Introduction to Indoor Lighting
Different spaces in the home need different kinds of indoor lighting, and lighting has both a practical and an aesthetic function. Indoor lighting can also tie-in to the room décor by highlighting certain features. This means that indoor lighting choices will be personal and depend on how different spaces in your home are used.
Three Main Types of Indoor Lighting
• Ambient Lighting—This is general lighting without extreme high points or low points. In general, ambient lighting is considered to be down lighting, that is, lighting from above, unless indirect or uplighting is particularly specified. Ambient lighting can be combined with other types of lighting as required by the activities in the room or the features in the décor.
• Task Lighting—This is functional lighting used to light specific activities. Particularly important for reading, food preparation, homework, office desks, tool benches, and sewing tables and other arts and crafts areas, task lighting varies with the task.
• Accent or Object Lighting—This is decorative, and often dramatic lighting that directs attention to special features in the room, and create a contrast with the rest of the lighting. A conversation area in a living room, for example, could be set apart from the rest of the space by accent lighting. To showcase features—whether a painting, a statue, or a room feature, such as a fireplace—a particular kind of accent lighting called wall washing is used. It casts an even light over a vertical surface.
Sources of Indoor Lighting
Each of the three types of lighting can be achieved by different means. Here is some information about some of the main sources of indoor lighting.
• Natural Light—There are three forms of natural light that are often used as indoor lighting. Sunlight, of course, is nearly always an important factor in home lighting. Unless you live in the land of the midnight sun where there’s a very long night or live in a windowless space, sunlight will contribute to your indoor lighting every day.
Firelight and candles, two other forms of natural light, are used more selectively. Candles can create a touch of elegance at a dinner party, put the finishing touch on a birthday cake, or create an intimate atmosphere for a romantic evening. Fire, of course, provides heat as well as light, and can create a cozy, inviting atmosphere in a city apartment or a mountain cabin.
The intensity of natural light is controlled differently for each type. Sunlight is controlled by shades, curtains, draperies, and blinds, candles by the number lit, and fire by the size of the blaze. Some skylights direct sunlight into very specific areas to provide light to dark hallways or rooms.
• Artificial Light-Artificial lighting today is most often delivered by one of several types of light bulbs. The main types include fluorescent, and incandescent. There are several types of incandescent light bulbs, including halogen and tungsten. The light from tungsten light bulbs is slightly yellow, while halogen offers a whiter light. Fluorescent light has a bluish tinge.
Lighting fixtures can be divided into those that hang from the ceiling, those attached to walls, and those that rest on a flat surface. Track lighting and chandeliers are examples of ceiling fixtures. Wall sconces are mounted on walls. Fixtures that rest on a flat surface are, of course, better known as lamps, and there are both floor lamps and table lamps.
Light that is delivered through fixtures may be controlled by a toggling on-off switch. Some types of light, though not, for example, fluorescent, can be attached to a dimmer, which allows for a range of choices of intensity to suit the situation.
Written by Mary Elizabeth