A Home Inspector’s Weblog by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck

exploring homes and the lives in them around Houston

Heading Towards the Light- Part 3

I thought to give you an idea on how you can use lighting to set a scene, I would go through how I am working with lights in one room of my house. Most Americans do not use their formal dining rooms on a regular basis for meals, but they will use this room for paying bills, homework, or projects. My house’s layout made the informal dining area an impractical choice for us. Traffic flow to the kitchen and utility room would have become a problem with a table in that space, so we opted to use our formal dining room for our daily meals, along with special occasion dinners. Projects and homework are done there on a regular basis, so different lighting schemes were needed to address these uses.

For general lighting, we use the chandelier. It provides a nice overall light, which is good for the family meal. Even though I decided upon fluorescent bulbs in every other room in the house, I went with an incandescent bulb in the shape of a flame for this fixture. We are not in the room that long, and having the proper look to the chandelier was important to me. This lighting scheme is great for extended family and friend gatherings. The bulbs are not of a high wattage, but there are quite a few of them, so in a way I am saving energy by not having five 100 W bulbs, which is overkill. My total wattage is 150W.

To create a more intimate mood for a formal dining, I use three wall sconces with a similar incandescent bulb. This really falls under the accent category. To further accent the room, I have a frame light on the print on the far wall, so your eye is drawn to it. The sconce lights also highlight art work. Next I use a halogen which plugs into a receptacle, and the fixture has a bracket for wall mounting. I have mounted it about a foot and a half from the floor. The lights shines up to a wall scroll. Lights do not have to shine down, and upward shining lights provide truly dramatic effects. Lastly, my wife sets out candles to light the table. In this way we have pools of light focusing the eye on what is special. I remember a psychologist saying that we are at our least appealing moment when we eat, but we choose that act for our dates. For formal dining, having the light away from our mouths could be a good thing, I guess.

Much of the time, the dining room is dark, but if I am not using this space, and I want to highlight it, I use a spot focused on the far end of the room from the entrance. This draws the eye to the room, and gives a hint of the interior. A spot light lets the viewer know something is there besides a dark cavern. I use a floor lamp for this lighting. Small floor lamps for spots work well, but they can easily tip over, so check for stability. In this fixture, I use a fluorescent.

The project that I have not completed yet is the better task light. My plan is to go with recessed lights which have halogen bulbs. The reason for my choice is based upon the fact that I do not want the ceiling to look to busy when dining. Track lighting is great in certain areas, and lights not placed in a housing, particularly in the ceiling, give off more light. However, I have to consider how the room will appear. By using a halogen I can obtain a good deal of light on a specific area even when it is in a recessed fixture. By placing these to shine along the common work area, I have my task light.

Some other considerations with lights that would not apply to this room would be table lamps for accent lighting, and lighting for reading. I am guilty of buying table lamps because I like their look, but then I do not have the right place for them. A table lamp which is meant for an accent light should not be set at a height where a seated person will see under the shade. Your eye follows the light, and this will be the brightest spot. Either have a longer shade or a smaller lamp, so the main light point will be on the table, drawing the eye there. For reading, you want the light up above the seated person, with the light coming from behind and over the shoulder. This provides the best light on the page.

I hope this gives you an idea of how to think about lighting in a room. I should mention if you have a dark hallway, you could have a light at the end to help pull people down this path. The next post will be home staging with lights, which will be in the category of real estate issues.

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