Illuminating a New Home or Remodel
By Sanford Fogg
In a new monthly column, Sanford Fogg, of Fogg Lighting in Portland, offers his best advice on illuminating your home.
Q: What’s the most important thing to consider when planning lighting for a new home or remodel?
A: Bringing in a lighting designer at the start of a project is key. This is not a luxury reserved for people with big budgets. We will consult with any customer, free of charge, in our store. For a reasonable charge, we’ll also make a house call, but this is not typically necessary. Working with floor plans or drawings, we can determine how much light you need in a room, what types of fixtures will work best, and where they should go. Because lighting is one of the last things to be installed in a house, people often don’t contact us until the final weeks of a project. At this point, the wiring is done and it’s no longer possible to alter the lighting plan. We see kitchens that are drastically under-lit, with a grid of recessed lights in the center of the room instead of over the work surfaces. In living rooms, people frequently use recessed fixtures like klieg lights overhead, when they should be positioned around the room’s perimeter to create more comfortable, ambient illumination — to name just a couple of potential pitfalls.
Because contractors’ allowances are sometimes not enough to cover the type of lighting homeowners want or need, we also help clients devise a realistic budget up front so they are not hit with unexpected costs at the end of the process. You can spend a lot of time and money on your plans and architect, and choose the prettiest countertops, tile, and art, but if you don’t light it all properly, you can’t take full advantage of, or truly appreciate, the work you’ve done.
How Much Light Do I Need?
The amount of light needed varies by room, tasks, age and several other factors. Except for kitchens, laundry rooms, bathrooms and other areas where tasks are performed you do not need lots of light in the rest of the house. Filling a room with light is more important than having high levels of light. That is what layers of light do, they help fill a room with light. Social interaction is enhanced by comfortable lighting whereas tasks require higher levels of lighting.
|Comfortable Lighting for Dining|
Generally speaking the amount of light that is needed for most tasks like cooking and for reading is around 50-60 footcandles (f/c) That is the amount of light needed on the work surface. Sewing requires more light and grooming a little less light. Social spaces like living rooms are OK at 20-30 f/c. It is important to remember that older eyes need more light to do see the as young eyes. A 50 year old needs about twice as much light as a 20 year old to see the same.
Higher levels of light can be achieved without glare, but care must be taken to choose the correct fixture and to layer the lighting in a pleasing way. Do not rely on just recessed or just under cabinet lights. Use a combination along with good ambient lighting.
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