In a monthly column, Lori Powell of Fogg Lighting in Portland offers her expert tips on illuminating your home.
In most homes, the kitchen tends to be the center of gravity. And yet for all the time we spend there — chopping, cooking, noshing, cleaning, helping with homework, lingering over leftovers — kitchens are often drastically under-lit, with a single ceiling fixture in the center of the room that creates irritating shadows in the areas we most need to illuminate. Here are some steps you can take to brighten up your cookspace.
First, get on task. Your time in the kitchen is task-oriented, so your lighting should be too. If you’re standing at a counter and the light is behind you, your body will cast a shadow over the surface, making it harder to see what you’re doing — not ideal, especially if you’re working with sharp utensils. To brighten up work areas, place recessed, track, and/or under-cabinet lighting over countertops, tables, islands, sinks, and other surfaces you use frequently.
Then, think layers. Because of the wide variety of tasks you do in the kitchen, one light will never provide all the illumination you need. Layering the light — adding different sources around the room — will give you the flexibility to customize the lighting to suit your changing needs. If you’re hosting a dinner party, for example, you can dim the overhead lights to create ambiance, and keep under-cabinet lighting on to illuminate the areas where you’re serving and preparing food.
Find the right fixtures. Adding fixtures on walls, in glass cabinets, and over sinks and islands will brighten and warm the room, while providing decorative accents that can enhance the look. Consider adding pendants over sinks and islands — allow 30 to 36 inches between the countertop and the bottom of the fixture for optimum illumination. Above sinks, pendants should be hung higher, so that people don’t bang their heads against them while doing dishes.
Light Imitating Art
A: Many lights on the market today are, quite literally, works of art. Expertly designed and skillfully executed by metalsmiths and glassworkers, these fixtures read like sculptures in a room. Turning them on heightens the drama, as partially shielded, diffused, or angled beams create intriguing shadows in your space. When selecting a form-over-function fixture, just be sure to supplement with layers of task and accent lightingto produce even illumination in the room and ensure you can see what you’re doing. As for my favorite statement makers, I’ll let these images do (most) of the talking.
Down-lit arcs of heat-textured steel studded with decorative cuffs crisscross in a Calderesque feat of asymmetry and balance. Choose from eight finishes for the canopy and cuffs.
Inspired by ikebana, a Japanese form of flower arranging that emphasizes minimalism and stems and leaves as much as blossoms, this fixture has interwoven steel strands emanating from bud vase-like domes. Choose from eight canopy finishes and platinum or gold for the ball accents.
The Greek myth of Icarus — the boy who flew too close to sun on wax-and-feather wings — sparked this fanciful avian design. Choose from eight canopy finishes and “spun frost” (shown) or “cork” for the shades.
Theta LED Pendant
A sculptural textured-steel and polished-aluminum ring, fairly levitating in its lighted base, effects an abstract sunrise. Choose from eight canopy finishes and platinum or gold for the textured accents.
These streamlined steel fixtures (literally) turn classic candle sconce forms on their heads. Rotate the bases and rings to alter the positioning and look. Choose from eight canopy finishes and platinum or gold for the rings.
Crystal Bakehouse Sconces
Handcrafted crystal “river stones” are baked and annealed in massive seeded-glass blocks that create a glowing gallery effect on your wall. Choose from interior and exterior fixtures in silver and bronze finishes.
Transform your room into a skyscape with a futuristic satin-nickel fixture available in “Aquila Major” (shown), “Aquila Minor,” “Ursa Major,” and “Ursa Minor” configurations. LEDs radiate through smooth white domes or sparkle through multi-faceted diffusers (your choice).
Dickinson Floor Lamp
Comprised of a brass stem and filaments bejeweled with glass accents, this glam allium-like lamp blooms wherever its marble base is planted.
Sierra Buffet Lamp
Rustic meets refined in this organic lamp, composed of a polished metal base that resembles petrified wood crowned with a paper shade. Choose from “gild” (shown), “burnished silver-leaf” and “plaster-white” finishes.
Convector Table Lamp
Fringed edges give this classic silhouette, rendered in an antique zinc finish, a kinetic quality. A rectangular paper shade underscores the artful geometry.
Traditional lantern forms are reimagined in steel trapezoidal shapes with cutouts that conjure sections of stained glass. Downlights brighten the edges of the frames, bringing depth to the composition.
Tips (and Task Lights) for Aging Eyes
Q: As I get older, I’m finding it harder to see when I read or do other simple tasks in my home, even with my glasses on. Can you suggest some lighting improvements that might help?
A: When I was a teenager, I used to kid my father because he could not read menus in dimly lit restaurants. Now that I’m in my 70s, I realize how insensitive that was! As we age, our pupils actually get smaller, so less light makes it to the back of the eye. Many people start noticing changes in their vision around age 50 and, by the time you’re my age, you need about three times as much light as a 25-year-old does to read and perform fine-motor tasks. In addition to more wattage, older adults need glare-free illumination that is consistent from room to room, since moving from a low-light space to a bright one can be disorienting.
At Fogg Lighting, one of the things we try to educate people about is the concept of layers of light. Basically, you need a mix of light sources at different levels to create a properly lit space. We generally establish a first layer of ambient illumination in a room using decorative fixtures such as a chandelier, pendants, or semi-flush or flush-mount units. Accent and task lighting — typically some combination of well-placed recessed or track fixtures, sconces, under-cabinet units, cove lights, and table and floor lamps — fills in the shadows and helps you see what you’re doing. Contrast this scenario with one in which recessed fixtures are the only light source, as is sometimes the case in hallways. Used on their own, these units create pockets of light and darkness that make the area difficult for seniors (and toddlers!) to navigate.
For reading and other activities, it’s important to have a dedicated fixture that can accommodate the equivalent of a 100-watt incandescent bulb. Choose an opaque shade to reduce glare and an articulated arm if you want the option of shining the light onto a book. Here are a few of my favorite products.
These dimmable lamps by Holtkotter have transitional shapes and efficient halogen bulbs. Adjust the height of the floor lamp and move the arm to direct light where you need it.
For a more modern look, I love these sleek LED fixtures by Koncept, which are dimmable, adjustable, and work well in tight spaces.
Want more information? We are trained to design lighting plans that will see you through the aging progress. Stop by our store for a free consultation tailored to your specific needs.
Decorative Lighting Guidelines for any Room – Wall Sconces
Decorative lighting includes Wall Sconces, Chandeliers, Flush Mounts, Semi-Flush Mounts and Pendants. The proper combinations of these five elements insure an interesting, attractive lighting design for any room. Using different elements of lighting is called layering. Many layers of light make the difference between an OK room and WOW room.
|Decorative Wall Sconce|
Wall Sconces placed midway on the wall can be used to balance overhead lighting and add a thoughtful dimension to your decor. The eye-level spread of light along a wall helps create an intimate ambiance in rooms and halls. As accent pieces, sconces can be used to flank architectural features, such as fireplaces and archways. In bedrooms sconces can be mounted on each side of the bed to serve as reading lights. While it is not necessary to match sconces to the style of overhead fixtures, keeping them within the same finish family will add continuity to the overall design. I actually like to combine modern and traditional styles in the same room to add a little pizzazz.
A sconce’s light source, not necessarily the back plate, should be mounted between 65″ – 68″ above the floor. Some sconces are linear and the back plate is either higher or lower than the actual light source. In these cases the electrical junction box must be located in the proper position on the wall to enable the light source to be at the proper height. Some scones have a narrow back plate and require a narrow junction box, called a switch box, rather than the junction boxes that most electricians routinely install. Please be sure to keep these facts in mind to avoid disappointment during the installation phase of your project.
Please visit http://www.fogglighting.com and like us on Facebook. I am always available for consultations on lighting plans.