low (3 btu’s/hr) medium (15 btu’s/hr) high (85 btu’s/hr)
Sensitivity to high temperature some yes no
Sensitivity to low temperature no yes no
Sensitivity to humidity no yes some
Hazardous Materials none 5 mg mercury/bulb none
Replacement frequency
(over 50k hours)
1 5 40+


Step 4:  Choose fixtures best suited for the space

There are a variety of fixtures to choose from. One must determine what the space wants to “feel and look” like. For lighting that is there to primarily to do a job but not be “seen”, we use recessed down lights, hidden track lighting and for office space, shielded fluorescent fixtures. Chandeliers, wall sconces and pendants, on the other hand, provide light but also provide a decorative, visual element to the space.

Lastly, when designing a space with fixtures one must consider lighting controls. This is an important part of the design. Controls add versatility to the space for maximum effectiveness and energy conservation.

There are simple dimmers to whole control cabinets that can integrate all the lighting within the space along with the AV and HVACVAC to a single touch keypad for control.

This is just the basic and beginning of lighting a space. I hope it provides some insight to why lighting is important to be a fore thought in lighting any particular space. There is a lot more to consider and follow for each space to be illuminated, especially with the energy code, maintenance and larger more complex spaces. If unsure of the exact needs and requirements of your space, you may want to consider hiring a lighting consultant to help. They not only know todays requirements and all the various light fixtures and techniques, but they can provide “out of the box thinking” when it comes to lighting any given space with you and make each space unique and one of a kind.


Written by Lynn Howard of LMH Lighting LLC

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 19th, 2015 at 12:22 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.