Lighting the Modern Custom Home
The first thing that someone in the process of designing plans for a new custom home must know is the different functional categories of light in a home. When they have a grasp of the general purpose of the four categories of lighting in a home (ambient, task, accent and decorative), they can see how layering them can provide both beauty and functionality to their interior spaces.
Ambient light is generally used for fill light in order to function in a space. Task lighting provides specific lighting for specific task functions in those designated areas. Accent lighting is used to highlight certain features or elements within a space. Decorative lighting refers to the lighting fixtures themselves rather than what the light is being used for.
Using several layers simultaneously in any given space enhances the feel of the room, offers flexibility in setting mood and provides better illumination for all uses of the space. One thing to keep in mind is that these various lighting functions can also serve more than one purpose.
The kitchen is a multi-function space where different zones require specific lighting, as well as having lighting for the overall space itself. As in all spaces throughout the home, natural light is the starting point via windows while artificial light is a somewhat secondary consideration during the day and a primary consideration at night. For instance, augment the natural light of a window with a ceiling mounted or recessed fixture above the sink.
Under-cabinet lighting illuminates the countertop work surfaces without relying on an overhead light that will cast shadows on the person working at the counters. Pendant lighting over the island and under-cabinet lights are used as task lights while the recessed or “can” lights in the ceiling offer ambient light.
Larger kitchens may make use of cove lighting along two opposite kitchen walls to provide ambient lighting that bounces light off the ceiling. Valance lighting above the sink and under-cabinet lighting would provide the task lighting.
Depending on the size and layout of the bathroom, it is imperative to have one or more ceiling-mounted fixtures for overall light in the room. If a skylight becomes part of the plan, coordinated placement of ceiling fixtures and the skylight is crucial for daytime as well as nighttime use of the space. Since the ceiling fixtures are likely to cast shadows on anyone using the mirrors for grooming, wall mounted fixtures on the sides as well as the top are necessary for even illumination.
Living and Dining Rooms
Living rooms and great rooms are often defined by one or more sitting areas with any number of focal points such as display cases, artwork or sculptures that require accent lighting. Movable lighting in the form of lamps and fixtures are the primary sources (ambient, task, accent and/or decorative) so having numerous outlet locations on baseboards as well as in the floor (if the room is large) will provide plenty of options.
The table is the primary focus of the dining room where one or two ceiling fixtures can be employed that fit all four lighting categories simultaneously. Secondary lighting for accent pieces, artwork or china cabinets around the room can provide accent/decorative lighting to create a warmer atmosphere.
Although nightstand lamps are still utilized by some, many people are moving to wall sconces or adjustable arm lights for night reading or focus on the nightstand. Ambient lighting may be provided by floor lamps, architectural lighting, or a pair of sconces flanking a wall mirror. It’s best to avoid central ceiling-mounted fixtures due to the room’s specific use.
Entries, Hallways & Stairs
A small entry may only need a ceiling-mounted or recessed fixture or a wall sconce depending on its design. A double height entry with a staircase may require a chandelier with lighting controls at both the bottom and top of the stairs. Ambient lighting in hallways may be provided by recessed fixtures, ceiling-mounted fixtures or wall sconces.
In today’s modern custom home, many of the lighting elements are built into the structure to compliment the home’s design. By studying the proposed design plans with an eye to daily use of the spaces, homeowners can better direct custom home builders in PA to add the necessary outlets and fixture wiring that allow them to create a beautiful and functional home.