Brighten your decor with the right home lighting

There probably isn't a room in your house that doesn't have some sort of lighting (the creepy crawlspace under the stairs doesn't count!), yet it is one of the most overlooked features when it comes to designing a home. Far from just picking out the appropriately colored lamp shade, lighting design is the process of deciding what type of lighting is needed in the room and then what fixture is the best means of delivery.

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Lighting Types

Interior lighting can be divided into two main categories: task lighting and decorative lighting.

Task lighting tends to be brighter and focuses on a specific spot or surface. The main purpose of a task light is to provide greater illumination over work-intensive areas in order to reduce eye strain. Common places for task lighting include under kitchen cabinets, on an office desk or over a workbench.

Decorative lighting (also called accent lighting) tends to be softer and provides ambient light to an entire room. Decorative light can come from sconces, lamps or overhead fixtures. These sources are often part of the room's overall design theme. For example, antique lighting often takes the form of candle sconces or brass chandeliers, while contemporary lighting comes mostly from funky floor lamps.

Lighting Fixtures

Interior lighting is delivered by three methods: ceiling lighting, wall lighting and lamp lighting.

Ceiling lighting is the basic lighting system of the home. Most rooms in a home are generally wired for at least one overhead light fixture, usually placed in the center of the room and operated by a wall switch near the door. Ceiling light fixtures can range from a bare light bulb to an ornate crystal chandelier. The fixture you choose will depend largely on the size and design of your space, but popular forms of ceiling lighting include chandelier lighting, track lighting and recessed lighting.

Wall lighting essentially refers to sconces, though occasionally swing arm lamps can be wall mounted as well. Sconces generally come in pairs and mimic the old-time look of torches or candles in wall mounted holders. Today, the torch or candle is often replaced by a light bulb, but the look remains popular, particularly for antique, rustic and country-themed rooms. Of course, the look has also been adapted to suit many other room styles, so you're sure to find something to suit your decor.

Lamp lighting is generally task lighting, but sometimes (in apartments or cottages, for example), lamps are the main light source in a room. Lamps consist of three main parts: the base, the bulb and the shade. Each of these parts comes in a wide variety of styles and colors, so lamps can be used to accent pretty much any decor. Floor lamps are taller and are designed to sit on the floor, generally beside couches or other furniture. Table lamps are shorter and are designed to sit on tables (usually end tables or side tables), though they might also be placed on shelves or bookcases. Desk lamps are a variation of table lamps.

Ever since Edison invented the light bulb, lighting has been an important consideration in home design. Natural light, obtained through windows and skylights, is important, but it isn't available all the time, and sometimes it just doesn't provide enough illumination. Fixtures and lamps can provide the extra light you need while at the same time highlighting your home decor.